Grand Tsingy area is about 600 square kilometer.The rock formation are so bizarre,is like labyrinth of spike tower, some height may be 300 meter,but for tourist area we allow to walk only some part of it,some area is very hard to access.That's why it has this name "Tsingy" which means "where one can not walk" Many part of it are still remain unexplored.
These rocks formed by tropical rain that erode the limestone into sharp pinnacles like this.Some pieces of rock are so amazing for me ,look like it hang out of nothing .It such a big piece of heavy rock but it can be like floating in the air.It make me think about floating rock in the movie "Avatar"
My guide show us a rock shape that they call it "chinese hat" .Some pic shows how amaze that one big rock can stand and balance itself on such very small base.
In the first pic is the exit at the other side of the cave where people waiting for their turn to climb up Grand Tsingy.It has to be one by one only ,we have to keep distance between each other.At this point everybody start to use the hooks on to the wire rope.Guide told us to take our time ,go slow but safe.One rule is ..we have to use the hooks all the time.We have 2 hooks ,and move them futher one by one.
This tip is for Klastophobia who has fear of narrow place.I'll show you some pics of a very narrow cavernous everybody have to walk through before arriving starting point of climbing Grand Tsingy.When we walked inside the cavernous it will be completely dark (scary right? : ) but it will be only less than 1 minute walk.To be better for the klaustophobia one ,you better walk without any people behind you,cuz in case you feel panic and you want to walk back ,it'll be more convenience.If any people behind ,just ask them to wait few minutes,if you don't walk back ,means you are at the other side already.Don't be afraid much...it's just few metre in the dark area ,if you walk non stop and fast enough it can be only half minute.Don't forget to bring head light and flash lamp ,it helps a lot.
And for the fat people..ummm...the cave is really narrow for fat and too big people.I can't say how fat you can be...just try to estimate from my picture then.In the pic you'll see size of an ordinary european man.When he walked through it ,his back and chest just fit the rock wall.You have to walk like that to pass it,or walk a little lower ,it's little wider in lower part.
Everybody have to walk with guide,not allow to walk on our own.My guide still be Roddy.We walked through flat land under the heat of the sun for about 10 minutes ,then start to walk up through the forest.We started to look for lemur,and we are so lucky that we found a group of Decken sifaka at the very beginning of the walk,and that's the first time my life to see lemur!!.I'll write about them again in fauna tip.
Every body have to wear safety belt with hooks for your own safety,cuz we have to walk up and down between sharp rocks.In some places it's danderous to walk without holding anything, so they put some strong rope for us to hold while walking unbalance on the tip of some big or sharp rocks.Some rocks may not be high enough for you to be afraid but if you slip and fall ,then you can be injured or have broken arm or leg.They prepare some ropes and step quite well,I think it's safety enough for almost everybody to do this walk,including some brave children(age should be more than 12 years old)
Here are some pictures of animal I saw in Petit Tsingy area.
1. Chameleon,we saw it since the beginning of the walk.It's quite big one.Luckily we met it at eye level so we can see it so close,he's moving upward on a branch.I think he made himself a little bigger when seeing us,probably to scare us or something.
2.A (probably) female zonosaurus.
3.A male zonosaurus.From what I know,many species of male one has almost same width of head and neck.
4.Pill Millipede.They are no poisonous,eating decaying leaves and plants.They can roll themselves into a tight ball to protect themselves from predators.This one came to greet us while we were having our lunch break in a small cave area in Petit Tsingy.
Here are some more pictures about Grand Tsingy. The first and second pictures are atmosphere at the parking area before start walking.We'll see small stalls selling fruits or some vegetebles.It can be anything of the day,depends on what local can find to sell that day.I bought some lime fruit from a lady cuz I need to help them having some income and also I need some vitamin - C after long time no fruits and vegetables consuming.Their lime are quite big,the taste is very sour and a little bitter.Other stall offer some local food which most drivers immediately got together to have their brunch.The second pic show people preparing to wear safety belts with snap hooks.But my guide, Roddy said we can do it later ,cuz we have to walk a bit before arriving the climbing point.He will carry the equipment for me in the meantime.
I saw guides brought tourists to different route,it depends of what kind of route you choose to walk ,..short walk ..long walk...half day ..whole day..or 2 days walk...You have to negotiate with them first.Don't forget to ask them if you are Klausto phobia (fear of narrow and dark place or cave,cuz there's one very narrow and completely dark cave) or if you have hight fear.Ask them if the route you are choosing is ok for you or not.But I think they'll say ok for all,cuz they want everybody to try.Now it's up to yourself that "Can you do it?"
I'll try to give you some of the pictures that may help someone who are hesitating to do it or not .If you see some picture ,it may help you a little bit to make the decision.
Before writing about Grand Tsingy,let me tell you about Petit Tsingy a bit.It's not hard at all walking on Petit Tsingy.It's just very short walk.Is it worth doing it? Yes, if you have nothing to do on the other half of the day.And if some are klaustophobia or has hight fear ,you may not be able to do the Grand Tsingy,so it's better to try Petit Tsingy then.We can see amazing rock formation from Petit Tsingy as well.
On the way to Grand Tsingy,I saw a very small local school.So I stopped to greet them for a while.There were about 25 students age around 4-7 years old.When we arrived ,students just looking at us quietly ,nobody seems to be naughty or scream with cheerful like any other students I saw somewhere in other parts of the world ,probably because their teacher told them not to do,and they obeyed.So we just tried to be very quiet as well and just ask permission to take some pictuers and we donated some money to teacher to help these children for something they might need,may be some snacks,candy or some water.Those are the things most kids asked for.
I noticed that almost all tourist that I met along the way from Morondava to Bekopaka going to do the Grand Tsingy same day as me.I remember them when they drove past me while my car has broken down the day before.My hotel is one of the nearest to the park so I can arrive the park a little earlier but.....it's not like that....My driver ..my poor Jeff made trouble again.There's a very small river crossing ,it's quite deep and muddy and he couldn't make it through.He might have little less experience driving 4WD,so the car was stuck in the mud.Luckily that the exhaust pipe wasn't under the water , the engine still running so it's easier to fix the situation...Of course I have to get off the car and again ..wait for people passing by to help because Jeff couldn't make it .And almost all the car passing today are the same people I've seen that day that I had the break down !!!! "It's them again" They might thought.
All of the driver stopped the car seeing the situation .Some just tried to pass without being stuck like us but most of them tried to help. I thought Jeff may have some strong rope or something but ...no...And other helper also has nothing better than a fragile fabric rope.It's teared off within a second.We watched them for a while ,in the mean time traffic started to be busy,no car can pass ,all were waiting until few other passenger help to ask around for any other strong rope ,finally some one has it ,and the problem solved..... few!!!! Thanks for all that help.
From this situation made me notice that most of the car has no equipment of self help or some thing that they may use if the car break down .I understand that TIA "this is africa" yes ..but because of TIA they should spare some money to buy at least strong rope for this situation.They have good kindness and helpfulness in their mind but those couldn't help if there's no equipment at all.Ok ...next time if I have chance to go back to africa again I'll see if I can buy them something ,at least for the car I have to use myself.
I started my first day in Bekopaka by going to Manambolo ferry crossing area.The staff from hotel drove us instead of Jeff cuz he's been busy repairing the car some where.The national park office is right there.I paid for the park fee for 2 days.You have to decide how many days of activities you'll do in National park cuz the fee is different ..1 day fee/person/day is 25,000 Ar. but if 2days it'll be cheaper =37,000/person. If 4 days= 40,000/person.And we must hire a local guide for all activities here.I plan to do small Tsingy and pirouge crusie along Manambolo river in one day and do the grand Tsingy on the next day.There'll be some local guide waiting around the office and one of them will present himself when tourist approach the office.I told them my plan and they calculate the fee of everything and paid there.
Guide fee for Petit Tsingy(small Tsingy)=15,000/per. For Grand Tsingy another 20,000/per.
Pirogue trip (1-2 hours) =6,000/per.
Pirogue staff = 6,000/per.
My local guide was Roddy.At the beginning he's quite quiet,but after a while I could say that he's a very good and smart guide.He can speak english well better than other guide I've met from the whole trip so far.In Bekopaka he said there's not much guide that can speak english but most of them are now trying to learn english,that is good ,because now many nationality tourist travelling there,not only the french.The way they learn english is learning by themself from tourist day by day ,word by word...smart.
It's better to do pirougue trip in very early morning,especially in hot season cuz it's very hot.The scenery of river you see may let you think about cool breeze,but not at all.There was almost no wind and the sun ray is so strong,and almost no clouds.So prepare sunblock and wear some hat.
Pirougue trip was only about 1-1.30 hours along Manambolo river.They'll bring us to see 2 small caves to see some stalactite and stalagmite.It's not that impressive but better then nothing.I like to see river gorge or rock formation along the river more.Both sides of thr river is the cliff of limestone.The river made the horizontal erosion line through the time until it looked this impressive.Between the crevices some where you'll see local had put some of thier ancester tomb.
Some piece of rock at the bottom is so big, the erosion made it's curve so impressive,like you'll see in the first picture.I like this.
All the ancient cemeteries,Manambolo gorge and the gorge itself are designated "Natural monument and sites"
Most people come to Morondava to be start,ending point for Tsingy trip.There are many tour operater provided.Many tours based in Tana,you can contact them through website or by yourself in Tana office.Or contact from company in Morondava if you'd like to help local.Most hotel in Morondava can provide you package tour to Tsingy upon your demand but most of them give more or less similar service.Which one to choose? ..It depends..I didn't choose a company from Tana cuz I want to help more local town than rich big city.
In Morondava there are 2 places that I may choose from,which is Le Bougain Villiers and Chez Maggie hotel .Both of them provide some tours,with very similar service but it may be different in price and condition of 4wheels they'll provide.About the price we can know in advance to decide but about the car..we need to be lucky,cuz the time we book,the good one may be on the run and what car we will get? .This 2 hotels are good hotel in the very same grade,so I expect that they may have enough costomer and cash flow enough to maintain their car.We have to be in rough road and sometime crossinng small river and need good driver and 4wheel drive.
I'll show what 4 wheel I got.It's Pajero Galloper .When I first saw it ..oh ohw.. it's so... old.I think in my mind "Can I reach destination?" But ..ok..I chose already..and this is going to be my 4 wheel for the next 5 days.The only thing I can do now is praying... : )
I were there on sunday evening,so there are many people brought their family to enjoy their weekend time on the beach.Most of them enjoy dipping themseleves in the water.Young children just being naked,most men wear some swimming gear but women just swim with anything they wear ,probably swimming suit is too expensive for them to buy.All of them were having fun,they look happy, I enjoyed watching them,children played,screamed,made sand sculpture... I didn't swim but temperature of water was ok,not hot ,not cold.But during the day I saw 2 couples(tourist staying in the hotel)went out swim in the sea,but both of the couples stayed in there only about 5 minutes then walk back.I was wonderring ,probably it's too hot,or too cold,or too strong tide? I didn't know,but so far..all local enjoy.
The center of town is close to the beach.There is an indoor market selling things like fresh meat vegetables and fruits.There are many stalls but most of them sell similar kind of food,not much variety.Outside of building,they sell live chicken and many other things like cloths,toys,bags,shoes and some utensils.I just walk around seeing things but didn't ask about the price of anything.About the safty,it's safe,even woman walking alone will be alright,just beware of your valuable.People are ok,no body pushing or disturb you anything,only push push may ask you if you would like to be their customer.The only problem is.. it's quite hot during the day. (November)
The Tsingy are amazing rock formations that occur in the west of Madagascar. To get to these particular tsingies (pl?) you have to take a 4x4 from Morondava. It takes roughly a day to get there and a day to get back. The drive can be pretty grueling in parts and it's wise to take 2 vehicles if you can. There are some river crossings which you do by barge with the 4x4. It cost 600,000AR for the trip, in one vehicle, split between however many people you bring along (we fit five people in the 4x4 in addition to the drivers). These are National Parks and you will pay fees and have to have a guide, but it's not expensive. You hike for a day or two, depending on how much time you have to see what's around. It's a lovely hike, and all very safe and well run. The formations are pretty fantastic and you see good wildlife as well. We saw lots of sifakas in particular.
On the way back we briefly stopped at the Avenue of the Baobabs which was pretty spectacular as well. It's only 45 minutes from Morondava so if you don't have the time necessary for the Tsingy it's a good option that can be done in one day.
The Kirindy Forest was a great stop as well. The accommodation there is not great, overpriced for what you got, and it was freezing cold overnight. Food was ok but we didn't really get enough of it. However, the night walks through the forest were spectacular. The daytime was okay but seeing nocturnal lemurs and the overnight crew of the forest was spectacular.
Morondava as a town was not a highlight of the trip. The beach is not nice (it might pass if it was somewhere else but there are so many nicer ones in Madagascar this is not the place to go if you are looking for swimming and beach stuff). There are plenty of tourist resources, however, boat trips and organized excursions around the area. Lots of overpriced accommodation, some good food and rather fun epi bars.