Midway up the Baobab climb.
One of the highlights of my Madagascar visit would definately be Morondava’s Avenue de Baobab. These thousand year old giant trees strangely look like it has roots growing from its top. According to the Madagascans legend, they believe that God in creating the first trees, made the mistake and created these trees upside down.
View from top of the Baobab tree
The Baobab tree is extremely drought resistant and has the capability of going years without water, its hollowed trunk and spongy bark is able to absorb water. This ability had saved the Baobab from mass deforestation as the locals were unable to use the tree for its wood, creating what we see today as the Avenue of Baobabs, with highest concentration of trees around the Morondava area.
The village kids gathering below the Baobab trees before they return home.
The increased rice paddyfields activities around this once dry and desert area is endangering the Baobab trees which are drowning from wet agricultural lands. These thousand year old gigantic trees which evolved dealing with low rainfalls faces rapid endangerment from the locals.There have been talks to create a protected area for these trees but there is the challenge of balancing the local’s agricultural needs and the survival of these endangered trees.
Climbing the tree
I met two volunteers from non-profit Association of Mad’Arbres while exploring the area. Haja and Ioby were volunteering their time in setting up the tree climbing activity and were camping around Avenue de Baobab. There were not many tourists visiting and climbing the trees, in the 2 months that they were volunteering in the area, Haja mentioned he only set up 8 climbs up the trees.
I did what any other tourists would do, climb up the highest tree for the sunset experience. Climbing up this 18 meter tree might seem be daunting at first, but it proved easy with the pulley system, took me only 10-15mins up the tree with some leg effort and little arm strength. It did get a little tiring midway and I rest for a few seconds to admire the whole scene while a bunch of other tourists were watching us.
Mad’Arbre volunteers setting up the tree for my climb in the afternoon
We waited until the late afternoon and went up the Baobab waiting for the sunset and the full moonrise. The view from the top was amazing, looking over the wide fields with scattered Baobabs surrounded by the flooded rice paddyfields.
Haja, the volunteer suggest I should stay in the Baobab until it turned dark. It was his favorite part of the evening just as it turn to dusk, the skies turn pink for that few minutes. I agree that this was the most beautiful time, dusky pink and orange glow with the Baobabs in the foreground. There was a sense of calm serene feeling when most of all the tourists buses have left, the villagers return home, leaving only me and the volunteers hanging around.
Moonrise came a little later than I had estimated, it came up 20mins later than what I had timed from the previous night. Was disappointed I didn’t get a good image of the magical purple hour along with the full moon compared to the previous night. A heavenly sight nonetheless with these ancient tree of life against the full moon backdrop.
Haja mentioned while we were up in the tree that they organise overnight stays in the trees in another area. Had I know earlier that I was able to spend a night up in the Baobab tree, I would have organised my stay a little longer.
It would take me another 1hour to head back to Morondava town as the roads were bad. I was the last tourist to leave this beautiful area.
Where to climb the Baobab
Situated at the Avenue of Baobab, Mad’arbres Association has a small hut near the carpark. It is a non-profit organisation in support for tree conservation around Madagascar. They conduct these short sessions up the Baobab during sunrise and sunset.
For more information : http://www.madarbres.org/
Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/pages/Madarbres/219887700015
Cost: 40,000 aviary per climb
Overnight stays for sunrise cost 60,000-80,000 aviary
arrange with Mad’arbres volunteer for location and logistics.
Getting to Avenue of Baobab
The roads from Morondava town to the village is broken and takes 30mins -1 hour drive by private car, the local taxi-bousse, ox cart. It is recommended to hire a 4wd vehicle to save travel time. The 4wd vehicle gives you more access to the nearby beaches as well as the other popular Baobab trees around the area such as the Lover’s Baobab and the Twisted twins. All the roads are mostly sand tracks.