The fishing village of Andavadoaka in the region of Atsimo-Andrefana is situated on a picturesque beach on the southwest coast of Madagascar. It is located about 170 km north of the city of Toliara (French: Tuléar). A large coral reef protects the bay of the same name. Not only divers find a true paradise here. White sand and turquoise blue sea – who wouldn’t like to spend their holidays here? But Andavadoaka is also famous for another natural beauty: its baobab forest.
A few kilometers east of the fishing village is a forest that is home to a whole range of impressive baobab trees. The bulky, bottle-shaped trees with their bizarrely twisted crown belong to the species Adansonia grandidieri. It is the same species as the huge trees along the famous Baobab Avenue, but here they look completely different. Nobody would get the idea from just looking at them that they are the same baobabs in both places!
The secret of the striking dwarf growth of the baobabs of Andavadoaka is the extremely dry, rocky limestone soil with its many salt pans. The baobabs here have to get by with extremely little water and therefore form very wide trunks, which, however, only grow four or five meters high. In the rainy season, the trees swell and greedily suck up the water. In the dry season, they shrink again. After many decades, these extremes cause a broad dwarf growth with wrinkled bark, which gives the baobabs of Andavadoaka their typical appearance. In addition, over many years the thinnest branches of the crowns were cut off by the cattle herders living here to use them as food for zebus. This has resulted in the development of small, tightly grown tree crowns.
If you look closely, you will discover strange round holes on some baobabs, which lead along the trunk towards the sky. These are steps carved into the bark by Madagascans, which are used to climb the baobabs. So the fruits can be harvested during the rainy season. The baobab forest of Andavadoaka is a last remnant of the primeval thorn forest, which in earlier times covered a large part of the south. It belongs to the Velondriake protected area of about 0.64 km². Velondriake is a Vezo word for “living with the sea”. The protected area has existed since 2006 and comprises mainly marine areas, but also a small coastal strip with spiny forest.
Andavadoaka can only be reached by 4×4 and an experienced driver. From Ifaty on, the road to Andavadoaka consists of sand and laterite and can only be used in the dry season. From Antananarivo, you can get to Toliara by car or flight (direct flight or two days by car). From Toliara you can drive by jeep along the coast via Ifaty towards Morombe. The drive to Morombe takes about one day, depending on the current state of the road. The baobab forest of Andavadoaka is located right along the road, approximately 45 km south of Morombe. You can’t miss it under any circumstances. The original baobabs with their photogenic silhouette are more than impressive and immediately catch the eye.