Tsingy de Bemaraha

Bemaraha National Park and the Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve are two interconnected areas which incorporate Madagascar's most extensive example of tsingy limestone karst geological formations.

We can visit the national park area, which covers a huge 666 square kilometres (257 square miles); whilst the strict nature reserve to the north (Réserve Naturelle Intégrale) covers 853 square kilometres (329 square miles).

Tsingy is one of the most unique landscapes of Madagascar, explained in detail on our What Is Tsingy & How is it Formed web page. In a nutshell, the meaning of Malagasy word tsingy describes it very well, translating to 'where one cannot walk barefoot'. What once began as relatively flat limestone, driven above sea level by tectonic action, has been eroded over millennia to leave behind an expanse of deeply eroded canyons and forest of limestone needles.

Water does not sit on this limestone rock, but drains into it and flows through underground streams and rivers. This creates some wonderful cave systems to explore, as well as sink holes where the surface rock is so undermined that it collapses. Those who are familiar with the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico will know these as cenotes. The collapsed areas are some of the best for pockets of forest to grow, creating little Edens where wildlife can thrive, surrounded by a fortress of sharpened rocks which keep bushmeat hunters, farmers and grazing cattle at bay.

There are two parts of Bemaraha where we take guests to explore in detail: Petit Tsingy and Grand Tsingy. We approach Petit Tsingy by traditional Malagasy pirogue (dugout canoe), passing through the very pretty Manambolo River Gorge to reach there. The Grand Tsingy provides wide-reaching views over karst formations and the opportunity to walk above it by way of suspended rope bridges. Caves and tunnels provide access to explore the tsingy from below.

The Nature of Tsingy de Bemaraha

The Tsingy de Bemaraha is a wonderful haven for flora and fauna. Of lemurs, a total of 11 species have been recorded here, of which we have the greatest chance of showing you the very attractive Von der Decken's Sifaka (Propithecus deckenii). More difficult to find is the locally endemic Bemaraha Woolly Lemur (Avahi cleesei), which was only discovered in 1990. As the Latin name provides a clue, this is also known as Cleese's Woolly Lemur, named after the actor and Fawlty Towers comedian, John Cleese, by the scientist from Zurich University who first discovered it.  John Cleese has a strong fondness towards lemurs and a commitment to help protect them. Populations of this lemur are unknown, but it is considered Critically Endangered since its habitat continues to be damaged by human encroachment.

Bemaraha is rich in rare and endemic reptiles and amphibians, including the Critically Endangered Madagascar Big-headed Turtle, the Big-headed Gecko, Dwarf Chameleon and arboreal non-venemous snake, Phisalixella variabilis. 63 species of reptile have been recorded here, of which 58 are found only in Madagascar and 17 of those only at Bemaraha. 19 species of amphibian are also found here, which makes Bemaraha the most diverse site in the dry regions of the country.

Bemaraha is home to 94 species of bird, which is not a high diversity, but many of these are found only in Madagascar. At the larger end we can find one of the rarest birds on Earth, the Madagascan Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vociferoides), whose wingspan can reach 1.8 metres. There may be fewer than 100 breeding pairs of these birds left in the world. Madagascar's newest avian discovery is also found here: the Tsingy Wood Rail (Mentocrex beankaensis), first described in 2011. It is only known to exist at Bemaraha and the Beanka Forest.

There is a great abundance of endemic plants at Bemaraha, some of the most fascinating of which provide a splash of leaves and bloated stems, clinging to bare and inhospitable rocks.  Madagascan Rosewood (Dalbergia baronii) is amongst the larger species found here - an increasingly rare tree which has been heavily targeted by illegal loggers.

How to get to the Tsingy de Bemaraha

There are two ways to reach the Tsingy de Bemaraha. The quickest is where we charter an aircraft to explore it from the air. We have to bring an aircraft down from Antananarivo to do this, so we can either take you there and back within the day; or meet you in Morondava and fly you there on a one-way flight back to Antananarivo via the Avenue of Baobabs.

To explore the tsingy on foot, we need to drive you there from Morondava or the Kirindy National Park. We only recommend this in the dry season mid-April to November, when it takes about 6 hours. The journey provides a good cross-section of Madagascar's tropical dry scenery, with a number of local ferry river crossings to enjoy along the way!

  • Forest within the Tsingy de Bemaraha
  • One of the Rope Bridges over Tsingy at Bemaraha

Tsingy - What is it & How is it Formed?


Madagascar National Park & Reserves Guide

Lemurs of Madagascar

Trip Reviews: Madagascar


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