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The West of Madagascar

General description  |  Climate   |  The highlights

General description
mapa West Madagascar  The west coast of Madagascar is sublime: white and beige-sailed dugouts sparkle on a limpid ocean surface, tiny hamlets with welcoming villagers emerge occasionally on the kilometrical beaches lined with oval sand dunes. The rivers form fertile valleys, sometimes almost flat, sometimes sharp and abrupt, but always beautiful. The northern part is mainly a fertile savanna while travelling southwards we find a drier rather bushy territory with astonishing landscapes. Spectacular limestone promontories called tsingy pile up towards the North, whilst bizarre looking baobabs with immense trunks that would need several people arms to stretch them build fairy tale forests towards the South. 
baobabs alley
baobab Morondava
Madagascar has six of the eight existing species of baobabs and it seems, that there are more of these fantastic beings than people...    © Madagascar Travel Guide

We are in the Sakalava territory: a sparsely populated region that encompasses an endless coast, opaque rivers full of sediments, savanna pasturelands and forests. The practice "tavy", the traditional custom of slash and burn, which creates short-term grazing for zebu cattle, is still extended. Although herd sizes diminished during the colonial period, Sakalava continue to raise humpbacked zebu cattle for meat and for ceremonial purposes and to pull two-wheeled wooden carts. The Sakalava, along with the Bara people of the southwest, are considered the most "African" of the Malagasy peoples. 

Sakavala cart
Traditional colorful-painted cart
© Madagascar Travel Guide
Specifically, several elements in Sakalava culture bear a strong resemblance to those of Africa, including the keeping of relics (such as pieces of bone) considered to have magical powers and the practice of spirit possession, in which a medium transmits the wishes of dead kings to the living.


 The western coast of Madagascar is much drier than the eastern coast. In general, we can say the climate here is dry tropical. During the dry months between May and November it does not rain at all and the temperatures are pleasant (20 to 25°C on average). Between December and April it can rain torrentially or just a couple of showers, depending on the are and the year. The northern area is greener and indeed considerably wetter than the southern one. The hottest months are March, April, November and December, when the average temperature is 30° C or even more.


The highlights

-     Descending the Manambolo and the Tsiribihina Rivers: both trips are becoming more popular every year. You get the chance to explore the Sakalava country from a different point of view and sleep on the river shores, sharing your campsites with turtles and crocodiles!

-    The Baobabs´ Alley: 20 km from Morondava, the biggest town of this part of Madagascar, we find all those giants baobabs clustering together at both sides of the road. It is just amazing, especially at dawn.

- The coastal trail from Morondava southwards is a non-very-visited route which hides spectacular small fisher villages like Ankevo and Belo sur Mer, and paradise-like beaches ideal to practise snorkelling, relaxing and just enjoying life.

-  Tsingy de Bemeraha National Park: this spectacular mineral forest formed by a labyrinth of sharp stone needles offer incredible sceneries and wonderful trekking circuits through the bizarre and unique Tsingys

-   Kirindy Reserve: This private reserve protects one of the last remaining dry deciduous forests of Madagascar. Apart from spotting lemurs, reptiles and birds, it is the best place of the whole island to see Madagascar´s biggest predator: the fossa.