Our first night in the Tsingy (pronounced SING-e) was pretty interesting. Let me first start by saying that my biggest phobia is spiders. I had no idea what was in store for me that first evening, when Mamy (our guide, pronounced Mommy, which was always fun to say whenever we had to ask him a question) told me that we were going to be camping. So I think to myself “Camping? Well, I’ve been camping a couple times in college and had a great time, no sweat.” Wrong! It never occurred to me until nightfall ,when the arachnids come out to eat, that we were placed right next to the open wet lands also known as spider deathtrap central.
We came back from dinner at a local hotely (aka restaurant in Madagascar), walk into our elevated tent and right away I spot three gigantic spiders crawling on the mosquito net covering our bed. I started to freak out and told Adam that I cannot under any circumstances stay in this place for the evening. I will never be able to sleep, knowing that spiders are feeding all around us. Mamy and the owner are came over, saying “You don’t need to worry about the spiders, you need to worry about the scorpions.” That’s just what I needed to hear. Unfortunately, it was too late to change our sleeping arrangements for the evening. Needless to say, it was a very miserable night.
After the worst night of sleep I’ve had on the trip so far, we set off to see the Grand Tsingy National Park. A park ranger hopped into the truck carrying climbing belts. Then I looked at Adam and wondered just what the heck he was getting us into. I had no idea we were going to be climbing massive rock formations. Glad I got full nights rest, huh? So after another 45 minutes of terrible roads we get to an open area where other cars are parked and their drivers are waiting on them. We park, put on our harnesses, and head off into the woods.
National Geographic describes the Tsingy as “a type of karst system, a landscape formed from porous limestone that was dissolved, scoured, and shaped by water. The exact processes that carved such an otherworldly stonescape are complex and rare; only a few similar karst formations exist outside Madagascar. Researchers believe that groundwater infiltrated the great limestone beds and began to dissolve them along joints and faults, creating caves and tunnels. The cavities grew, and eventually their roofs collapsed along the same joints, creating line-straight canyons called grikes, up to 400 feet deep and edged by spires of standing rock. Some grikes are so tight that a human traveler has difficulty passing through them; others are as wide as an avenue.” In order to get a better idea of how rough the Tsingy is, check out the entire article here.
We started out in a very narrow canyon that we had to scrunch our shoulders together in order to pass through, into an even smaller cave. This was more intense than I ever imagined. Eventually we started to ascend out of the caves and up through the spiky rock formations. Adam was mumbling behind me something about everything looking like an Indiana Jones movie. In areas where a railing wasn’t available to be placed, there were metal ropes attached to the rocks we had to clip our belts to so we wouldn’t fall. All I could think of is that I hope we see some lemurs on the top of the Tsingy and if my Mom knew what I was doing she would freak out. I felt so unprepared but it was really incredible to experience. The view from the top was magnificent, all the rigid grey peaks scattered around the landscape. This dangerous adventure through one of nature’s greatest wonders was well worth it. We both were a little disappointed we couldn’t spot some of the lemurs from the top, because it would have been so great to capture them in photos with the beautiful backdrop. Oh well, the view was great enough on its own.
Our hopes of seeing some lemurs weren’t completely dashed, because on our descent back we ran into a group of Decken’s sifakas in the woods, right before we were about to end the day. They are a special type of lemur that live only in the Tsingy. They survive because of thick calluses on their hands and feet that allow them to hop around the spikes without any worry of impaling themselves. Watching them hop from tree to tree was very entertaining. Just like monkeys, but way cuter with their white fur and black faces and ears, keeping a look out for a mongoose that was pacing on the ground beneath them. A little later we also came across a small group of brown lemurs and they were just as fun to watch as the sifakas.