Out here it's all about what lies beyond the end of the sealed road, and the area that surrounds the remote western town of Morondava is at once worth visiting in its own right and the starting point for so many adventures into the wild. Close to town, the Allée des Baobabs is the sunset or sunset photo that defines a nation.
Tsiribihina River Region
One of Madagascar's top wilderness destinations, the region between Antsirabe and Morondava is home to the beautiful Tsiribihina and Manambolo Rivers, the spectacular Unesco World Heritage–listed Parc National des Tsingy de Bemaraha and the Réserve Forestière de Kirindy with its population of fossa (Madagascar's largest predator).
Belo-sur-Tsiribihina, lost in the marshes and mangroves of the Tsiribihina Delta, is a dusty collection of two-storey buildings. It's halfway between Morondava and Parc National des Tsingy de Bemaraha and has that incongruous combination of utter remoteness and tourist hub.
Katsepy (kah-tsep) is a small, sleepy fishing village across Bombetoka Bay from Majunga with a couple of swimmable beaches. Most visitors are likely to go through Katsepy on their way to Kinkony, but there are a couple of low-key sights to visit and an excellent hotel-restaurant.
Allée des Baobabs
One of Madagascar's most recognisable images, this small stretch of the RN8 between Morondava and Belo-sur-Tsiribihina is flanked on both sides by majestic Adansonia grandidieri baobabs. Some of the trees here may be 1000 years old, with huge, gnarled branches fanning out at the top of their trunks – it’s easy to see why they’ve been nicknamed ‘roots of the sky’.
These caves, about 73km east of Majunga, are among the most impressive in Madagascar. A series of subterranean rooms and galleries, some of them the size of buildings, they are adorned with stalactites and stalagmites and stretch over 5km. Shafts of light penetrate every room from passageways and holes in the ceiling, giving the caves an eerie feel.
Mahavy-Kinkony Wetland Complex
The Mahavy-Kinkony Wetland Complex gained temporary protection status in 2007. It incorporates a diverse and fragile ecosystem consisting of marine bays, river, delta and 22 lakes, including Madagascar’s second-largest, Lac Kinkony. The reserve is also home to dry deciduous and gallery forest, savannah, marshland, mangrove, caves and lots of wildlife.
Miandrivazo (Mee-an-dree-vaaz), which lies along the main RN34 road between Antsirabe and Morondava, is the starting point for boat trips down the Tsiribihina River to Belo-sur-Tsiribihina. If you're coming from Antsirabe, there are fine views over the town and surrounding river plains on the final approach into town.
Réserve Forestière de Kirindy
Réserve Forestière de Kirindy, 60km northeast of Morondava, covers about 12,500 hectares and was established in the late 1970s as an experiment in sustainable logging and forest management. It's now a protected area, popular with scientists and travellers for its amazing wildlife. Night walks are a highlight.
Parc National de Kirindy-Mitea
Not to be confused with the Réserve Forestière de Kirindy, the deliciously remote 72,200-hectare Parc National de Kirindy-Mitea, which surrounds Belo-sur-Mer, is one of Madagascar’s newest parks and it's well worth the effort to get here. It's isolated and beautiful, with little infrastructure, and for that reason, seldom visited.