Tsinjoarivo and Onive River. The breathtaking beauty of the Nature
Tsinjoarivo bordering southeast of the Imerina, near the eastern forest, is located 46 km from Ambatolampy. Here has both a natural site of great beauty and a historic place of the nineteenth century (site built by Queen Ranavalona I in 1834 where she placed a Rova and also a village). The Rova is surrounded on three sides by the powerful Onive river, which cascades over spectacular waterfalls including Andriamamovoka (“the mighty sand-maker”) and Ambavaloza (“the mouth of danger”). These waterfalls were the initial attraction of the site, and one of Ranavalona I’s favorite pastimes was to watch as a cow was thrown in the water and fell helpless over the massive waterfall. The famous falls are visible from far away and plunge from an altitude of 30 m. A little further away the river flow calms and it is possible to swim or even fishing (as Queen Ranavalona III used to do). The access to the falls is quite steep. The Onive River flows down from the Ankaratra massif, and is the largest tributary of the Mangoro River.
Perched on a 1675m high peak, the Tsinjoarivo site dominates the vast horizon of the great East Forest, which stretches more than 100 km to the sea and overlooks the bubbling waterfalls of the river Onive in a great din of water and in an atmosphere of rainbow irregular fog. Although the region surrounding the town is largely deforested (due to a longer history of human settlement), the eastern third of the commune contains the most intact and continuous natural rainforest remaining in Madagascar’s high plateau ecoregion (continuous with lower-lying rainforest in the adjacent Anosibe an'Ala commune). The forest’s western half is topographically continuous with the island’s central plateau, and lies between 1300 and 1675 m altitude. In contrast, the eastern half lies at slightly lower altitude (1200-1600 m), but because the eastern boundary of the forest corridor is coincident with the steep escarpment, it is perched almost 1 km above the coastal lowlands below. As a result, the eastern part of the forest is less accessible to humans and remains minimally disturbed.
Tsinjoarivo played a unique role in the 19th century (the last century of Malagasy history before French colonization). It is the site of a royal palace ("Rova") built in the 1830s by Jean Laborde, which was used as a vacation residence by three queens and various prime ministers. The site was chosen by Queen Ranavalona I in 1832, and a complex of five houses was built in 1834-1836. The Rova was used as the monarch’s summer residence until 1896, and was visited by three monarchs: Ranavalona I (1840, 1842, 1856), Ranavalona II (1880, 1882), and Ranavalona III (1890). Raised on a raised terrace five meters high, the Rova measures 50 m by 30 m and houses five rustic wooden and clay buildings: the Prime Minister's Pavilion which always accompanied the Queen on her trips, the residence of the aides-de-camp, the Queen's pavilion and her damsels the house where the dining room is housed, and the officers of the court, all of which preserve furniture and period objects, and the Ministry of Culture has made it a museum. The Rova buildings and the museum they contain are currently being rehabilitated by the Region d’Auverge as part of their efforts to promote tourism at Tsinjoarivo.
Due to its outstanding universal cultural value, the city, along with its associated Rova, was added onto the UNESCO Tentative List of World Heritage Sites in Madagascar on November 14, 1997, in the cultural category.
Wildlife of Tsinjoarivo
Ecotourism centred around the village of Mahatsinjo, where you will easy access to nine lemur species, dozens of endemic birds, as well as chameleons, orchids, and in general a rare high-altitude rainforest landscape. Two major river barriers separate Tsinjoarivo forest from adjoining rainforests: the Mangoro river to the east and the Onive river to the south. Tsinjoarivo is a high-altitude "island" - though the forest is continuous to the south and northeast, altitude drops sharply in both directions. In fact, Tsinjoarivo is among the highest of any remaining Malagasy forests - and because it is topographically continuous with Madagascar's central plateau, it has the potential to house remnant populations of species unique to the plateau.
Biological surveys at Tsinjoarivo, though brief, have revealed a high level of biodiversity, with at least 9 primate species, 17 insectivores (including 16 endemic tenrecs), 7 rodents (including 5 endemic nesomyines), 5 carnivores (4 of which are endemic), 92 birds, 24 reptiles and 30 amphibians. In particular, this region is now recognized as having the highest species diversity of endemic insectivores (Tenrecidae) in Madagascar. Ongoing botanical surveys have so far indicated the presence of at least 247 plant species.
Walking through the forest, is a good chance of encountering the Sadabe (Propithecus diadema - the largest and most conspicuous of the lemurs). The Sadabe lives at relatively high densities (up to four groups per square kilometer) and research teams have habituated several groups so they are not afraid of people. This 5-kg animal lives in small family groups, usually including just mother, father and up to four children of various ages. Its diet includes more than a hundred plant species, from which it eats fruits, seeds, flowers, leaves and galls. Its most favored foods are the large, juicy fruits of the tall rainforest trees.
Other lemur species are difficult to see, being smaller, more cryptic and often nocturnal. However, it is fairly common to surprise a sleeping woolly lemur (Avahi laniger) during its daytime slumber. Other highlights of this high-biodiversity forest include several chameleon species, leaf-tailed geckos, bright blue Malachite Kingfishers, and beautiful orchids and epiphytes.
The road to Tsinjorivo is in a bad condition and it only takes 4x4 by car to get here. It is therefore advisable to stay at least two nights there to avoid rushing back in the same day. Your interactions with locals always will positive, and despite the language barrier, you will felt the strong mutual respect of people who dedicate their lives to the river. You will easy to see the generous positivity of the Malagasy people. That's when you will fell in love with Madagascar.
For travelers wishing to explore Madagascar's high plateau, Le Gite du Rova is a guesthouse ideally located just outside the historic Rova (Queen's Palace) at Tsinjoarivo offers a perfect backdrop and comfortable rooms, authentic local cuisine.
If there’s a better way to discovery authentic and adventurous Madagascar, we have found.
Watch more photos about Tsinjoarivo and Onive River here.