Welcome to Tsimanampetsotsa Nature Reserve!
Tsimanampetsotsa Nature Reserve is located in SW Madagascar and it is about a 2-3 hour drive by 4×4 from Anakao. The main features of the reserve include its namesake Tsimanampetsotsa Lake and also Mitoho Grotto.
However, this is slightly misleading because the most interesting features at the park were the ring tailed lemurs and also an impressive selection of banyan and baobab trees.
Ring Tailed Lemurs at Tsimanampetsotsa Nature Reserve
The ring tailed lemur is the most abundant variety of lemur in Madagascar and the local Malagasy refer to them as maky. The maky have conspicuous black and white stripes around their long tails which match their white face. Additional features include black rings around the eyes. However, despite having dark rings around their eyes, ring tailed lemurs are active predominantly during daylight hours.
There are approximately 100 species of lemur in Madagascar and they are endemic to the island. Due to the isolation of Madagascar the lemur species evolved independently from monkeys and are unique creatures. However, the different lemur subspecies do not intermingle with each other. They usually live in groups of about 30 individuals of the same subspecies. Due to the frequent communications between group members their vocalizations are quite complex and range from purring to clicking.
When we were walking around the Tsimanampetsotsa Nature Reserve we encountered a slow moving group of ring tailed lemurs. I was able to intermingle with them for about 15 minutes as they passed through the area foraging. They seemed completely indifferent to the fact that there was a human among them.
Baobab Trees at Tsimanampetsotsa Nature Reserve
Worldwide there are a total of 9 species of baobab and 6 species of baobab tree are found only in Madagascar. Because the habitat of the baobab is in areas that are prone to long periods of drought the baobab can store enormous amounts of water in the trunk. It has been estimated they can store up to 26,000 gallons, therefore they have very FAT trunks to store all that water.
We encountered different species of baobab at Tsimanampetsotsa Nature Reserve.
Photo of my “guide” and a couple of other guys who were tagging along for the day. Standing in front of a giant baobab tree.
The Mitoho Grotto is a limestone cave system that lies within Tsimanampetsotsa Nature Reserve. Most noteworthy aspects of the Mitoho Grotto include invisible people, blind fish and swallows.
According to local myth the invisible people are named the Antambahoka. Due to the presence of the Antambahoka, the Mitoho grotto is considered sacred by the local Malagasy. The superstitious sacrifice goats and black cockerels to appease them.
Due to the invisible nature of the Antambahoka we were not able to see them and therefore there are no photographs! However, I was able to get some good photos of the blind fish and swallows that live in the cave system.
Flamingos at Tsimanampetsotsa Lake?
Due to the presence of large amounts of salt in Tsimanampetsotsa Lake there are no fish. However, flamingos consider the habitat there to be very suitable. Unfortunately, there were not a lot of flamingos at the lake when I visited. However, I was able to get a couple decent photos with my telephoto lens.
Subterranean Pond at Tsimanampetsotsa Nature Reserve
There is also a subterranean pond at the reserve. As a result of a section of the cavern roof collapsing the lake is now exposed. However, this does not stop the banyan trees from reaching the water below. The banyan is an extremely photogenic tree.
More About Banyan Trees
The banyan tree is the national tree of India. Madagascar was previously joined with the Indian sub-continent and the banyan may have originated in Madagascar since that time. It is also possible seeds could have been transplanted here purposefully or accidentally by either humans or animals.
The banyan tree begins its life as a fig and this seed is somehow deposited into the crevice or another tree. The banyan can then over time swallow its host! Therefore, the banyan tree is cannibalistic by nature. The banyan is also known to swallow buildings and bridges using the same methods. Other famous locations where the banyan can be found and photographed include Ta Prohm at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
In fact, the giant banyan tree can potentially spread its roots over several hectares.
Radiated Tortoise at Tsimanampetsotsa Nature Reserve
The radiated tortoise is another species that is endemic to Madagascar. They are predominantly found in southern Madagascar although they can also be found throughout the island.
Despite the fact that this species of tortoise can live for up to 188 years it is still considered critically endangered. Especially relevant factors that threaten its survival include deforestation of its habitat, the pet trade and unfortunately it is considered a food source by local residents.
However, there is a serious conservation effort ongoing to preserve the species. Conservation is a source of employment in an area where jobs are very scarce.
For visitors, the Tsimanampetsotsa Nature Reserve is a great overall experience. The reserve has limited amounts of visitors due to its isolated location. Therefore, it makes a great day trip for the adventure traveler. Most notable, was the intimate encounter with the lemur clan and also the exotic baobab trees found inside the reserve.