Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Grand Canyon of Madagascar

Big brother
It  maybe six times smaller than its big brother in Arizona, but Isalo park in Madagascar is at least as spectacular as the US Grand Canyon. Being lucky enough to have visited both, I can conclude that Isalo is as overwhelmingly beautiful. Especially because of surprise treasures that can be found deep inside the gorge. And funnily, the red eroded rock formations from the Jurassic period are the same in both parks.

I can recommend to do the circuit de Manazava first, walking on the rim with its 180 degree views over the rice paddies in the morning. The climb is not that steep but it is hot!

Tropical surprises
Then, when it gets really really really hot, you take a break at the campsite where you can see the lemurs.  After that the treasure hunt begins! Deep down in the gorge, you will find a lush green feast of tropical plants, clear water, pristine little white beaches and turquoise rock pools. Jump into the blue or black piscine, bathe under the 20 meter water falls, and walk back just in time to see the sun set on the orange rocks.

Isalo - Madagascar
Grand Canyon
800 m2
4900 m2
800  to 1200 meters
2000 meters
Mammal species
Bird species
Reptiles and frog species
Flora species

Monday, April 8, 2013

Diamonds in the Sky : Locust Plague or Pretty Sight?

Picture this. Sitting in a mini bus that drives calmly though rural Southern Madagascar, listening to Rihana's Diamonds in the sky. It is a hot afternoon, the drive from Tulear to Isalo is long, but the straight road is good and the landscape stunning. Suddenly, about half way, a big black cloud approaches. What the hell? What is it? A tornado? A sand storm? When I realize what it is I manage to quickly shout:  "Close the windows", just in time. Our driver accelerates as I quickly grope my bag for my camera.

Millions of silver wings

Then our mini bus is surrounded by hundreds of thousands of silvery wings flickering in the afternoon sun. A pretty sight, almost like diamonds in the sky. But I assure you, they are not pretty diamonds. They are swarms of billions of 6-legged, hungry, plant devouring insects!

What looks like silvery raindrops are actually swarms of locusts.

Half the country?

BBC and CNN reported on it last week. I even got calls from a TV channel in the Netherlands about this biblical plague. Most journalists quoted FAO stating that "about half the country is infested by hoppers and flying swarms - each swarm made up of billions of  insects".


About half the country? That seems exaggerated, but fact is that they are here and they multiply faster than horny rabbits. Fact is also that if nothing is done, they will pose a serious threat to the already precarious food security situation in southern Madagascar.  So why is nothing done? I don't know really. What I do know is that tons of insecticide have been donated about six months ago, but no systematic spraying has been taking place yet. Also, mysteriously, around the same time many small hardware stores in town started to sell Nuvan, an insecticide normally unavailable on the private market. Drive around Tana and you'll see little Nuvan posters everywhere. Coincidence? Maybe. As coincidental as listening to Rihana's Diamonds in the Sky while watching millions of shiny crickets in the sky?

Watch my little video of these six-legged, plant devouring 'diamonds' in the sky.