The name means as much as “lime” and points to the typical loam and lime containing soil of the area. Around Arboretum, people make bricks from this kind of soil.
The Arboretum Antsokay is located in southwestern Madagascar in the region of Atsimo-Andrefana. It is only 12 kilometers away from one of the largest cities of the south, Toliara (Tuléar). The road to the airport in Toliara is only six kilometers. Several times a week, flights run from the capital Antananarivo to Toliara. The overland route via RN7 from Tana is more than 900 km long. Although the street is in good condition, you need two days for the ride. A gravel path of a few hundred meters leads directly from RN7 to Arboretum.
Information about the Arboretum:
In 1980, the Swiss man Herman Petignat bought the 0,04 km² sized area which was then almost barren. As a hobby botanist, he began to collect and cultivate plants in the South. Quickly it becomes much more than just pastime. Together with botany professor Werner Rauh from Heidelberg University, he descrived several unknown plants of Madagascar and successfully grew his project. The old Citroen 2CV, which was driven by Petignat all around Madagascar’s south during these times, can still be seen in Arboretum today. In the 1990ies, the collection became a botanical garden. This was the first time the public got access to all those plants, now called “Arboretum Antsokay”. Herman Petignat died in 2000. Since then, the Arboretum has been led by his son Andry who was born in Madagascar.
You can visit the Arboretum daily from 7:30 to 17:30. In the office and souvenir shop, you can organize night walks or bird watching in the early morning. All paths are flat and really well to walk. Entry fees are 15.000 Ariary (approximately 5 $) per person for a normal guided tour during the daytime. Only in February the Arboretum is closed.
In southwest Madagascar, the climate is extremely hot and dry all over the year. The rainy season is very short. But due to its proximity to the coast, Arboretum Antsokay usually has a soft breeze which makes temperatures over 30°C feel rather comfortable.
The Arboretum has a very good infrastructure because an own hotel is part of the area. The Auberge de la Table offers an extraordinary restaurant, six very nice bungalows with superior equipment, running hot water, electricity made by solar panels and a great pool to refresh yourself. If you need a less expensive accommodation, you will surely find it in nearby Toliara. Then you can do day trips to Arboretum. Every kind of shops, restaurants and transport mediums can be found in Toliara, too.
Fauna & Flora:
As the name already suggests, everything is about plants here. They care for more than 900 different species here. More than 90% of these are endemic in Madagascar, and several contain some pharmacological benefits. You can even find the plants that Petignat and his team described for the first time, e.g. Euphorbia kamponii, Euphorbia spinicapsula, Ceropegia hermanni or Cynanchum petignatii. Special attention is given to the conservation of endangered plants in southern Madagascar. Thus they have, for example, a considerable number of rare Aloe species such as Aloe suzannae or Aloe ruffingiana, and a large number of Malagasy Pachypodium ssp. to gaze at. Knowledgeable guides explain everything about Madagascar’s plants – and this way you will also discover why Uncarina stellulifera is known as mousetrap on the island. Or what is the secret behind the strange Cyphostemma montagnacii.
But animal friends won’t be disappointed here. In Arboretum, you can perfectly watch 34 species of birds, among them the Madagascar Kestrel (Falco newtoni), bee eaters (Merops superciliosus) and red-capped Couas (Coua ruficeps). They even sometimes come close to the pool. The reptiles and mammals of the South are presentable here, too: In the night, you can find Paroedura picta without any problems while bats are flying over your head. Some mouse lemurs (Microcebus griseorufus) even visit the restaurant from time to time. During the daytime, you may discover the pretty Warty Chameleon (Furcifer verrucosus) or small Merrem’s Madagascar swifts (Oplurus cyclurus).
Indeed the Arboretum is a little gem, not only in a botanical way!