The Stone Forest of Madagascar

The Grand Tsingy of Bemaraha in western Madagascar is the world’s largest stone forest. Isolated and inhospitable, this huge collection of razor-sharp, high spiked vertical rocks of eroded limestone looks like the last place where wildlife would thrive.

But despite its cold, dangerous appearance, the labyrinth of 300 foot stones is home to a number of animal species, including 11 types of lemur. Its name “Tsingy” translates as ‘where one cannot walk’.


The Stone Forest near Kunming, China is a spectacular example of limestone karst topography. The stones resemble a forest of trees and appear to rise out of the ground, much like stalagmites. The area was once a shallow sea over 270 million years ago. The ancient reefs turned to limestone and sandstone, which was later uplifted, then exposed to water and wind erosion. Much of the erosion occured due to surface and subsurface water, which dissolved the calcium carbonate rock. The forest is also home to several caves and underground streams.

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Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park (Madagascar) | ©Banco de Imágenes Geológicas

The unusual geomorphology of the Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park comprises karstic landscapes and limestone uplands cut into impressive ‘tsingy’ peaks and a 'forest’ of limestone needles [1].

On an island famous for its biodiversity (90 percent of the species here are endemic, found nowhere else on Earth), the 600-square-mile protected area is an island unto itself, a kind of biofortress, rugged, largely unexplored, and made nearly impenetrable by the massive limestone formation—the tsingy—running through it [2].

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