Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, together with the Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve, form a protected area which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bemaraha National Park is located to the north of the reserve and is the point of access for most tourists interested in exploring the tsingy, a Magalasy word referring to the needle-like karst limestone formations that make the park such a popular tourist trek. In fact, the Magalasy word tsingy literally means "where one cannot walk barefoot," a perfect description of the pointed rock pinnacles.
The most famous attraction of Tsingy de Bemaraha is the park's namesake, the mineral forest of limestone formations known as tsingy. The natural limestone plateaus of the area were eroded by rains and floods, causing fissures, caverns, canyons, and peaks of limestone to form. The scenery at Bemaraha National Park is dramatic, with hundreds of needle-like karst peaks interspersed with lush pristine rainforests. The unique structure of the tsingy makes each limestone formation exceptionally rich in wildlife: The summit, steep slopes, and base of each tsingy form a separate ecosystem, allowing niche animal and plant species to develop that are found nowhere else in the world.
Bemaraha National Park is the only known home of the Brookesia perarmata chameleon species. It also harbors 53 bird species, eight reptile species, and six species of lemurs. Tsingy de Bemaraha is also one of the few places where you can glimpse Decken's sifaka (a member of the lemur family), red-fronted brown lemurs, and the critically endangered Madagascar fish eagle.
Most Tsingy tours in the area center around two main attractions: Petit (or small) Tsingy and Big Tsingy. Petit Tsingy is a 4-5-hour trek through the limestone forest and up to two viewpoints where you can look out over the labyrinth of stone formations. There are also good chances for tourists to see the red-fronted brown lemurs and Decken's sifaka during the trek. South of Petit Tsingy is the spectacular Manambolo Gorge, a must-see destination of waterfalls, untouched forests, and possibilities to see the Madagascar wildlife.
Big Tsingy is one of the most heart-stopping experiences at Bemaraha National Park and is not to be missed. This half-day trek takes tourists through the depths of the limestone forest and over several hanging bridges suspended over the impressive tsingy topography. If you have a fear of heights, this trek will be a great opportunity to face your fear as you teeter suspended high above the needle-like rock formations below.
Accommodation in the Park is simple but comfortable. Campsites range from basic campsites where you bring your own gear to campsites where equipment is provided and meals are available. Bungalows are also available for rent, and some of the bungalow complexes and hotels are built in a traditional Magalasy style and serve traditional food, a wonderful way to enhance your visit to Tsingy de Bemaraha.
The national park is closed during the wet season, which lasts from mid-November to mid-May. During the dry season, you can gain access to the park from organized tours starting in the town of Morondava to the south or by participating in a river expedition on the Manambolo River, which ends at the park. It is possible to access the park on your own by taking a taxi from the nearby towns, but when the road becomes inaccessible to vehicles you will have to walk the rest of the way. Booking a reasonably priced tour is the recommended option.