The Spiny Bush (Euphorbia-Didieraceae scrub) and Ifaty's mangroves
Ifaty’s main attraction is the presence of some locally protected parcels of '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 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 Madagascar radiated and Madagascar spider 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 as income generated by your visits go to the resident community.
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. Many forests have been cut for firewood and charcoal.
Honko Project at Ambondrodava village near Ifaty, is a community-based mangrove research site where toursists can make a guided walk (or pirogue excursion) around the mangroves. Along the way, guides point out mangrove-dwellers such as Mudskippers, mangrove crabs, aquatic birds and the different kinds of mangrove trees. There is a small craft centre where women sell crafts made from local reeds, etc. Supporting them helps alleviate the increased demand on the local habitat for charcoal and also, overfishing. (Mangroves restored by the community here provides a refuge for shrimps, crabs and small fish).
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.
The Swiss-sponsored ADES project - the world's first Gold Standard certified solar cooker / climate project - produces energy-efficient cookers in Madagascar and it encourages the use of renewable energy, to reduce the excruciating pressure off the remaining habitat. ADES makes climate-friendly solar cookers and energy-saving stoves, which save substantial quantities of wood and charcoal. These are sold at a very reduced price to resident families, with a view to counteracting/ slowing deforestation. We can arrange for our guests to visit the ADES project sites in Tulear and also, in Fianarantsoa.