The Great South

"The Capricorn Coast"

Called "the Capricorn Coast" because of its geographical location just below the tropic line of Capricorn, the Great South is the mythical route for any true adventure enthusiast in the heart of the Malagasy bush, devoid of any notion of time and stress.

La piste côtière of Great South malgache

The trip begins in Fort Dauphin, Tolagnaro or Tôlanaro, one of the most beautiful regions of Madagascar due to its diversity of climates and landscapes and full of history. From this region of Anosy (from "nosy", island in Malagasy) stands a mountainous chain of the same name, brutally separating a wet and luxuriant region to another of great aridity. Locals call them "the two worlds", separated by the Ranopiso pass and the Andohahela National Park. A passing to Anony lake is needed, a large salty lake with vestiges of summer resorts during colonization where fishermen and salt collectors work among the white flamingos and surrounded by huge sand dunes flowing in the sea. It is a landscape breathtaking.

Once past Ambovombe, capital of the Androy, by a road once tarred but in very bad condition finally begins the coastal track, sandy and straight, strewn with cacti, baobabs, palm trees and other thorny. It is from here that one loses all notion of modernity at the time of the connected world. The rare encounters are zebu carts allowing to move to the market of the neighboring village, which could remind us at another time.

The lighthouse of Cape Sainte Marie, Madagascar

On track for Betanty, called Faux Cap due to Portuguese sailors mistake that had taken him to the southern tip of the Island. It is a fishing village bordered by a lagoon of 12 mi and a white sand beach where marine turtles come to lay their eggs. A quiet end of the world still preserved from mass tourism. It is in Cape Sainte Marie (or Tanjona Vohimena), not far away, that comes the distinction of southern Cape, With its lighthouse and reserve of 6,75 square miles populated by land tortoises including the famous starry turtle or "radiata". It is the meeting place of two seas: the Mozambique Channel and the Indian Ocean.

Lavanono, a very lively fishing village at the bottom of an immense canyon formed 4800 years ago by the fall of a comet offshore and causing a wave of 182 meters in height and bringing sediment deposits back to the mainland. It is also a world renowned surf spot with the "left" of Lavanono. Gigi, former surfing champion and ecologist at heart, has largely contributed to the development of the village by bringing a road, water, a school...

Mahafaly tomb, Madagascar

From Lavanono to Itampolo, always from the track, always sand, even the two rivers dried up in their bed are sanded. The journey could seem endless if there were not along the way of great tombs Antandroy then Mahafaly, Funerary art with half-naive, half-realistic paintings adorned with stelae "Aloalo", tracing the life of the deceased. These peoples are very attached to it and thus maintain the cult of the ancestors. Itampolo is a large village with fishermen Vezo sea side and farmers-ranchers Mahafaly land side. The landscape is sumptuous with its white sand dunes sculpted by the wind and appearing immaculate, with for any form of human trace some pirogues of fishermen disseminated here and there.

This endless trail will lead to Anakao, a village located almost at the point of passage of the Tropic of Capricorn, born of the settlement of fishermen Vezo, formerly nomadic, being a stopover of the boatmen during the fishing campaigns. Opposite the small island of Nosy Ve, sanctuary of the red tailed phaeton, better known as straw in tail. These seabirds come from all over the region to lay their eggs there. Only Anakao remains to reach Tulear, which can be take by the track which becomes harder, longer and stony for the bravest or to croos it by the sea in calm weather, both in outboard or dugout. In Tulear, it will be immersed zebu carts who will take care of the disembarkation.

Text and photos Pierre-Yves Babelon
Thanks to Evasion sans Frontière

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