The southernmost region of Madagascar, Androy, meaning ‘land of the thorny bush’, is an arid landscape characterised by desert and spiny forests.
Quite distinct among Madagascar’s 18 ethnic groups, the Antandroy, ‘the people of the spiny forest’, have retained more of their African roots, eating maize and cassava instead of rice, following a strongly pastoral lifestyle with unique funerary, musical and spiritual traditions. Though still placing the utmost importance on cattle, many now work on vast sisal plantations which blanket the area.
The sacred spiny forests which remains are characterised by the endemic alluadia – a woody cactus like plant with towering thorny branches which lanky Verreaux’s sifaka deftly leap between to eat fresh green leaves. You can also find white-footed sportive and tiny mouse lemur here. Tumescent baobabs also dot the landscapes and alongside intermittent rivers, patches of gallery forest are home to troops of ring tailed lemur and an array of bird life.
When to go
April and May see the heat and rains of the summer tail off, and is a great time of year for bird and reptile spotting. June, July and August, the winter months, are the driest time of year when lemurs are most easily spotted and longer walks more viable due to the cooler climate. It’s also a very active period culturally with many ceremonies and celebrations in the villages. October and November are peak months, with lots of wildlife on show and lovely weather. Rains, initially the odd thunderstorm, begin in late November. December and January see lots more rain and heightened humidity.