22 March 2014

Red Tsingy in Madagascar is nature's response to human destruction

Red Tsingy

The Red Tsingy is a wonderful creation of nature in response to man’s destruction. It is a temporary show of nature to prove to us that it can evolve and adapt to whatever we throw at it.

Only an hour's drive from Antseranana, this fascinating geologic oddity did not exist 50 years ago. As a result of the deforestation the red clay soil began to erode and over time this has revealed the pink sandstone tsingy that can now be seen. At the base of the valley, the soil is solid clay and hence the water does not permeate into the ground but merely runs off.

Red Tsingy from above
A lot of Madagascar is like that. The country is sadly, constantly changing to face human actions. Much of the forests and mountains are converted into farmland to grow rice or other crops. It is one of the poorest countries in the world with 90% of the population of roughly 20 million living in les than USD2 a day, and year after year, it is ranked in the bottom 10 of the development list. Subsistence agriculture requires that much of the forest be converted into crops. And with it, the fauna and flora, wich in 90% of the cases exists only in Madagascar.

The sandstone will erode over time and hence, the tsingy will not exist in a few year's time. However, with the continued erosion of the red soil, it is believed that other sections of the pink sandstone will be revealed. Other species of animals and plants may not be so lucky and simply disappear.

First impressions

Madagascar impressed me.

Red Tsingy water flowing
So much of it is unique that it feels at times like you are in a different planet. The island broke off from India 88 million years ago and most of it evolved completely separate with minimal influence. Several of its species are incredibly interesting. Instead of dogs or cats roaming the streets one can find chameleons and lemurs. Its people are a strange combination of native Malagasy and French. They are extremely polite and quiet and they look like they could be a mix of Indian and African with a European twist. I was lucky enough to do some work there and hence I interacted with the Malagasy people not just as a tourist but also as a peer. They are extremely nice and friendly and tourism has yet to spoil them in any way. Nobody will try to take advantage of you so go out and mingle, learn about their thoughts and their country. 

Madagascar, its people and its landscapes can't be classified, that is why they are in a category of its own.

The details

How to get there

The Red Tsingy is hard to reach. One needs to fly to Antananarivo, capital of Madagascar, then connect on another flight to Diego Suarez in the north and then drive to te park. You need a 4x4. MAdagascar is usually connected from three main airports: Nairobi, Joburg or Paris. Ocasional flights via Reunion or Mauritius are also possible. he country is definitively hard to reach with very few (if at most 1-2 flights a day landing)

Best time to visit

Avoid the rainy cyclone season from Nov to Mar because most roads become impassable and large parts of the country are inaccessible. It is always hot in Madagascar except for the higher mountain areas.

Where to stay

If you take a tour around the country accommodation will unavoidably be a mix of lodges, basic options and some higher end resorts. We stayed at a very basic lodge with limited electricity and food cooked on an open fire

How to get around

Essential to get a 4x4 to drive to main sites. A guide is a must because signs are inexistent and there are very few tourists visiting the country

What to do

Casually holding a chameleon
Aside from the red tsingy Madagascar is a very rich country in terms of unique nature formations and fauna with the lemurs and chameleons being endemic and pervasive. 

Check out the rest of the posts on Madagascar, it deserves a minimum of 10 days to be able to take in the sights, the animal world and the beautiful adn unspoiled beaches 


  1. Bring adequate footwear for climbing and walking around with sturdy trekking shoes recommended
  2. The weather can be very hot and humid so dress appropriately. Raincoats tend to be useful because even in the dry season rain is not uncommon. 
  3. Bring a torch for the most basic places
  4. Apart from the local language French is widely spoken
  5. To see the best beaches and enjoy them on your own, consider renting a catamaran to explore the northern islands off Nosy Be instead of staying at one of the many luxury resorts (see the post on the islands off Nosy Be). 
  6. I used a local travel agent to book the entire itinerary which I highly recommend - going solo is a no-no unless you know the area well and organising the entire trip independently (unless you want to backpack and have time) is hard given the limited information on some areas and the need for a driver. Some of the pit stops for rest are very isolated and not available online so localknowledge is essential


Avoid the "French package" staying at a 5* resort in the north, taking in the sun, the beach and the beautiful isolated powder beach islands and dive into the country. Its culture, people and nature are incredible and if you have already come all the way to the end of the world it would be a pity to simply go back with a tan

No comments:

Post a Comment