UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Madagascar

Madagascar’s memorable World Heritage sites:

Madagascar, the famous Big Island known for the harmony and splendor of its landscape, encompasses a wealth of traditions and admirable cultures. Many of its properties and places of outstanding universal value are inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for future generations to appreciate, such as its sacred temples, its exceptional animals and plants, but above all its whimsical yet surprising and precious arts.

Masoala National Park :

Located in the northeast of Madagascar, in the province of Diego-Suarez, Masoala National Park is a major tourist attraction in Madagascar, as it is generally its largest national park. As one of the island’s protected natural areas, it is listed as a World Heritage Site. Masoala boasts remarkable landscapes and is home to more than half of Madagascar’s mammals. Masoala is also home to a wide variety of endemic animals, including ten species of lemur and the nocturnal Aye-aye, and almost 50% of Madagascar’s distinctive plants. A number of rare species have been living here since the park was created in 1997. It was created specifically to protect and restore Madagascar’s natural heritage. As the world’s largest rainforest, it extends right down to sea level. With a surface area of 230,000 ha, Masoala National Park is the perfect place for hiking and trekking. It is bordered to the west by the Baie d’Antongil, an ideal spot for kayaking, diving or snorkeling in its warm turquoise waters. To enjoy the scenery and all the activities, the park offers a miraculous walk through its varied landscapes and dense forest.

The sacred hill Ambohimanga :

The Ambohimanga palace, built at the end of the 13th century, was the residence of the Imerina king Andrianampoinimerina, the first to initiate the unification of Madagascar. Of Antananarivo’s 12 magnificent sacred hills, which rise in a circle around the “blue hill”, the royal hill of Ambohimanga is the most visited. It was the religious capital and sacred center of the kingdom of Madagascar in the 19th century, and has since become a revered and spiritual place. For its preservation of its sacred character and as an exceptional witness to the civilization that developed in the Central Highlands, it has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 2001. This hill is the authentic representative of Merina culture, and has remained in excellent physical condition to this day, highlighting the true values of the Merina kingdom through its many places of worship and sacred royal tombs.. Located 21 kilometers north of Antananarivo, the ancient fortified capital remains a landmark of the Highlands monarchy. Built under great protection with exceptional architecture and solid stone gates, its defense system is perfectly reinforced. This palace traces history and is impressive in the way it reveals the cultures and traditions of the Malagasy people. Ambohimanga boasts a burial site housing the remains of successive rulers. Surrounded by abundant forest, the gigantic hill is a wonderful place for a memorable hike.

The Kabary :

Kabary, a typically Malagasy art of oratory, was recently designated by UNESCO as part of the world’s intangible cultural heritage, in 2021 to be precise. In Malagasy culture, this poetic speech declaimed in front of an audience is traditional. It is customary at every Malagasy event, celebration, funeral or tradition. Kabary generally features two speakers, known as mpikabary, in front of an audience. Originally, this ritual oratory art was used by rulers to inform society of administrative decisions and events. This extraordinary oral philosophy is made up of proverbs, quotations, rhetorical figures, puns and thoughtful expressions. All of which allow each speaker to authenticate their speech and display their speaking skills.. The Malagasy sow their culture through speeches, but the kabary is also distinguished by its expression of thought and value. Its duration and structure vary according to the circumstances, generally ranging from ten minutes to two hours. Originally a role dedicated to older men with an important place in social status, kabary is now increasingly open to young people and women, and is even taught in various institutions in Madagascar. With its atmosphere of sharing and cohesion, kabary has become an integral part of social events. It’s a real educational practice in Madagascar.

Zafimaniry woodcarving :

Madagascar, also known for its fascinating artistic creation, in particular the woodcarving art of the Zafimaniry, is an island of passion. In the 18th century, these people settled in a wooded region in the south-east of Madagascar. Wood being their main raw material, they made their creations unique by building an entire village without metal fasteners. This Zafimaniry woodwork has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage list since 2008. Currently living in the remote high mountains, the Zafimaniry make use of twenty endemic tree species, each with its own decorative function. Their talent with wood has developed over time, from generation to generation, until they have added specific geometric and landscape motifs to their work. The intricate carvings on the furniture and homes they have built themselves, the richly worked wooden surfaces such as stools, chests and windows, indicate the perfection of their work.The symbolic splendor of these motifs expresses the beliefs, traditions and values of the Zafimaniry people, such as the “tanamparoratra”, the spider’s web symbolizing family ties. These magnificent creations with their essential values are sold by the Zafimaniry people around their towns. They acquired this know-how without the art teachers we see today, but only through their power to create. Each illustrated detail reflects a story, and the deep bond between these people and the earth and nature is maintained as the magic and secret of their creation.

The Tsingy de Bemaraha nature reserve :

The Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve is located in the Antsavola district of west-central Madagascar. Its forest of sharp limestone spurs, its relief composed of the spectacular Manambolo river gorge and, above all, its rolling hills form a karst landscape and represent Madagascar as an island paradise. Considered a center of endemism for its wealth of flora and fauna, this protected area not only boasts numerous rare species, but is also home to over 800 plant species, including Madagascar ebony. The reserve offers a great diversity of geomorphological structures, rare geological phenomena and one of the most spectacular natural landscapes in Madagascar. 17 species of locally endemic reptiles, including the famous chameleon, brookesia perarmat, live in this national park. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990, the Tsingy de Bemaraha is arguably Madagascar’s most famous heritage.This park is made up of natural and wild areas. With a total surface area of 152,000 ha, just over half of it is covered by dense dry forest. The park boasts a vast network of faults and crevasses. It’s perfect for sports enthusiasts, who can go hiking, quad biking or mountain biking on the long Bemaraha Plateau. Several circuits are available for visitors wishing to explore the canyon galleries. A guide is required for a visit to Madagascar’s tsingy canyons, so you can enjoy a canoe trip down the Tsiribihina River or a beautiful walk on the Manambolo River.

Rainforests of the Antsiranana :

Madagascar is one of the first countries in the world to boast some 12,000 endemic plant species. All endemic lemur families are represented. The rainforests of Antsiranana comprise six national parks, including Masoala National Park. They were inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2007. They tell the story of the island’s geological history, and are home to a number of endangered species. They offer numerous possibilities for hiking, picnicking and discovering, above all, the most diverse collections of flora and fauna. In the Sava region of northeastern Madagascar, you’ll find the Marojejy Massif National Park, formed by heather and a mountain range that culminates at an altitude of 2132m. 116 mammals and 50 species of palm trees form part of its wealth of animal and plant species. One of Marojejy’s tours takes in a pleasantly relaxing natural pool. A critically endangered lemur known as the “silky sifaka” is the major attraction of this national park.On one side, there’s the Andohahela National Park, specified as the only Madagascan protected area to house dense rainforest south of the Tropic of Capricorn. It is located in the Anosy region, near the town of Tôlanaro. The southern, western part of the park features thorny bush, a natural swimming pool and magnificent views. It offers a landscape of vast plains watered by a limpid body of water and surrounded by huge boulders. Andringitra National Park, one of Madagascar’s most beautiful mountain ranges, has been one of Madagascar’s reserved parks since 1993. It has a tropical rainforest and a peak culminating at 2658m. Over 70 species of amphibian and thousands of plant species can be found here. It is a place of many beliefs and even contains a sacred forest.Ranomafana National Park, located in southeastern Madagascar’s Fianarantsoa region, between the Hautes-Matsiatra and Vatovavy Fitovinany regions, is a dense rainforest at low and medium altitudes. It features a mountainous relief with rugged slopes, and is also a veritable bird paradise. The curative virtues of the resort’s thermal water are the main attraction for tourists. The Lophotibis cristata, a threatened endemic ibis, is one of its rare species. Zahamena National Park, located in the eastern part of Madagascar, 50 km northeast of the town of Toamasina, has two ecosystems: marine and terrestrial. As a nature reserve with a unique wealth of species, including 112 bird species, the park is a wilderness paradise.

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