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Tsingy Rouge

AKA: The Red Tsingy

These small areas of red tsingy only appeared in the last few decades after rains washed away the topsoil and revealed the formations currently on view. Not only have they appeared relatively recently but they may not be around in centuries as the laterite they're composed of (a mix of soil and rock) is brittle and easy to damage—much more so than their limestone siblings.

For the time being, all visitors are warned not to touch or walk on the formations. The months of accumulated footprints over the small barrier suggest that asking tourists (and their guides) not to even get close to them has been deemed silly. As this is not a national park (or a designated park of any sort) a guide is not required but those arriving independently will probably have the benefit of their driver's knowledge and company to show them around.

The Lay of the Land

The turn off the [RN6] is signposted in such a way that you may think you've arrived. After paying the admission fee at the same spot you would be forgiven for confirming so. You've actually got a [12km] track ahead of you that ascends and descends significant heights through some difficult terrain before arriving. The scenery along this red track is beautiful, carving through tight, earthen ravines and opening onto vast views of the world below, so enjoy it as part of the experience, not just as the journey there.

Unlike any of the famous tsingy in Madagascar, the Tsingy Rouge is not a forest of sharp pinnacles covering caverns and tunnels. It's not even classified as a park as the tsingy formation is only present in small areas, two of which are typically accessed by tourists.

The first you'll see from above, in a quarry-like location, and are not permitted to walk down into. The second is a little further along the road above and you'll need to descend the last section of dusty, compacted red soil on foot before entering the shallow valley containing the formation.

The structure is thought to be far larger underground and, in time, further erosion of the soil may reveal more—a bittersweet prospect as though these red pillars are spectacular to visit, erosion and mudslides are a serious problem in modern day Madagascar as the the removal of trees provides less grip for sloping earth in heavy rains.

Tsingy Rouge valley formation.
An encircling cliff-edge offers a generous view of the first tsingy formation encountered in the area.

Getting Around

The deteriorating state of the final track into the Tsingy Rouge leaves no doubt that this has become a job only suited to a 4x4 or off-road bike. It's a visit that's easy to enjoy at a slow pace on a day trip from Diego Suarez with an hour or two either way of travel. You may be able to rent a 4x4 and driver for about [MGA200000 - 240000] inclusive of fuel but expect some higher quotes if blindly enquiring. The turn-off from the [RN6] is about [40km] from Diego but the final stretch of [12km] might make it a little too far for those hoping to walk the final stretch if they're planning to get back in a hurry.

Many make a stop at the Tsingy Rouge while en route from Diego to Ankarana as you'll be driving by the turn off anyway. Anyone hoping to reach here as a stop on the way to Montagne d'Ambre from Diego might want to move the visit to a better day unless they're out of options and willing to do some heavy backtracking. Joffreville, the entrance town to Montagne d'Ambre, is reached by a turn-off from the [RN6] long before here.

Accessibility

You may be given the impression that the Tsingy Rouge are inaccessible for the rainy season between November and March. While the rains create havoc on the route and are quite likely to halt any 4x4 from completing the journey, it is absolutely worth enquiring. After several weeks of rain in December and January we were able to access it just before February when the rain held off for about a week before we visited. Pretty close to peak rainy season.

The road there was mostly dry but it was apparent how difficult it would be in mudbaths. The car will ascend then descend a significant amount of altitude that needs strong tyre grip on loose track. We even had to get out for portions of the ascent to make the car light enough to reach the summit. When the rains are continuous a river is formed right at the base of the main formation that impedes access on foot.

If you have mobility difficulties but can handle the bumps of a dirt track in a 4x4 then the first formation may be of interest providing it's possible for you to peer down the steep edge over it. The second, main formation requires descending a steep, dusty incline that would prevent some from doing so.