The Toliara Province to the south-west of Madagascar covers an area of 161,405 square kilometres. The province is divided into four regions - Androy, Anosy, Atsimo Andrefana and Menabe. The Androy region is further sub-divided into Ambovombe, Bekily, Beloha, and Tsiombe. The Atsimo-Andrefana includes the towns of Ampanihy, Ankazoabo, Benenitra, Beroroha, Betioky, Morombe, Sakaraha and the capital of the province Toliara. The Anosy region contains Amboasary, Betroka and Tôlanaro.
The Menabe region includes Belon'i Tsiribihina, Mahabo, Manja, Miandrivazo and Morondava. The south-west and the extreme south are semi-desert areas, with as little as one-third of a metre of rain falling annually at Toliara. Despite the production of export crops such as sea cucumbers the province is the poorest one in Madagascar. The province however is very popular with tourists for its many attractions. The city of Toliara is popular for its coral reefs that offer excellent diving, and its splendid beaches. The Anosy region offers a pleasant climate, magnificent beaches, nature reserves like the Kalambatritra and Andohahela, both featuring lemurs, and a variety of hotels. Its capital Tôlanaro is also known as "la Cote d'Azur Malgache." Other popular places to visit in the region include Evatraha, Libanona beach, Lokaro, Manafiafy, Nahampoana and Vinanibe.
One of Madagascar’s biggest attractions is Baobabs´Alley, close to Morondava, the giant baobabs clustered together at both sides of the road offer an amazing sight, especially at dawn. The coastal trail from Morondava southwards is a route not often travelled that hides spectacular small fishing villages like Ankevo and Belo sur Mer, and paradise-like beaches ideal for snorkelling or just relaxing. The Tsingy de Bemeraha National Park is a spectacular mineral forest formed by a labyrinth of sharp stone needles that offers spectacular scenery and magnificent trekking circuits through the bizarre and unique Tsingys.
Toliara, formerly known as Tulear, is a city on the South-West coast of Madagascar, and the capital of the Atsimo-Andrefana region. It is located 936 kilometres south-west of Antananarivo, on a broad coastal plain, surrounded by dunes and mangrove swamps near the Tropic of Capricorn in the Mozambique Channel. Toliara is nicknamed the "City of the Sun" due to its hot and semi-arid climate, as it receives less than 400 millimetres of annual rainfall. Offshore a long barrier reef known as the Great Reef is found, approximately 18 kilometres long and 3 kilometres wide, making Toliary an ideal diving destination.
Toliara has a number of attractions aside from the rich and colourful coral reefs. The long white sandy beaches and turquoise sea are home to the elegant canoes or Vezo. Fishing is also a popular activity as is whale watching between July and September. Toliara is also blessed with diverse and abundant fauna. Visitors should experience the atmosphere of the bush market in the north of the city and the central market – known as the bazaar be. Cultural highlights in the area include the Regional Museum of the University of Toliara that has a small ethnological collection and a huge egg of Aepyornis. As a port town, Toliara acts as a major import/export hub for commodities such as sisal, soap, hemp, cotton, rice and peanuts.
Beroroha is a town in the Atsimo-Andrefana region that is made up of 17 villages. The town lies on the Mangoky river, which is fast flowing, and can vary between 5 metres and 500 metres wide. The road to Beroroha is only accessible with a 4x4 and normally takes two days from Antananarivo. The area was severely affected by the 2009 passage of Cyclone Fanele, and the NGO HoverAid is currently working there as long-term development programmes are underway.
Ambovombe is a city in the far south of Madagascar, and the capital of the Androy region. Ambovombe is an important regional crossroads city, connected by Route Nationale 13 to Taolagnaro, 110 kilometres to the east, the road also leads north to Ihosy 383 kilometres away. Route Nationale 10 leads north-east to Toliara, but these roads are in very poor condition.
Tôlanaro or Tolagnaro is a city on the South Coast of Madagascar and the capital of the Anosy region. Formerly known as Fort-Dauphin, it was the first French settlement in Madagascar and has been a port of local importance since the early 1500s. Tôlanaro was initially located on a short, narrow peninsula but has since grown to cover a much greater area along the ocean, almost to Mount Bezavona.
Andohahela National Park
Andohahela National Park, in the south-east Madagascar, is located 40 kilometres north-west of Tôlanaro and at the southern end of the Malagasy Highlands. The park covers 760 square kilometres of the Anosy mountain range and contains the last humid rainforests in the southern part of Madagascar. Andohahela has been a protected area since 1939 and became a national park in 1998, but in 2007 it became a World Heritage Site as part of the Rainforests of the Atsinanana.
The park is remarkable for the extremes of habitats that are contained within it. The park is divided into three zones. The first, Malio, is comprised of dense rainforest with more than 200 species of tree ferns, orchids, wild vanilla, lemurs and many birds. The second, Ihazofotsy-Mangatsiaka, features dry spiny forest with rare birds and reptiles. The third zone, Tsimelahy, is covered by the unique Ranopiso transitional forest, and is the only place where the three-cornered palm grows naturally. The mountains form a natural barricade against the moist trade winds that blow from the east.
The variety of habitats within the park is reflected in the richness of species that reside here, and the park is the most popular place in Madagascar for lemur, with 15 species recorded. A variety of rare species of geckos, turtles and snakes are among the 67 species of reptiles found in the park. Additionally Andohahela is the habitat of 130 species of birds and 50 species of amphibians. There are several circuits within each sector of the park that can be accessed by road from the town of Tôlanaro.
Begogo is a commune in the Anosy region, 55 kilometres east of Betroka, in the south of Madagascar. The Kalambatritra Special Reserve is found here, a wildlife reserve of 28,255 hectares, located to the north of the Andohahela National Park, and south-west of the Manombo Special Reserve. The reserve is situated in the Kalambatritra massif, a series of undulating hills and steep summits that is part of the Antaivondro-Kalambatritra mountain chain. The reserve’s humid, evergreen forest contains many endemic species, including 45 endemic bird species, with 75 types of birds recorded in total, several are listed as endangered. Lemurs are also found on the reserve.
Amboasary Sud is a town in the Anosy region, located at the Mandrare River in the far south of Madagascar approximately 35 kilometres from Ambovombe. Places of interest here include the Bay of Italy, Anony Lake that is home to flamingos, and the caves known as Jurassique Cirque. The privately owned Berenty Reserve is also closeby.
Berenty Reserve is a small private reserve of gallery forest located along the Mandrare River, set in a semi-arid spiny forest eco-region. Researchers and students have visited Berenty for decades to study lemurs. The reserve also attracts visitors with its endemic bird species, which include owls and couas. The reserve provides accommodation in the forest and a set of forest trails to explore. Berenty can be reached after a two-hour drive from Tôlagnaro on the South-East Coast.
Morondava is a city in the Menabe region, and its capital, located in the delta of the Morandava River. Morondova is served by an airport with regularly scheduled flights by Air Madagascar. The main road to the city has also been renovated making the travelling time from Antananarivo to Morondava by taxi-brousse approximately 12 hours. Pirogues are a popular alternative method of transportation used to ferry people and goods along the coast, especially to Morombe.
The city is famous for the impressive Avenue of Baobabs. The giant baobab trees are a 800-year-old legacy of the dense tropical forests that once thrived here. Over time, as the population grew, the forests were gradually cut down, leaving only the baobab trees, which were preserved by the locals for religious reasons. Today, unfortunately deforestation still continues, including some of the few remaining baobabs, to make way for sugar cane plantations.
Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve
Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve is located near the western coast of Madagascar in the Melaky Region. The reserve was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990 due to its unique geography, preserved mangrove forests, and wild bird and lemur populations.
The reserve is characterised by needle-shaped limestone formations, above cliffs over the Manambolo river, and these incredibly sharp limestone formations can cut through equipment and flesh easily, which makes crossing them extremely tough. The word "Tsingy" is derived from a local word that translates as "the place where one cannot walk barefoot". Tourists can access the national park by road from Morondava, a town 150 kilometres south of the park, but the road is poor and the journey can take up to 10 hours. Limited access is also possible from the town of Antsalova.