Want to get away from it all? Then head west.
By 'getting away from it all', of course, we mean in terms of cities and crowds. When it comes to scenery, adventure and culture visiting the Western region means getting that much closer to all that's so memorable about Madagascar.
Extending from Majunga (Mahajanga) to South of Morondava, the Western region of Madagascar is more remote, more under-developed than the rest of the island. It also has a warm dry climate which is why it has remained so widely uninhabitated except, that is, by wildlife.
Ankarafantsika (formerly known as Ampijoroa Forest Station) is one of the largest and last remaining sections of dense dry deciduous forest in Madagascar, hailed as a must-do destination for spotting rare and beautiful tropical birds as well as lemurs.
When it come to scenery the Tsingy de Bemaraha Reserve is so spectacular with its needle-sharp limestone pinnacles above the Manambolo River that is is classified as a World Heritage Site. Just be sure to wear tough boots, the word 'tsingy' being derived from a Madagasy word meaning 'the place where you cannot walk barefoot'.
Remarkable limestone or basaltic plateaus - the causses of Kelifely north of Bongolava and those of Bemaraha North of the Tsiribihina (with its big lapiez, or tsingy) - extend east of the coastal plains where the deltas of great rivers (Sofia, Betsiboka, South Mahavavy, Manambolo, Tsiribihina and Morondava) and some large mangrove mudflats interrupt a line of beautiful beaches protected by coral reefs.
What could be more 'getting away from it all' than cruising down the Tsirbihina River, enjoying the wildlife or relaxing on the beaches around Belo-sur-Mer and Morondava, also known for the giant baobabs in 'Allée de Baobab'.
Majunga, the fourth largest city in Madagascar, is a seaport in the north west of the region . It is located on the mouth of one of the largest rivers of Madagascar, the Betsiboka and close to the Cirque Rouge, a canyon with striking red cliffs, an amphitheatre of eroded rock tinted in a rainbow hue of colours.
Really 'get away from it all' by going underground to explore the caves in the region of Majunga where a network of tunnels cover more than 2km. At the end there's a natural pool, surely one of the remotest swimming pools in the world?
Not to be missed are the memories of ancient cultures and the colourful tombs of the migrant Antandroy people in the Kirindy (Swiss forest). Today the Sakalava are found in the Western region of the island along the coast. These'people of the long valleys' are a large ethnic group with African beliefs and inherited customs such as the possession by spirits, the tromba and cult of royal relics.
MAJOR CITIES/TOWNS: Majunga, Morondava, Mahajanga, Belo-sur-Mer, Marovoay, Maintirano
NATIONAL PARKS AND RESERVES:Ankarafantsika (Ampijoroa,) Kirindy Forest, Tsingy de Bemaraha.
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