The red Tsingy

"Chimneys of the fairies"

The red Tsingy of Diego Suarez, Madagascar

About 37 miles from Diego Suarez, the plateau of Sahafary culminates at 220 yards of altitude. This quadrilateral, 10 miles long by 4 wide, is a grassy savanna, where here and there a few "mokotro" (palm trees), tamarinds and orange of the monkeys are the delight of the zebu keepers suffocate by the heat. The latter, in order to guarantee their zebus sufficient areas of pasture, burned the original forest, leaving space for a bare soil, gradually attacked by the long work of an inevitable erosion.

The red Tsingy of Diego Suarez, Madagascar

Originally, it is a small excavation a few feet, a small depressed area in the form of semicircle that begins to grow. Then the cracks form, widen, until whole sections of walls are detached to reveal a small gorge that will become a real ravine or a canyon more than a mile. These are the Sakasaka.

But the most impressive still lies at the bottom of these canyons. The rainwater penetrates easily through this red ocher sand. Several tens of feet below, it encounters a harder layer, almost impermeable, a marly sandstone. It will then infiltrate nevertheless, slowly, eventually eroding this compact rock. This is called a karst massif. The surface fine sand will be quickly cleared with the advance of the canyon, revealing this massif, whose formation is called by the geologists “chimneys of the fairies”.

Resembling its neighbors of the Ankarana but no longer sharpened like knives. With rounded, phantasmagoric shapes, it is quite natural that they eventually took the name of Tsingy. The red sand, again mixed with this mixture of marble-sand, gives them different hues, according to the hours of the day.

The Red Tsingy were born...

Text: Peter Gregor
Photos Pierre-Yves Babelon
Thanks to Grand Hotel Diego Suarez, Evasion sans Frontière

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