Ampefy: A close gateway from Antananarivo
I recently came back to Madagascar for the first time in a long while. The excitement of long overdue reunion with family and friends aside, I was anxious to reacquaint myself with the peculiar atmosphere and scent of the region where I grew up.
The current unusual conditions (political standoff) added a tinge of mystery to what was awaiting. Madagascar did not disappoint. I was not sure what to expect since the country traverses one of the roughest patch of its history, yet my month long stay was as satisfying as it gets.
It is an overused cliché to say that Madagascar great unknown resource is its people. Yet, it is an undisputable fact that the magic of the land is immensely enhanced by its inhabitants’ hospitality.
A caveat to that statement though, Madagascar’s authenticity cannot be found in the large cities. For instance, Antananarivo has grown to the point that it has become very difficult to commute at peak hours in most avenues, making it a rather stressful environment for the urban crowd stuck in traffic for hours.
It is understandable that Antananarivo’s inhabitants seek for an escape away from their fervent urban lives as often as possible.
One of the traditional gateway from Antananarivo is the town of Ampefy. Ampefy is about a 140 km west of Antananarivo. The region surrounding Ampefy is seismic and therefore features a unique blend of hills, fertile soil, multiple lakes and waterfalls. It is also blessed with a very mild winter season making it extremely appealing in the month of July and August when temperatures in Antananarivo deep in the single digits.
It is a relatively short and pleasant drive with a drive by the original Malagasy international airport of Arivonimamo. ( Digression: Arivonimamo literally means “the place of a thousand drunks”. I am sure there is a juicy story behind the name but I forgot the anecdote. The next city is notorious for being haunted, the latter might explain the former). The city of Ampefy offers multiple choices for lodging at a reasonable price either by the Lake Itasy or by the Lake Kavitaha ( also the name of one of the recommended resort).
There are 3 main attractions around Ampefy:
The first one is the Lily Watefall:
To reach the Lily waterfall requires driving on a bit of a rough passage ( a 4X4 is recommended). Once one arrives, a classic view of the waterfall awaits with rapid waters that seem perfect for aficionados of white water rafting.
The other main attraction is the region of the geyser. Make sure to find guide Jean Claude or Domi once you are there so that can explain the origins of the geyser, its therapeutic effect and the reason behind the striking shades of amber of the rocks.
The water coming out of the geyser has a very unique taste, a mix of minerals that is believed by the locals to have a cleansing effect on the aging body.
The final main must-see of the region is the “Ilot de la Vierge” ( “Isle of the Virgin”), thus named for featuring a statue of the Virgin Mary at its top. This site is remarkable for the view of the lake Itasy but also because it is in fact the precise geographic center of Madagascar.
Ampefy certainly does not have the striking appeal of the national parks with the wild lemurs or the diversity of the rain forest but it does provide a great respite from the intensity of the city at a close distance.