About 20 minutes to the north of Tulear, Ifaty offers a special combination of birds, baobabs and beach. The area has over 300 days of sunshine each year and there are some good quality seaside hotels. Snorkelling and diving are easy to arrange at the hotels and local fisherman will be happy to offer you a trip in their traditional fishing boats (pirogues).
Ifaty’s main attraction is the (dwindling) spiny forest, a compellingly unique habitat adapted to the heat and drought, and one that is severely threatened by deforestation coupled with the delays in creating a much-needed national park in the area. Birders will find the spiny bush particularly rewarding. Early morning walks offer the best chance of seeing locally endemic species such as the Long-tailed ground roller and Sub-desert mesite. You may also see interesting reptiles such as the strange little Three-eyed lizard and the increasingly endangered Madagascar radiated tortoise, which formerly was abundant. There are two locally managed, protected sites here - Reniala and Parc Mosa/Mosa Forest - the former has signposted trees while the latter is better for birders.
There are three small pockets of privately protected spiny bush in the Ifaty area. Mosa Forest, named after the owner whose family supplies the local guides for your tour, is in process of expanding as its owners have acquired more forest to protect. Next-door is the Village des Tortues, which is owned by a French NGO that runs a breeding and conservation programme with increasingly endangered tortoises. The largest pocket of spiny bush, Reniala (45ha) contains - in addition to wildlife - some very large baobab trees including the largest example in the south-west, which is over 12m in circumference and reputedly over 1200 years old. By visiting these sites, you will not only enjoy some of the remaining spiny forest in Madagascar, but also actively contribute to its conservation.
The south-west of Madagascar is one of the poorest in Madagascar. It is a hostile environment for the cultivation of food crops: maize can be grown only in the rainy season – in the years when there is one. Instead, people rely on the sea and on livestock, principally goats. The forests have been cut for firewood and charcoal.
Deforestation and Conservation
The deforestation has resulted in a high sedimentation rate in the bay. High water temperatures have caused coral bleaching and algal blooms smother the corals. Intensive fishing further damages the marine environment. ReefDoctor is a British NGO working in the Bay of Ranobe. Backed by a research programme conducted in collaboration with the University of Toliara and the Marine Institute, ReefDoctor aims to help the community develop sustainable fishing practices and manage marine resources. You can visit the new marine museum on the beach just north of Ifaty and see some of its community work.
Read more about Ifaty