Andringitra Park in Madagascar: Sheer Cliffs and Ringtails

Andringitra National Park is one of those places where adventure travelers go.  It’s got peaks that people go out and climb over a four-day period.  The one in the photo above is just a two-day climb for rock climbers, not quite in the park.   People will climb the sheer cliff and sleep the first night in the cleft and then continue up the next day to the top.  And then sometimes they jump off the top, like in this video.  Just to be clear, we are not like these people.  But we took a trip down there and stayed in a wonderful hiker’s resort called Tsara Soa.

Tsara Soa is a wonderfully hospitable  camp with an amazing view, at the base of a 600 meter mountain called “Le Cameleon” and in the Tsaranoro valley.  In addition to enjoying the fresh air and the amazing view, we decided to hike to the top of the chameleon one morning.  And this is what we saw.

 If that seems scary, you might want to refer back to the video of the base jumpers we posted earlier.

One of the cool things about these super-isolated places in Madagascar is that you can get an amazing view of the night sky.  Typically when we know we’re headed somewhere like this, we’ll try and do some night photography.  We took our tripods and cameras a bit down the road, and I consulted my astrology app and was pleasantly surprised to learn that the south celestial pole was just to the left of the Chameleon – i.e. the point of rotation of the night sky would be just to the left of the mountain behind the resort.  But sadly it turns out I had forgotten my camera remote, meaning I would have some camera shake.  So we didn’t spend a super long amount of time shooting the stars, but here is the result of about 15 minutes of 30-second exposures:

While we were shooting the stars, we also managed to capture a shooting star.  It’s briefly visible in the video:

 After a few days at Tsara Soa, sadly it was time to start making our way homeward to Antananarivo again.  But a visit to Andringitra is also an opportunity to stop by Anja Community Reserve, which is a wonderful community initiative to showcase an area that is not only a spectacular site in its own right, but also happens to be the largest concentration of the ringtail lemurs, or maki, the one of 107 lemur species for which Madagascar is perhaps best known.  Just a few hours is enough time to see the ringtails and other wildlife for which this small reserve is known, and it’s definitely worth a stop before the long ride back to Tana:

It turns out that late August/early September is when ringtails typically give birth to the one offspring they tend to have each year, and it was really amazing to see these mammals up close, and see how the entire colony works together to ensure the week-old baby ringtail is well taken care of.

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