Madagascar Updates: Chapter 9

Madagascar, 11th edition

Please use the comments facility below to submit updates to chapter 9 (The South) of Madagascar (11th ed).

To comment on other chapters visit the main Madagascar Updates page.

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49 Comments

  1. 28 April 2017 at 12:08 am

    The luxury Mikea Lodge north of Toliara has opened a classy venue in Toliara called La Bâtisse By Mikea. This comprises an upscale handicraft boutique called Taniko, a chocolate shop (Mikea Lodge is under the same ownership as Chocolaterie Robert), and a restaurant called Oasis Café. It is located between Serena hotel and Fandrosoana bookshop, opposite L’Univers de la Pierre. Tel 032 03 100 21/032 07 100 33/034 64 862 90.
    For photos see http://www.facebook.com/bradtmadagascar/posts/778927428949820

  2. 29 April 2016 at 10:59 pm

    If you want to visit the Tropic of Capricorn in Madagascar, there is a monument marking its position on the road to St Augustine’s Bay, south of Toliara (Tulear), erected by GIZ in 2014. (GIZ is the body implementing activities in Madagascar on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.) To get there, turn off RN7 around 11km from Toliara and follow the road for 4½km.
    The only problem with erecting permanent markers on the tropics is that these latitudes are not static (because the tilt of the Earth’s axis of spin wobbles slightly relative to the plane of its orbit). In fact, the Tropic of Capricorn is currently drifting northwards at a rate of about 1cm every six hours! That adds up to around 15 metres per year, and so this monument is already some 35 metres off the true tropic. If you want to be really accurate about locating the tropic, first find this monument then walk northwards 20 paces for every year that has passed since it was built (2014)!

    • 2 May 2016 at 11:18 am

      The Tropic if Capricorn is defined as the southernmost limit of the zone in which the sun may be seen directly overhead. It marks the border between the tropical zone and the temperate zone (where the sun is never directly overhead at any point during the year). Over the next 11,000 years, the tropic will continue to drift northwards until it is around 150km away from the monument at St Augustine! At that point, it will change direction and drift back. Consequently, the date ‘2014’ engraved on this sign is a significant one: it is the last time the sun will pass directly above this monument until this point is once again in the tropics, around 22 millennia in the future.

  3. 1 April 2016 at 11:03 am

    The Boeing 737-800 acquired by Air Madagascar last August is finally serving the route to Toliara (Tulear) and Taolagnaro (Fort Dauphin) as of this week. The airline had been having to use an ATR-42 for the route because Toliara and Tolagnaro airports did not meet the fire safety requirements for this larger aircraft. Both airports have now been elevated from certification level 5 to level 6, allowing the 737 to operate this route in addition to its existing services to Nosy Be and Mahajanga (Majunga). With 168 seats on the aircraft, this development significantly increases capacity to the south of the island.

  4. 25 March 2016 at 1:13 am

    BLÛ is a seafront bar and restaurant with smart décor that opened in 2014 in Tulear in place of the former Bo Beach. They serve a varied cuisine with main courses typically 17,000Ar. Tel 032 22 915 59; email contact@blutulear.com; web http://www.blutulear.com
    Photos at: https://www.facebook.com/bradtmadagascar/posts/568111586698073

  5. 5 November 2015 at 6:42 pm

    Huge congratulations to Madagascar’s Honko Mangrove Conservation Centre (between Tulear and Ifaty), which bagged no less than the GOLD Award for Best Wildlife Conservation yesterday at the World Responsible Travel Awards!
    This eight-year-old Belgian charity does a commendable job of helping locals understand the mangrove ecosystem and use it sustainably, as well as interpreting this habitat for visitors and restoring degraded areas.
    For information about visiting: http://www.honko.org/InfoTours.aspx

  6. peter jones said,

    16 July 2015 at 5:45 pm

    There are no discounts if you want to fly back to Tana from Toliara.You will unfortunaly pay full price or have to drive all the way back( 2 days)•

  7. Daniel Austin said,

    10 December 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Contrary to what the park guides at Isalo have been trained to tell visitors, almost all of the rocks of this large and geologically interesting national park date back not to the mid-Jurassic but in fact somewhat further to the Triassic period. The confusion over the age of Isalo has apparently been traced back to misinformation in a 1989 WWF reference book on which the park guides’ training was based, but as yet Madagascar National Parks have not corrected the training manual.

  8. Daniel Austin said,

    10 December 2014 at 2:27 am

    Honko Mangrove Information centre, at Ambondrolava midway between Toliara and Ifaty, protects three habitat types: mangrove (including some restoration planting), marsh reed beds (used sustainably by locals including a women’s association that makes woven baskets etc from the reeds) and some abandoned salt pans. This variety serves to make the site one of the richest in the southwest for birdlife.
    The mangrove features an extensive boardwalk that allows visitors to experience the habitat from a relatively flat, clean and easy trail (but note that the boardwalk is submerged during high spring tides) and an elevated wooden platform offers panoramic views of the area. Seven of Madagascar’s eight mangrove tree species are found here.
    At this site in 2013, a day gecko (Phelsuma mutabilis) on more than one occasion observed and photographed drinking nectar from the flowers of a mangrove apple (Sonneratia alba). This is thought to be the first such recorded observation. These flowers are usually pollinated by bats, moths and bees; it is not known for certain whether geckos could also act as pollinators.
    Honko began in 2008. Contact: mob 032 54 042 76/032 70 465 04; email info@honko.org; web http://www.honko.org; Facebook http://www.facebook.com/honkomangrove
    The name of the village, Ambondrolava, means “place with long reeds”.

  9. Daniel Austin said,

    10 December 2014 at 1:26 am

    On RN7, the turning for Arboretum d’Antsokay is 11km from Toliara, at PK 915, from which point it is 750m on a dirt track to the car park, entrance, restaurant and shop.

  10. Daniel Austin said,

    10 December 2014 at 1:25 am

    The roadside vegetation between PK 909 and PK 910 on RN7 is an excellent spot to find the red-shouldered vanga.

  11. Daniel Austin said,

    10 December 2014 at 1:25 am

    On RN7 at PK 865 there is a village called Andalanabo. Another village, at PK 891, is called Befoly; the name of this one means “many weaver birds”.

  12. Daniel Austin said,

    10 December 2014 at 1:24 am

    The turning off RN7 for Taolagnaro, on the route that taxi-brousses take from Toliara, is at PK 859.

  13. Daniel Austin said,

    10 December 2014 at 1:24 am

    On RN7 at PK 848 you will see cotton plantations alongside the road. A short distance away at PK 854 is a cashew nut plantation.

  14. Daniel Austin said,

    10 December 2014 at 1:23 am

    On RN7 at PK 844 is the village of Vineta, named after the former Plantation Vineta, which in colonial times was a French-owned site that for a short period grew sisal. The crop can still be seen growing wild along the verges.

  15. Daniel Austin said,

    10 December 2014 at 1:22 am

    A few years ago, at the village of Andoharotsy around PK 839 on RN7, they started openly making illegal rum right at the roadside. The authorities evidently turn a blind eye. Look out for the large distillation troughs under thatched shelters and surrounded by rusting metal drums.

  16. Daniel Austin said,

    10 December 2014 at 1:21 am

    Owing to re-routings of sections of RN7 in recent years, Ihosy is now at PK 602 (not PK 611). The overall length of RN7 is now 926km, which is 19km shorter than a few years ago.

  17. Daniel Austin said,

    9 December 2014 at 12:19 am

    On RN7, at PK 836 a private ranch has been built by former prime minister Camille Vital.

  18. Daniel Austin said,

    9 December 2014 at 12:18 am

    A large and impressive new roadside tomb has been built in the form of a ship on the north side of the road near Sakaraha. A few kilometers further towards Toliara, at PK 801, is another large tomb, whose inscription (‘Rembaraky sy Valitandra pivady namorona ny fasana’) indicated that the tomb is that of two people.

  19. Daniel Austin said,

    9 December 2014 at 12:17 am

    Heading towards Toliara on RN7, the first baobabs encountered are around PK759 (196km from Toliara). These are Adansonia za. At PK 785, at the village of Andranomaintso, there is a line of four baobabs. It certainly isn’t as impressive as the ‘Alley’ neat Morondava, but still worth a pause for a quick photo.

  20. Daniel Austin said,

    9 December 2014 at 12:16 am

    There are countless sapphire villages in the countryside dotted around Ilakaka. Most are invisible from RN7 (although car headlights can be seen sparkling across the landscape at night). At Pk 731 is Manombo Be, a newer sapphire village beyond Ilakaka (as you head towards Toliara). At PK 735 there is another, smaller one (Manombo). At both Ilakaka and Manombo Be, you can see people panning for sapphires in the river. Sakaraha has now also turned into a sapphire town. There are many unlicensed drivers in these towns, so the standard of driving is especially low – take care!

  21. Daniel Austin said,

    9 December 2014 at 12:16 am

    At Isalo, the Piscine Naturelle is a 3km walk from the car park, which is in turn a 3.2km drive from RN7. The walk starts with a fairly steep 80m climb within the first 0.6km, then 1.2km on the flat, before dropping back down 80m (over a more gentle 1.2km) to the pool. The route back to the car park from the pool is mostly via the same path.

  22. Daniel Austin said,

    9 December 2014 at 12:15 am

    RN7 is becoming quite potholed on a 30km stretch immediately north of Ranohira.

  23. Daniel Austin said,

    9 December 2014 at 12:14 am

    Heading south on RN7, the grassland Horombe Plateau begins at PK 619. The name of the plateau comes from “horona” meaning “grass”. “Horombe” means “much grass” so Ihorombe is a “place with much grass”.
    It is a good area to find Marsh Owls. And around PK 623, especially on the right-hand side (as you head towards Toliara), this is a good spot to find the Madagascar harrier hawk (optimum times are 08:00-09:00 and 14:00-15:00).

  24. Daniel Austin said,

    9 December 2014 at 12:14 am

    The name of the town of Ihosy comes from a river of the same name. It means “rope”.

  25. Daniel Austin said,

    9 December 2014 at 12:12 am

    On RN7, at exactly PK 615, just below the cluster of mobile phone masts, you can find several carnivorous plants in the verge: pitcher plants (Nepenthes madagascariensis), sundews (Drosera sp), and bladderworts (Utricularia sp).

  26. Daniel Austin said,

    9 December 2014 at 12:12 am

    The Andranomilitsy Caves are unusual because they occur in an area of gneiss bedrock. The signboard for the path to visit them is at PK 610 on RN7 (on the right as you go towards Toliara). The transition of crystalline to sedimentary rock is at a point some distance south: the bridge at PK 678. The geology transitions again (to limestone) at the bridge in Sakaraha, at PK 798.

  27. Daniel Austin said,

    4 December 2014 at 12:48 am

    The turning for the very bad road to Ivohibe from RN7 is at PK 598.

  28. Daniel Austin said,

    4 December 2014 at 12:35 am

    The email for Bakuba hotel at St Augustine’s Bay is bakubaconcept@gmail.com

  29. Daniel Austin said,

    4 December 2014 at 12:30 am

    Chinese contractors are currently fixing to road between Toliara and Morombe. They have already (by mid-November 2014) flattened and prepared the first 25km section from Toliara to Ifaty, though they have not yet started surfacing work.

  30. Daniel Austin said,

    4 December 2014 at 12:24 am

    In addition to the phone numbers in the current edition of the guidebook, 034 19 841 55 is another contact number for Tortoise Village in Ifaty.

  31. Daniel Austin said,

    4 December 2014 at 12:23 am

    Moringa is a new hotel in Toliara. It is a smart and centrally located place boasting good Wi-Fi, sat-TV, AC, b/fast inc and good views from upper floors. It has 27 rooms including 2 suites. Café/patisserie called Le Meringue. Contact: tel 94 441 55; mob 034 07 255 77; email tulear@zomatel.com

  32. Daniel Austin said,

    4 December 2014 at 12:04 am

    Ankasy Lodge produced this promotional video about their beachfront hotel (situated 20km south of Salary): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYWcxXn_wZ0

  33. Daniel Austin said,

    4 December 2014 at 12:04 am

    At Andravona, about 20km north of Salary (on the west coast between Toliara and Morondava), a new hotel has been built by the family that owns Chocolaterie Robert. Already operating in a testing phase, Mikea Lodge opens officially next year (2015). The hotel boasts a beachfront location, making the most of the stunning lagoon that runs along this section of coastline. The ten rooms are smart tented bungalows. There is also a camping area. Activities include diving, sport fishing, boat trips including dolphin- and whale-watching in season, jet-skiing, para-sailing, quad-biking through the dry forest, and relaxing on the beach of fine sand. Nine species of lemur live in the nearby forest, as well as some rare bird species and three species of baobab tree. Access to Mikea Lodge is by 4×4 or boat from Toliara, or you can fly to Salary and drive the last 20km. Contact: mob 034 94 100 31; web http://www.mikealodge.com; promotional video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUOZHgLoOQg

  34. Anne said,

    28 November 2014 at 8:13 am

    Hotel Gina in Ft. Dauphin is fairly sketchy. It’s basically a mildewy barn – one bed was full of ants, the other sans any sort of blanket. And the bathroom was horrifying, and gave off strange, sulphurous smells all night. We had requested an airport transfer which never arrived, and breakfast, which was (mostly) covered in ants. If your readers are looking for the traditional “horrifying Malagasy hotel experience,” perhaps this place could suit their needs. It certainly shouldn’t stay in the “mid-range” category, at any rate. (Also – pretty certain also that Panorama – which we passed on the way to Hotel Gina – is a brothel on weekends.)

    We were charged 10,000Ar pp for a taxi to downtown when we arrived at the Ft. Dauphin airport late at night, although that may have been due to our time of arrival. We were later told that the standard rate is 5,000Ar pp.

    New Larcrea appears to have closed down, as well as the Vinanibe Lodge along the lakeshore. The latter was directly due to a drop in tourism since 2009, but the buildings and location are lovely, so hopefully they will be able to re-open soon.

    • Anne said,

      28 November 2014 at 8:14 am

      *Hotel Gina should be “Gina Village.” It appears to be part of the “Port Hotel” now, but I’m not positive.

      • 28 November 2014 at 9:14 am

        Hi Anne, “Motel Gina” and “Gina Village” were always separate entities on opposite sides of the road. Please could you confirm which one your report is about? Thanks

  35. Daniel Austin said,

    27 November 2014 at 10:34 pm

    At the inspiring Mangrove Information Centre run by the NGO Honko, situated between Toliara and Ifaty, the women’s association weaving shop has just re-opened (following a long closure due to cyclone damage in 2013). In partnership with Honko, the women’s association creates unique products from local vondro (reeds) to bring extra income to their families and promote sustainable mangrove management. All profits from their products go directly to the association and the artists themselves.
    Even if you are not interested in shopping, do stop by to learn more about this inspiring group of women and how the reed-weaving helps mangrove conservation. The new shop features educational posters about the association, its community-based conservation purpose, and the reed-weaving process.
    It is open Mon–Sat 08:00–11:30 & 14.00–16:30. It is located directly on RN9 in Ambondrolava, 12km north of Tulear (13km south of Ifaty), at the turning to Honko’s centre. Tel 032 54 042 76 or 032 70 465 04.

  36. Daniel Austin said,

    6 November 2014 at 6:32 pm

    The RN7 almost extends into the southern temperate zone. The southernmost point of this road (about 15km outside Toliara) is situated just 2½km from the Tropic of Capricorn. Indeed, give it a couple of centuries and it may well cross the line; owing to the earth’s wobble on its axis of rotation, the tropic is currently creeping northwards at a rate of roughly 1cm every six hours!

  37. 20 September 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Some updates for Toliara:
    The restaurant-bar Bo Beach recently changed hands and is now called BLÛ. Melody Beach became Caliente Beach. The following have closed down: Cascade, Maharaja, Dragon Rouge, T’News Café, and BlackWear shop. Finally, Auberge du Pêcheur is wrongly spelled as Auberge de la Pêcheur in the 11th edition. Thanks to local resident Andry Petignat for this information.

  38. Daniel Austin said,

    27 August 2014 at 10:16 am

    North of Toliara, local resident Louise Jasper confirms RN9 is being repaired on the badly damaged initial section to the Fiherenana River. It seems likely that resurfacing work will continue as far as Ifaty/Mangily, and some are speculating that the plan is to do the whole 290km stretch to Morombe.

  39. Daniel Austin said,

    30 June 2014 at 2:01 am

    A company called TransMadagascar runs scheduled-departure door-to-door services along the length of RN7 in comfortable air-conditioned vehicles. A one-way ticket costs 150,000Ar for the two-day journey (Tana–Fianarantsoa–Toliara), not including meals en route or accommodation for the stopover in Fianar.
    http://www.facebook.com/TransMadagascar
    http://www.transmadagascar.com/en

  40. Daniel Austin said,

    11 December 2012 at 9:36 pm

    The coastal road to Cap Sainte Marie from Lavanono runs from the top of the cliff behind the village and is signposted “Fort Dauphin”. After about 18km there is a right-turn signposted 9km to the CSM park. The road has dense but low-level spiny forest on either side. At Cap Sainte Marie park office there are camping facilities (sheltered pitches) including basic showers and toilets (long drop). Camping costs 10,000Ar/tent/night. Circuits cost 5,000Ar for the cape and 7,000Ar for the cave and elephant bird eggshells. It takes around 3hrs to do both circuits with a 4×4 to transport you between the two. Tel 034 49 401 85; email csm@parcs-madagascar.com (contact for base at Tsiombe). Cap Ste Marie has a weak/patchy Orange signal. Lavanono has an Orange mast, so strong Orange signal there.
    Beyond the office in the other direction at the turn between Marovato and Faux Cap is a sign indicating 15.4km to the office.
    Faux Cap to Tsiombe is a sandy road through spiny forest. Market day in Tsiombe is Friday. The town has cellphone network of all three types. There is no fuel station and no bank.
    Towards Ambovombe there is very degraded spiny forest and lots of cultivation. This section can get muddy after rain.
    Ambovombe has Jovenna station “Rohondroho!” at west end and smaller Jovenna station “Fenoarivo” at east end. In the centre is a BOA bank (open: Mon–Fri 08.00–11.30 & 14.00–16.30). There is an internet café. At Ambovombe Oasis, and the hotel behind, beware the noisy karaoke and disco on Fri & Sat.
    The road between Amboasary and Ambovombe is still well surfaced in parts. It mostly passes cultivated land. Amboasary has a market, post office and all three mobile networks. But there is no fuel station, bank, or decent hotel. Locals say the town is not safe after dark and it would be best not to try to stay overnight there.
    Lac Anony is 12km southeast of Amboasary but it is about 8km further to the part with flamingos and 20metre(ish)-high sand dunes. It has a white beach of broken seashells, which are gathered and taken by truck to Tana where they are ground and added as a calcium supplement to poultry feed.
    Nearby (just north of the lake) are two small salt lakes that become bright pink in December after the rains. (Pink lakes occur in just a few places around the world in lakes with high salinity, high temperature, and exposure to intense light. Under these conditions certain algae present in the water accumulate orange beta-carotene at concentrations up to fifty times that found in carrots. Also contributing to the colour, pink-hued halobacterium grows within the salt crust on the bottom of the lake.)
    There is cellphone signal (both Orange and Telma) at Manafiafy / Ste Luce, north of Fort Dauphin. Ifotaka has AIrtel signal only.

    • viviane DEWA said,

      23 April 2014 at 5:57 pm

      Andranara Park have a restaurant now, and we can welcome camping also, there are toilet and shower available

  41. Daniel Austin said,

    30 November 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Tsimanampetsotse National Park is becoming more easily visitable. It takes around 1½hrs to reach the entrance office from Anakao by 4×4. Coming from Toliara by road it is necessary to go the circuitous route via Betioky and Beheloka because it is not possible for a vehicle to cross the Onilahy north of Anakao. However, if time is of the essence you could take a private speedboat from Toliara direct to Ambola, near the park entrance. The usual route is to take one of the daily speedboats to Anakao, then continue from there by road.
    The park office is in Efoetse. At nearby Ambola (five minutes’ drive from Efoetse), there is accommodation. Owing to family issues of the owner, the Domaine d’Ambola is currently closed and it is not known if or when it will reopen; however another good new hotel called La Cannisse has just opened nearby, currently with three bungalows but planning to expand to seven by 2014, and there is also simpler accommodation (basic beachfront bungalows) at the village’s other hotel: Vahombe.
    From the office to the main campsite in the park takes about 25 minutes by 4×4 (somewhat longer in the rainy season as the lake level is higher making it necessary to take an alternative route). There are many sheltered tent pitches, squat toilet and bucket shower facilities, a cooking place and picnic tables.
    There are two viewpoints from which to see over the lake. The first is a 10-minute 4×4 drive south of the campsite, and the second about 1hr beyond that. From the track (which runs along the lakeshore) it takes about 20 minutes to climb up to each viewpoint. From the shore, flamingos can usually be seen in the lake.
    There are a couple of excellent circuits starting at the campsite – on which baobabs, large pachypodiums, tortoises, numerous lizards and many birds may be seen – and night walks are possible from here too. Broad-striped mongooses regularly visit the campsite at night. In fact, they can be a nuisance as they will snatch unattended food and other items, and even enter unsecured tents or vehicles if something inside smells good.
    There is a cave nearby where each evening ring-tailed lemurs climb across a vertical rock face to sleep on a high ledge where they are safe from fossas. Also close to the campsite is another cave with a pool harbouring blind fish. The park also has a flooded cave where cave diving is possible. This must be organised through the Atlantis dive centre in Anakao.
    Most circuits in the park cost 15,000Ar but this only applies for day trips as there is a fixed guiding fee of 30,000Ar per day for multi-day visits. A cook can be hired to prepare meals for 5,000Ar/day (price of food not included). Camping costs 7,000Ar per tent. Tents and other camping equipment are available for hire from the park office.

  42. Daniel Austin said,

    30 November 2012 at 7:25 pm

    Work has begun on the construction of a luxury island hotel just off Analapatsa (south of Ranopiso).

  43. Daniel Austin said,

    30 November 2012 at 7:24 pm

    In the south, WWF is assisting in the setting up of a set of four new ecotourism sites/experiences. Details coming soon at http://www.alamaiky.com . The four areas are: Amoron’no Onilahy, Ranobe, Nord Ifotaka, and Ankodida. The first of these involves a three-night river trip by pirogue on the Onilahy from Tongobory to St Augustine (possible roughly between Jan and Jun, as too shallow in dry season). The Ranobe reserve is about 1½hrs north of Mangily and makes an excellent day trip (with picnic lunch). Ankodida is a series of sites south of Ranopiso and Amboasary.

  44. Daniel Austin said,

    30 November 2012 at 7:17 pm

    South of Toliara is a brand new community-managed protected area called Tsinjoriake with four circuits which will be visitable from March 2013: Andatabo (with chalets); Moringa Circuit with succulent moringa plants and birdlife, caves at Abinabe (on the road to St Augustine) and at Sarodrano (nearby, near the sea); seaweed culture at Sarodrano; and St Augustine village and mangrove, and Barn Hill. More information will be available from the tourist office in Toliara once the circuits open. The project is being implemented with the assistance of GIZ, a bilateral collaboration between the German and Malagasy governments.

  45. Jane Gamble said,

    20 October 2011 at 11:05 am

    Discoveries in the Caves of Anja
    One of our greatest adventures in Madagascar was also our most unexpected. On a road trip along the RN7, we stopped at Anja Park, about 13 km south of Ambalavao. The site is considered sacred to the villagers there – for hundreds of years the Betsileo have entombed their ancestors in the high hillside caves and it is fascinating to know that even today these ancient burial sites are opened up to receive the bones of family members. According to our guide, the Betsileo also inhabited the caves in the area in the early 1800’s in an effort to escape enslavement at the hands of the invading Merina tribes from the north. Later, after French colonization, the Betsileo again inhabited the caves – but this time to escape the French system of taxation.
    The purpose of our visit to Anja Park was to meet with a Peace Corp Volunteer who, unfortunately, was away at the time. Not wanting to waste the opportunity to see the resident ringtail lemurs and explore the rocky trails behind the village, we secured a local guide who took pride in explaining that Anja Park is owned by the community – not the government. The profits from tours go back to the community for development and education. This alone makes Anja Park worth a visit, but there is more…
    We spotted plenty of ringtail lemurs and their babies just inside the park. We then entered some large open caves that the guide said were inhabited by the lemurs at night. He also explained that the “old people” used the caves back in the early 19th century. We spotted an interesting burial chambered blocked off with rocks and marked with a zebu skull, and then asked the guide if it was possible to go further into the caves. He looked surprised, but when we pulled out our headlamps he sensed we meant business.
    Using only his cellphone for light, he led us further and further into the mountain caves. It dawned on me that he didn’t quite know where he was going, but he went forward and we followed. At one point he jumped into a deep rocky hole and after a moment said, “Ca va – come on down”. I flashed my light around and decided the worse that might happen would be a sprained ankle, so I jumped. Down in the hole, we saw the skeleton of a zebu and what appeared to be a cooking area covered with ashes. The guide looked surprised and said, “the kitchen of the old people.” Cool, I thought, and proceeded further into the cave.
    Looking into a dark hole at the far end, I spotted something quite unexpected – a large clay water jug and rice bowl. “Look”, I said to the guide, who came up behind me and stopped cold. “That is from the old people”, he said, (and by ‘old’ he meant more than 200 hundred years old…) “You’ve never seen this before?” I asked. “No”, he said, “I have never been down here before.” Sensing this was my chance to pick up an antiquity a la Indiana Jones, I asked if I could buy the jug. “You can buy them in the market”, he explained. I said I wanted an old jug, and as it dawned on him what I meant, he said, “No – it must stay here.” Gold stars all around, I thought, except for the would-be plunderer.
    When we emerged from the cave, I had a fabulous sense of discovery, even if I couldn’t lay claim. When I met with the Peace Corp volunteer later in Tana, I told her about the artifacts, and she said in two years she had never been back into the cave or seen the pots. We gave her a couple of head lamps to take to the guides and encouraged her to explore our find, in the hopes that perhaps they could develop a whole new tourist attraction on the interesting history of the Betsileo’s lives in the caves of Anja.


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