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WotW: Stone forests of Madagascar

Part 2 of GeoJames' "Wonders of the World" series looks at western Madagascar's unearthly stone forest.

Dubbed the rock cathedrals of western Madagascar, the 70m tall limestone spires of the Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve are one of Madagascar’s most spectacular sights. Located 150km north of the town of Morondava, the national park covers 666 square km, the largest protected area in Madagascar. Granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1990 due to its unique geography, preserved mangrove forests, wild bird and lemur populations, the region attracts more than 6,000 visitors annually.

The word ‘tsingy’ is indigenous to the Malagasy language as a description of the karst badlands of Madagascar. The word which translates into English as “where one cannot walk barefoot”, aptly describes the exceptional topography.

270 million years worth of geological processes and erosion have carved the landscape into the limestone spires seen today on the Bemaraha Plateau. Limestone karsts, as the formation is more formally known, tend to produce the fissures, sinkholes and caverns seen in western Madagascar. Moreover, the undisturbed mangrove forests are the habitat of many rare and endangered species including lemurs, chamealeons, and other taxa. Over ninety percent of the animals that inhabit this UNESCO heritage site are species that are exclusive, and can be found no where else on earth.The somewhat magical and mysterious geography has also been the subject of numerous folk-tales, passed on by generations.


For a great insight into visiting and trekking across the Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve visit “Climbing Madagascar’s Stone Forest – Tsingy de Bemaraha” by

The limestone karsts are not exclusive to western Madagascar. The Stone Forest in the Yunnan Province of China is equally spectacular and was the centrepiece for this stunning short-video.

Much of the stone forest of Madagascar remains unexplored, primarily due to its arrow passageways, knife-edged towers and remote location. It remains, though, one the world’s most unearthly destinations on the planet.


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About James Cosgrove (27 Articles)
22 • Welsh • BSc Geography & Geology • MSc Applied Meteorology graduate - University of Reading

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