It was hard to believe my four-week trip through Madagascar was about to end. When I first arrived, four weeks sounded like a long time. But as with any trip, time flies. My time was down to just a few more days. This final leg would involve a quick hike at Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park for a few hours and end with me relaxing on a beach in Anikao.
After my last stop visiting Isalo National Park, I would get back in the car to start the almost four-hour drive to the coastal town of Toliara. It wasn’t long, however, before we made our first stop in a small village along a river. This village is where I was able to see Ravenea rivularis growing in habitat. It was also where I grew to understand why Ravenea rivularis can be a tricky grow here in Southern California. As you can see from the picture, it really does live in the rivers.
Almost halfway through the drive to Toliara you come upon Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park. The park is all that remains of the once expansive dry deciduous forests that were dominant in southern Madagascar. Centuries of deforestation from slash-and-burn agriculture have devastated the area to a somewhat plant-devoid plateau inhabited by zebu herders. Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park is a small remnant of those dry deciduous forests. National Route 7 (RN7) cuts right through the national park.
Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park was established in 1997 and became an official national park in 2002. It is divided into three forested sections: Zombitse, Vohibasia and Isoky Vohimena. Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park is unique in that it is the transition zone between the dry forests of the south and west and the humid forests of eastern Madagascar. Even though it is not far from Isalo National Park, Zombitse is much richer in plant and animal life.
When we pulled into the visitor center (used very loosely), this unknown Uncarina species (maybe Uncarina peltata) in flower was the first plant to jump out at me.
Uncarina species and Aloe vaombe.
I didn’t find any Aloe vaombe within the park itself, so something tells me these Aloe vaombe were planted here.
Euphorbia laro were everywhere.
Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri is a popular plant back home for succulent collectors. It was great being able to see how these grow in habitat.
It was the wrong time of year to see orchids in flower in Madagascar. So it was a treat to be able to see this Aerangis ellisii in bloom. Aerangis ellisii is abundant in Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park.
I don’t know which species of orchid this is and I really don’t know how it grew like this. It was just floating in the air.
The primary reason I wanted to visit Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park was the desire to see my first Baobab tree in habitat. If I had more time I would have flown to see the Avenue of the Baobabs at Morondava. The Adansonia grandidieri found at the Avenue of the Baobabs are a very popular tourist attraction and photographs of them can be found all over the Internet. Sadly, I just didn’t have the time this trip to get over to Morondava. So while I didn’t get to see the largest of all of Madagascar’s Baobabs, I still had a chance to stand next to Adansonia za while visiting Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park.
Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park has two really nice, old Adansonia za. The first I would come across was this double.
Adansonia za did not disappoint. It dwarfs all the other trees in Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park.
Not far from the first Adansonia za, this second in Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park was even larger. Without scale, it is hard to give readers an idea of just how large this tree was. Trust me. It was huge.
There is some discrepancy on the age of this Adansonia za. I have read online that some think it is 2,000 years old. However, the conservative estimate of over 500 years old is probably more accurate. So put things into perspective about the age of this Adansonia za below, around the time the Portuguese sea captain Diego Diaz was the first European to see Madagascar in 1500 AD, this tree started growing.
Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park is most famous for its richness in birds. The park is basically a bird sanctuary. Birders have been coming to Zombitse long before it became a national park. Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park is home to 85 species of birds. Almost half can only be found in Madagascar, with some being endemic to the park itself. Unfortunately for bird lovers, I didn’t take many photos, as I was too busy looking down at plants to be bothered to look up for birds. I did snap this bad photo of some unknown bird.
Madagascan Flatid Leaf Bugs (Phromnia rosea) could be found throughout southern Madagascar. Depending on where I saw them, the adults could be any color from yellow, to orange, to red. The odd-looking white bug to the left is actually a nymph of the Madagascan Flatid Leaf Bug.
A type of Planthopper, Madagascan Flatid Leaf Bugs are quite gregarious while they feed on plants.
There are eight lemur species in Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park. The most common along the trails are the Verreaux’s sifaka.
I was also fortunate to see a nocturnal lemur during my hike. It turned out that I would only see one other nocturnal lemur my entire four-week trip. Below is a Hubbard’s Sportive Lemur.
Back in the 4×4 and continuing on with the drive to Toliara, I saw this remnant of the once expansive dry deciduous forest. Miraculously, this Adansonia za has survived deforestation.
My trip through Madagascar occurred during the whole month of November. That coincides with the tail-end of the dry season there. Lucky for me, I only had to hike in the rain twice my entire trip. While I was finishing up my Madagascar trip, the rains started to arrive, as this storm just outside Toliara shows.
To get to the small fishing village of Anakao you must take a boat from Toliara. I arrived too early, as it was low tide. So I had to wait a few hours for the tide to come.
Once the tide was in, the speedboat arrived. Getting to the boat involved a zebu cart ride.
The speedboat wasn’t just used to get tourists to Anakao, but it was also used to ship food and supplies to the villagers. So it took a long time to get everything loaded up.
In typical Madagascar fashion, nothing is direct. We had stops to make along the way. What should be a quick boat ride can take a few hours depending upon the day. One stop we made did give me a chance to snap a photograph of a boat I think needs some maintenance.
My lodging for the new few nights was to be at the Peter Pan Auberge. The place came highly recommended on Trip Advisor and I was not disappointed. It is a great place to end your vacation in Madagascar. There is no power or running water on Anakao, so generators and solar helped run the place.
The owner of the Peter Pan Auberge was a unique fellow named Dario. Quite flamboyant, he would greet each guest that came off the boat. Dario is wearing the zebra shorts with a pink tank top. Dario’s partner Valerio ran the restaurant. He prepared some of the best food I had on my entire trip.
This is where I spent most of my time while at the Peter Pan Auberge.
I also found myself drinking a lot of Three Horses Beer. I wasn’t a fan of Three Horses Beer when I arrived in Madagascar, but by the time I left I found it enjoyable. Even warm. Which is usually how you were forced to drink it.
Security was good.
Anakao is a pleasant little fishing village. During the day, everything in the village centered around fishing. While the men were out fishing, the kids were in school, and the women were working, Anakao was a quiet place.
As the sun starts to go down, the beach comes alive with more activity. Boats are left on the beach for the next day and villagers light fires to cook or burn trash.When the tide comes in, the burnt trash is washed away.
For once while in Madagascar, I was able to just relax. I made sure no treks or other tours were planned. I just used the time to rest, reflect, drink beer and lie on the beach. I did do a few small explorations by foot. I found this Hyphaene coriacea growing right in the sand next to a fisherman’s house on the beach.
An Anakao beach house with aloes lining the front entry. They look to be an Aloe vaombe accompanied by a bunch of Aloe divaricata.
While the beach photographs above might give the illusion that Anakao is located in a lush, tropical area, it is not. Anakao is actually located in the dry forest and not far from the famed Madagascar spiny forest. The abundant trees you see next to the tombs below are actually Euphorbia stenoclada.
My final sunset in Madagascar. I couldn’t believe the four weeks were up and tomorrow would start the almost two-day trip back home to San Diego.
Additional Reading on Anakao, Madagascar from fellow blogger.