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Tsingy de Bemaraha - Madagascar

Scientific Expedition & New Cave Discovery
From October 1¬17, 2014, the Adventure Science team, combining the back-country skill of endurance athletes with academic research experts, travelled deep into the Strict Nature Reserve of Madagascar’s Tsingy de Bemaraha, a UNESCO world heritage site, and dangerous limestone labyrinth that can only be accessed by teams of qualified academic researchers. The expedition also had the honour of carrying flag #112 of The Explorers Club, of which several participants are members.
 
For the next 10 days, the Adventure Science team explored and mapped an unexplored section of the Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve ~10 km northeast of the village of Antsalova. During this exploration they discovered and mapped a massive, 1.6 km cave system below the karst, which the team aptly named Anjohibetsara - “Big Beautiful Cave” in Malagasy. Completely unknown to locals, park agents, and researchers, the cave is thought to be the 3rd largest in the Tsingy, and 35th largest in the country. Filled with bats, water filled passages, and beautiful stalactites; the find was significant for the region.
 
Read the full press release here.

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An example of the terrain in the Tsingy de Bemaraha.
Inside the cave we discovered & mapped.
Some very tight cave passageways.

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Termite mounds by the airstrip where we landed.
A visitor to base camp, a chameleon.
It was a 2 hour hack through the forest to get from base camp to where the limestone Tsingy was. The commute got faster as we established a better trail.

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A giant millipede. They excrete a red, iodine-like substance that stained my hands for almost 2 weeks...
Myself, expedition Leader Simon Donato, and primatologist Travis Steffens with the Explorers Club flag.
It didn't take long after arriving at the Tsingy for us to discover a clay vessel, believed to date to the 1600’s, and thought to be left by the Vazimba ­ the first inhabitants of Madagascar.

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A closer look at the clay pot we discovered in a small alcove.
Climbing some very solid, well anchored tree roots.
The entrance to the new cave. Once inside, it just kept going and going.

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Fissures in the limestone cause cracks where daylight can shine into the cave in a few places.
Some passageways were tight, filled with beautiful stalactites.
Climbing more tree roots inside the cave.

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The team, towards the back of the cave. We mapped more that 1.6 km of passageways.
Simon, admiring the cave decorations.
Beautiful calcite formations.

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One of the larger "rooms" in the cave.
We spent three days exploring and mapping the cave.
The "Elephant Trunk" room.

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One of my roles was to push the smaller passageways, to see if they opened up into larger areas. Many of them did.
Taking a short break. Cave exploration is exhausting.
Sunset at base camp.

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A vine has wrapped around this tree trunk, constricting it as the tree grew, turning it into a corkscrew shape.
One of many lizards we spotted in the Malagasy forest.
The Adventure Science expedition team.

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Caving in the Tsingy is dirty business. I don't think that will come clean.
Madagascar sunset.
Tyler and the Milky Way.

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The stars were amazing! We had a small window of time between sunset and moonrise when the sky was mind-blowing.
One of my favorite photos from the expedition.
A Bemaraha Sportive Lemur.

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After the main part of the expedition, we moved to the South Tsingy, where the most dramatic rock formations can be found.
The limestone spires are other-worldly.
Our instructions were simple: Don't fall.

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It's hard to understand the size and scale of the place from a single photo.
There are a few suspension bridges in the South Tsingy. This area is visited by travellers, but it is still a difficult place to walk through.
Keith at the mid-point of the bridge.

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It's a long way down.
Jim, doing a bit of free-climbing.
Ian, surrounded by sharp, limestone spires.

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A Rufous Brown Lemur
A Rufous Brown Lemur family
More surreal karst landscape...

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The erosion patterns are so odd. There are only a few places like this on Earth.
A closeup, to show how sharp these rock spires really are. They were slashing the soles of our shoes at times.
More wildlife sightings.

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Tim, surveying the area.
Jim, jumping a gap in the limestone. A slip here could have very serious consequences.
Tyler near the edge of a deep chasm.

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Ian, goofing off, doing some climbing... Notice he's wearing flip-flops.
This was our method of transportation to parts of the "Little Tsingy".
A Crowned Sifaka Lemur

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Aerial view of central Madagascar.
We arrived at the end of the dry season. the only green was along the river.
At the air-strip.

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