Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park
When you arrive in the afternoon, the light of the setting sun bathes the craggy rock faces, with the trees and shrubs growing in them, in a magical golden light. The water of the river shimmers darkly and glistens on the surface in countless waves: another place to dream about...
However, for the time being there is no time for dreaming: if you have not booked a hotel on the south bank (Camp Croco) and your hotel is on the north side - and most of them are - this is also the entrance to the national park. So you have to cross the river: for pedestrians by means of a pirogue this is no big deal, for cars it is more. The ferry at Tsiribihina used to look adventurous: a cargo raft tied together, with which the cars were pulled across the river or pushed through the shallow water.
Since 2008, a brand-new, ultra-modern and technically completely oversized ferry with a hydrojet drive (!) has been in operation. How the government got the idea to have such an expensive and complicated behemoth brought here is a mystery. Since you usually have to wait a bit until the boat people are ready, you can meanwhile enjoy an excellent coffee offered by the small hotely on the shore.
On the other side of the river you go up the steep bank and then first to your quarters: the campsite, just to the left with the draw well, is one possibility. On the road that goes to the left (parallel to the river) are several restaurants and simpler bungalow complexes. The more upscale accommodations can be found a bit off the road following the direction of Bekopaka. The village - or rather the small town - is very picturesquely situated at the foot of the Bemaraha mountains. Here you can not only eat well or buy provisions, but on weekends you can also party and dance: then there is a lot going on in the small music halls and bars...
The best hotels, the Relais and the Olympe, are on elevated ground - that is, on hills. With the four-wheel drive car this is no problem! Declared a protected area as early as 1927 and on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since 1990, the Tsingy des Bemaraha National Park, which covers some 150,000 hectares, is one of Madagascar's most remarkable natural wonders. Although not to reach without efforts, the visit is worthwhile in any case. At least 7 species of lemurs, numerous reptiles (found only here), more than 90 species of birds, countless insects and several hundred species of plants: in fact, the entire biodiversity of this unique habitat is still largely unexplored.
After all, with almost 1,000 mm of precipitation per year, Bemaraha is one of a very rain-fed region, which makes an important contribution to the water balance. Actually, only the southern part of the area, covering about 72,000 hectares, is generally accessible. The main entrance is in Bekopaka.
If you plan/intent to visit the northern part, you need a special permission from ANGAP - I can of course organize this! Anyway, the visit of the southern part allows a more than sufficient insight into the breathtaking landscape and requires at least 2 to 3 days! The national park includes not only the Tsingy but also the numerous burial sites at the Manambolo Gorge. The Tsingy have a strong spiritual meaning for the Madagascans: they are considered the home of the spirits of the Vazimba.
A visit to the famous Vazimba tombs on a pirogue ride up the river is as much a part of a visit here as the Tsingy itself. But also note the numerous Fady.