Travel from Beza to Ambola through the forest of Didierea madagascariensis

June 23, 2013 

After visiting the national park Beza I take the rough tracks of southern Madagascar, to Ambola, a quiet fishing village surrounded by a huge beach and a large lagoon which can be explored on foot at low tide. But the real attraction of the day are the forests of Didierea madagascariensis present only in this small region, very rare and bizarre-looking endemic plant.

Gallery forest Baobab tree
The track from Beza to Ambola, in south-western Madagascar, winds through thick forests defined "gallery" because shrubs and trees form a real tunnel. The first baobab trees that grow in the clearings begin to appear
Bottle tree

The baobab is also locally called "bottle tree", not for the shape of its trunk, reminding a bottle, but because it is customary to drill a large hole in the stem so as to create a sort of cistern that collects rainwater through the foliage of the tree. I have some doubts about this , but always according to locals, the tree is absolutely not affected by this treatment..
blue-tailed gecko
Gecko's eye

I meet a beautiful blue-tailed gecko, calmly sunbathing above the trunk of a baobab.

I also find many strange lizards that have some sort of fake eye on their head, apparently to make the predators that the animal is also looking in the rear direction.
I finally reach the first beautiful Didierea madagascariensis. Indeed, during the whole journey through the southern Madagascar, the place of origin of this plant, I was able to observe the Didierea madagascariensis only along this short stretch of track, a sign that its distribution is very limited and not comparable to that of Alluaudia procera.

The Didierea madagascariensis consists of a large bush whose branches reach out to the sky. The terminal part of the branches has many , slightly succulent small leaves , used for the photosynthesis function, while the base of the trunk is generally more bare.
Photo of Didierea Madagascariensis. A trunk with thorns and leaves.
Didierea madagascariensis Didieraceae
Photos of Didierea. The Didierea madagascariensis can form dense bushes or real mini-forests. The plant is threatened by grazing and deforestation in its small distribution area.
The Didierea madagascariensis along the edge of the track.
Young Didierea

Photo Didieraceae. Adult specimens of Didierea madagascariensis act as background for the younger plants.
Pictures of Didierea madagascariensis: a detail on the top of a stem full of leaves and the base of the trunk bare. In both cases, however, there are lots of thorns
Picture of Didierea madagascariensis, a beautiful example of the family Didieraceae, endemic to southern Madagascar.
Road in Madagascar
The track continues towards Ambola, the destination of the day.

Continuing along the coast, it's possible to observe shrubs (sometimes real trees) of Euphorbia fiha growing between dry weeds.

Shrubs of Euphorbia fiha emerge from the "Savannah" created by numerous dry herbaceous plants .
Particular on a branch of Euphorbia fiha where, as in the case of the other succulent plants, the leaves have substituted spines or other organs used both for the photosynthesis, and the accumulation of water reserves.
I reach Ambola, where I stay in a small bungalow on the beach. The lodge has also got a small restaurant overlooking the sea, where the floor is made up exclusively of sand. Although the look is heavenly, do not forget that we are in a remote corner of Madagascar, where you need a little 'spirit of adaptation.
The large sandy Ambola beach in south-western Madagascar.
Aloe vaombe

The Aloe vaombe is native to Madagascar and in this season (June) is in full bloom.

Pictures of Aloe vaombe with its beautiful flowers.
Aloe flowers

A bungalow on the beach illuminated by the warm light of the sunset and ... the super technological shower based on hot and cold water to be mixed by hand before pouring it.
Sunset on the beach
The sunset over the sea.
By chance, I visited this region of Madagascar on a day when the Moon was particularly close to the Earth. And the show was immediate: a few minutes after sunset, from the opposite direction to the sun, a huge moon comes out
Traditional boat
The next morning I observe some fishermen who go to sea aboard their traditional boats.
Fishing in the lagoon
But then, with the arrival of the low tide, all the fishermen of the village walk in the great lagoon to collect shellfish by hand
a big wave
A large wave breaks on the reef ...
Children going to fish
Adults and children trying to get lunch.
Fishing with his little brother ...

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English translation by Lorena Anzani.