Day 19: Tsaranaro – Ranomfana
Saturdays are always big market days in Africa and Madagascar is no exception. As we left Tsaranaro on our way upcountry to next our overnight stop at Ranomfana we passed Vohitsoaka, the small village of the turning of the bones ceremony and it was bustling with market activity.
You can buy anything and everything at the market from the more common staples like dried fish and vegetables to hardware and pharmaceuticals. The local Malagasy dress up in their smartest attire for market days and everyone was dressed in big hats, lipstick, the whole nine yards.
Locals heading into Market The most colourful hats for sale Dried fish for sale
Our route for the day included two additional stops. The first at Anja Community Reserve that was established in 1989 with just 45 Ringtail Lemurs and now boasts over 400.
Ringtailed Lemur in Anja Community Reserve
The second stop was the city of Fianarantsoa, the name of the town translates to ‘’good education’’ in Malagasy. Our guided tour took us past some old cathedrals and churches built during the colonial era. The city is also home to one of Madagascar’s most famous universities from where the town derives its name and is known as the intellectual centre of the country. Around the city, there are also many vineyards as this is one of the few areas in Madagascar that produce wine.
Exploring the cathedrals and old streets of Fianarantsoa
No adventure is complete without surprises. As we were finishing our tour of Fianarantsoa a small motorbike bumped into Mike! Thankfully this was at a low speed, but Mike still had a serious cut on his calf that would need stitches. Margaret who was one of the guests on our adventure is retired nurse and stayed behind with Mike and me for a visit to the local hospital for stitches, while the rest of the tour continued onto Ranomafana.
The hospital was a different experience. Our local guide had a relative that worked at the hospital and arranged for Mike to get seen to as soon as we arrived. In the bed next to Mike was a Zebu protection volunteer that has been shot in the shoulder! 6 stitches and 30 min were done and dusted. There is no such thing as free healthcare in Madagascar, the medical facilities are very basic, and many go without the care as they cannot afford treatment. The doctor charged $20 for the treatment and asked for a $10 tip … as you do in Africa. We were glad to have Mike patched up and headed onward to Ranomfana.
Mike getting his stitches! If you think he looked bad the motorbike was much worse for wear.
Day 20: Ranomafana National Park
Ranomafana is home to a tropical rainforest and the Ranomafana National Park. It is fascinating to see how the terrain can change in Madagascar from dry barren plains a few days before to this area lush with vegetation.
The Lush Tropical Rainforest of Ranomafana
The national park is home to the rare Golden Bamboo Lemur, which we had a chance to see but was too quick for our camera to grab a pic, as well as the Greater Bamboo Lemur, Red Fronted Brown Lemur, Leaf Geko and Giraffe Weevil.
Ready to explore the Rain Forest Well Camouflaged Leaf Geko Good idea packing the raincoats
With the high humidity and abundance of water, much of our trek was done in raincoats though the tranquil but very tropical forest. We also ventured out on a night walk with our guides on the road that surround the park and spotted the Short Nosed Chameleon – this is the world's smallest Chameleon - just bigger than my fingernail!
The Seriously Small Short Nosed Chameleon ... that is my fingernail to give you an idea of scale
Day 20: Ranomafana - Antsirbe
After exploring the tropical rainforest of Ranomafana, we had a full days driving ahead to take us to Antsribe.
The first part of our journey took us on long winding roads, and we were warned to watch out for ‘’taxi brousse’’ - overloaded bush taxis that don’t hug their corners. The scenery is filled with terraced rice paddies that make for excellent photography.
Rich green terraced rice paddies
As we got closer to Ambositra, our lunch stop, the landscape changed and many eucalyptus forests started to appear. The trees were introduced to Madagascar to help reforest areas, and this area is now a significant charcoal production area with many bags for sale along the side of the road.
Colourful Malagasy dance performance and children from the Highlands with their distinctive raffia hats
In Ambositra we enjoyed lunch at the Guesthouse-Madalief is run under the watchful eye of Madame Honorine who in addition to running the guests house also looks after the Madalief Orphanage which is funded from the profits of the guest house. The orphanage is home to 18 children.
During lunch, we were treated to a colorful performance of Malagasy dancing. We arrived in Antsiribe just before sunset.