Baobabs In Madagascar-The mother of the forest
The Baobab is an emblematic tree of Madagascar, characterising the landscape of the south and west of the island. This majestic tree is impressive when seen in real life with its huge, smooth-barked trunk and dizzying height. There are six species recorded in the world and eight of them are endemic to Madagascar. This large tree can reach up to 30 meters in height, with its very particular appearance. The trunk can measure up to 9 metres in diameter and 30 metres in circumference
What are the characteristics of the baobabs of Madagascar?
Baobab leaves are unique because they only appear for a short period of time. Indeed, baobabs get rid of their leaves during the dry season to avoid water decrease and these flowers are just wonderful. They appear in several stamens of different colours, from white to yellow to the red colour. As for flowering, it varies depending on the species.
Usually, bats, butterflies and other nectarivorous make sure the baobab pollinates. This pollination allows it to have large brown fruits (40 cm long and 15 cm in diameter). Each fruit can contain tens of thousands of seeds.
The six species of baobabs endemic to Madagascar are: Adansonia grandidieri, Adansonia madagascariensis, Adansonia perrieri, Adansonia rubrostipa (Adansonia fony), Adansonia za, Adansonia suarezensi. There are two other species in Africa which are Adansonia digitata and Adansonia kilima and another species in Australia which is the Adansonia gibbosa (Adansonia gregori).
Where can we see the baobabs of Madagascar?
We can find baobabs everywhere on the big island of Madagascar, especially in the South and West.
Here are some places where you can find baobabs in Madagascar:
Adansonia grandidieri: Present near Morombe and Morondava in western Madagascar. It can reach over 25 meters in height, having a cylindrical trunk 9 to 10 meters in circumference.
Adansonia madagascariensis: Found in dry to semi-dry forests of Mahajanga province and also in the north. It has a variable size from 5 meters to 20 meters. Its trunk evolves from the bulging bottle to the cylinder.
Adansonia perrieri: It is a very rare tree, threatened with extinction. It vegetates in the region of Antsiranana (Diego Suarez), in the north of the island. It can measure more than 30 meters.
Adansonia rubrostipa: It is the smallest of the baobab trees in Madagascar, standing 4 to 5 meters high. The trunk has a peculiar bottle shape, with a visible constriction below the branches.
Adansonia suarezensis: It is a tree in great danger. Its vegetation zone is restricted to the north of Madagascar near Antsiranana.
Adansonia za: It is the most common baobab on the island. It grows in the south, west and northwest.
The mythical and practical roles of baobabs in Madagascar
Several myths surround this great tree and among them, the most famous is undoubtedly the one that says that the baobabs were planted upside down by God. In Madagascar, a different story is told depending on the village. In the south-west of the island (Morombe region), for example, in the small village of Andombiry, the largest tree in a huge baobab forest is revered by the locals.
Myths aside, baobabs are used daily as for example the pulp (rich in vitamin C and calcium) and the leaves are eaten, the bark, flowers, seeds and roots are used as medicine. Wood is also used as a building material, especially for making tiles and walls. In Ampotaka, in the south of the island, the baobab serves as a water reservoir to face the hard and long dry season. The trunks are then hollowed out and filled with water during the short rainy season.
The baobab is called “Reniala” in Malagasy, meaning “queen of the forest”. The oldest known baobab in Madagascar is that of Tsimanapetsotse park south of Toliara, called “grandmother”. This belongs to the species Adansonia rubrotispa and is 1,600 years old.
How to get to the Baobabs Alley?
Baobabs Alley or Baobabs Avenue is the most famous place in Madagascar to see baobabs. It was classified in 2007 as a “Natural Monument” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. This classification made it possible to make this place a protected area with an area of 320 hectares. You cannot miss this landscape which is one of the essential postcards known all over the world.
Want to enjoy this unique show? We have at least four possibilities to reach the Baobab Alley:
By air: You have to take a flight from the capital which is Antananarivo to reach the city of Morondava. The trip lasts about an hour. Once you arrived in Morondava, by car, you have to take the track for about twenty kilometres in the direction of Belon’i Tsiribihina.
Road trip: From Antananarivo, you have to travel 680 km by car to reach Morondava, the capital of Menabe. You have to go through Antisirabe, Miandrivazo, Malainbandy and finally Morondava. From there, you can take the track for the Baobab Alley.
Road trip and the Tsiribihina river: From Miandrivazo, you can go down the Tsiribihina river by barge or canoe. This beautiful navigation allows you to discover the life of the river, its human and natural environment. Once in Belon’i Tsiribihina, we can go up north towards Tsingy du Bemaraha and on the way back, we will cross the Baobab alley before reaching Morondava.
Road trip and the Manambolo river: There is also a more adventure version which travellers particularly like. From Antananarivo, you have to go due west to reach the Itasy region, then Bongolava. From the town of Tsiromandidi, you have to reach the banks of the Manambolo river. By canoe, after 3 days of navigation, you can reach the gorges of the Manambolo and the Tsingy du Bemaraha. After going through the Tsingy, we take the road to Morondava and the Baobab alley.
You can experience all of these adventures by going there. And when you get there you can admire the sunset. It must be said that at dusk or at daybreak the variations in light make it take on a unique face. This magical and unmissable site.