Saturday 3 March – Ambositra and Ranomafana; Sunday 4 March – Ranomafana National Park

Published: March 12th 2018
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Saturday 3 March – Ambositra and Ranomafana

The city of Antsirabe is large and busy, with population numbers unknown because there has been no census since the 1990s. It could be 2 million?? It seemed that every 3rd lady was carrying a baby or looking after a toddler or 3 so who knows. I have read that the average number of children Malagasian women now have has dropped to 4.6!

Before we left the city we visited a miniature bicycle and vehicle manufacturing place. A man showed us how the bicycles were made. Fascinating and very intricate. The wheels were made from aluminium cans, spokes from fishing line, tyres from plastic tubing, brake cable from wire etc.

We were then taken into a room full of embroidery with cotton fabric from France and embroidery thread from Madagascan cotton fields.

Next was the gem outlet where we saw topaz, algue-marine, tourmaline, amethyst, and citrine, all local gem stones. They also had crystals and many fossilised shells. Then we saw 4 tortoises looking very sad moving over gem-stone gravel.

We then drove through another market place and out into the countryside. It was a fantastic drive through the hilly country. The hillsides were covered in terraces, growing rice, corn, vegetables and fruit trees. Waterfalls and rivers completed the picture. The Malagasian 2-story brick or mud houses were dotted amongst the fields. The area was very productive.

We experienced intermittent rain, so it was pleasantly cool all the way to Ambisitra. Here we walked through more markets in very light, misty rain. Food and clothing were being sold as was a lot of raffia products such as hats and baskets.

Our next tourist experience was going to watch a man make wooden inlay pattern with different coloured wood. He makes his own saw from a fine piece of wire and teeth hammered with a fine chisel. It was very intricate work. He made me a 2-coloured heart-shaped wooden pendant.

We then watched a man make a spoon out of zebu horns then browsed around the shop to see all different items made out of zebu horns as you will see in the photos.

Ambisitra is known for its wood carvings. There was very large, heavy lidded pot, to jewellery boxes with inlayed patterns, chess sets and jewellery, all made from wood.

This was also our lunch stop but after lunch we continued through green, rolling hills, winding our way along valleys and up over rises, watching village life go by. It was really interesting. Many of the rice paddies in this area are worked on under the co-operative system or in some cases, multiple generations of extended family land ownership. I continued to see no electricity wires and the villagers carting water.

The roads continued to be pot-holed but we were used to that by now. On numerous occasions, Rivo was stopped by traffic police when his vehicle tax certificate (car registration) was checked as was his driver’s license.

We stopped several times at view points to take photos of the scenery. Although not a patch of remnant vegetation in site, it was beautiful with the different stages of rice production cascading down every hill and in every valley.

We stopped off at the Cascade Namorona inside Ranomafana Park a couple of kilometres from our accommodation, Hotel Setan Lodge.

On arrival 2 porters rushed to the car to get our bags. We later found out that we were the only guests so got very, very good service. Dinner at 7.00pm by candlelight was lovely.

There were heavy down-pours of rain and we were hoping it would rain itself out by tomorrow as we were scheduled to go bush walking to spot some different species of lemurs and other fauna and flora.

Sunday 4 March – Ranomafana National Park

After raining most of the night, partly due to the cyclone off the eastern coast of Madagascar and partly because this area receives, on average, 260 days of rain per year, we found Rivo after breakfast and drove to the entrance of the Ranomafana Park.

Ranomafana National Park is located close to RN7 in Fianarantsoa Province of Madagascar. It is 41,600 hectares of rain forest that is home to several lemur species. It became a national park in 1991. It's one of the six national parks that make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site Rainforests of the Atsinanana.

The excellent guide, with really good English, costing 75,000 Ar per person and 2,000 Ar tax gave us an intro on what to expect. It was not raining but during our 3 hours trek through the rain forest, it rained several times.

The only real downside was that when we saw the Giant Golden Lemur, he was curled up in a ball at the top of a 15 metre high canopy, so no photos. We saw 2 Giant Bamboo lemurs and 20+ Red-chested lemurs as well.

The rain forest was in good condition and the section we walked through was remnant vegetation. We did however see a very big eucalypt which they will certainly leave alone.

Epiphytes, bird nest ferns, orchards (only one flowering), traveller’s palms and bamboo were in abundance. Despite the rain, we thoroughly enjoyed our walk. We had our wet weather gear on and water-proof boots and I also had the go-pro and put the Lumix camera inside a plastic bag to keep it dry whilst taking photos. It worked well.

We couldn’t find a giraffe-necked beetle nor a mantilla bernhardi frog, which is multi-coloured and both are only found in Madagascar.

We drove 7kms to the town of Ranomafana and dropped our guide and lemur-spotter off home. We then had lunch at Ihary Hotel which was next to the very fast flowing Namorana River. Tom had very tasty lunch, he said the tastiest of all lunches in Madagascar so far.

The rain started to pelt down so we stayed for nearly 2 hours waiting for it to ease. Fortunately, we were in no hurry and the wifi was excellent, unlike back at our hotel.

We had a relaxing afternoon back at the Hotel Setam Lodge where it rained on and off for the rest of the day.

As we were finishing our dinner, a large group of 25 tourists arrived in 2 busses. Checking in was a challenge as was the ordering of their dinner. They were all on a cultural exchange from Philadelphia.

Additional photos below
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