Madagascar: A gemologist’s journey (Anja Community Reserve)

Our morning on this day was spent in Ranomafana National Park. We left mid day to reach Anja Community Reserve before evening. This is a beautiful park located outside of Ambalavao. Anja Community Reserve is a gorgeous 74-acre wonderland. Designated a protected reserve in 1999, this fascinating park has breath-taking views and beautiful plant life.

Anja Community Reserve

Anja Community Reserve also hosts more than 300 ring tailed lemurs who aren’t camera-shy. As well as a variety of other animals. It’s a beautiful park. Watching the ring tailed lemurs here was absolutely amazing. In the lemur video on my previous post, the footage of the lemurs jumping between trees is from here in Anja.
Anja Community Reserve

We spent about three hours hiking around Anja Reserve, which included climbing up a steep rock face and using a rope to climb down. It was a bit scary but fun!

Like Ranomafana National Park, one must hire a guide to visit Anja Community Reserve. The price for entrance and guide was a little less than Ranomafana, but not much. There is a restaurant near the park entrance that has delicious food and decent prices, so we enjoyed lunch here on both of my trips.

Our next stop is Amboarohy corundum on schist deposit…time for more digging for rubies and sapphires!

Author: Michelle M. Rahm is a GIA-trained Graduate Gemologist and is President of Colorado’s Mile High Chapter of the GIA Alumni Association. She has been selling gemstones and jewelry online since 1997. Visit her websites JewelryImpressions.com and OurCustomWeddingRings.com

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Madagascar: A gemologist’s journey (Daytime in Ranomafana)

I remember this morning awakening for the first time surrounded by mosquito netting and listening to the call of lemurs in the forest. It was amazing! This area is known for mosquitoes, especially in the evening. I was told by guides on the first trip to be sure to wear mosquito repellent during the 3-4 hour day hike in the park. But upon my return in October, the guide strongly discouraged wearing mosquito repellent. He said it damages the small plant and animal species in the park. And he insisted there was not a mosquito problem during the day. He was right…I didn’t wear any on my second trip and didn’t get a single bite….during the day. At night, it’s completely opposite. The mosquitoes are everywhere in that area at night. Dress in long clothing.

Ranomafana Park
The park is very beautiful with dense forest and lots of walking paths. It can be strenuous at times and sometimes we are taken into the brush to get a good look at lemurs. The scenery is beautiful. We see several species of lemurs in their natural habitat as well as a ring-tailed mongoose, some geckos and other small animals.

One must always hire a guide when entering the park. The current rate is 40.000 ariary, which is about $16…for up to four people for 2-3 hours I believe. The price for a Malagasy to enter the park is 1.000 ariary, for a foreigner, it is 25.000 ariary! Love it!

We were fortunate enough to see the greater bamboo lemur, which is the star of the Imax movie, Madagascar: Island of Lemurs. We also saw several others. They are beautiful and amazing creatures.

Lemurs of Ranomafana Park
There are about 105 species of lemurs, all are endemic to Madagascar (found nowhere else in the world) and many are endangered.

Of course, I have some lemur video to share with you. A Madagascar presentation wouldn’t be complete without lemur footage. This 5-minute clip shows various different lemurs in different areas around Madagascar.

This might be a good time to share with you other wildlife of Madagascar. I was surprised to learn there are no real predatory animals in Madagascar…at least predators of humans that is. And there are also no penguins, elephants, giraffes, lions etc. The only predatory animal to humans is the crocodile, if you happen to be in one of the rivers where they are found.

Wildlife in Madagascar includes geckos, big spiders, snakes, ring-tailed mongoose crocodiles, birds, lemurs & more. These spiders are huge and they are everywhere. But they are beautiful and harmless to humans. So I just enjoyed looking at them.

Animals of Madagascar

After Ranomafana, we leave to see another gorgeous lemur habitat: Anja Community Reserve!

Author: Michelle M. Rahm is a GIA-trained Graduate Gemologist and is President of Colorado’s Mile High Chapter of the GIA Alumni Association. She has been selling gemstones and jewelry online since 1997. Visit her websites JewelryImpressions.com and OurCustomWeddingRings.com

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Madagascar: A gemologist’s journey (Evening in Ranomafana)

Continuing on from Ambatovaky we head to Ranomafana, where we spent a day without gem mining activities to enjoy the park. Ranomafana National Park, located outside Ranomafana the town, is a gorgeous tropical rain forest comprising over 161 square miles. Ranomafana Park is home to several of Madagascar’s rare lemur species among other rare species of flora and fauna. It is also the backdrop of the new Imax movie Madagascar: Island of Lemurs.

Ranomafana Park

We arrived in Ranomafana at nightfall, just in time to take an evening walk, a short night time tour to see the nocturnal animals. We saw mouse lemurs hopping back and forth between branches, spiders, lizards, frogs among other creatures. The guides were very interesting and knowledgeable. It was really a neat thing to do. Ranomafana is one of the most visited parks in Madagascar.

Nocturnal Creatures of Ranomafana Park
We closed the evening with an amazing feast in the town of Ranomafana and entertainment with a local band and children doing Malagasy tribal dance. Unfortunately it was so dark in the room, they were difficult to see. But I really got a kick out of these kids with their floppy hairstyles. They were so fun to watch.

Next, we take a daytime tour of Ranomafana to see all the beauty the park has to offer.

Author: Michelle M. Rahm is a GIA-trained Graduate Gemologist and is President of Colorado’s Mile High Chapter of the GIA Alumni Association. She has been selling gemstones and jewelry online since 1997. Visit her websites JewelryImpressions.com and OurCustomWeddingRings.com

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Madagascar: A gemologist’s journey (Placer gold locality)

About an hour outside of Ambositra in the country is a gold placer mining locality. In this placer gold locality miners use very primitive methods. It is said they find on average only .30 gram per day among all of them, but it is enough to make their efforts worthwhile.

I really enjoyed this location. The woman panning gold with her child was working hard using a wooden pan that had a large crack in it. I watched and wondered how effective that pan could really be with such a large crack in it. Enjoy the video below, be sure to allow enough time for it to load.


Further down the road on our journey to Ranomafana National park, We stopped and visited a metalsmithing village, Ambatovaky Village. I was amazed at the precise timing the men had pounding the shovel spade into shape. While the men were busy making tools, women ground corn and children begged or played a simple game.

In my next post, we arrive at Ranomafana Park!

Author: Michelle M. Rahm is a GIA-trained Graduate Gemologist and is President of Colorado’s Mile High Chapter of the GIA Alumni Association. She has been selling gemstones and jewelry online since 1997. Visit her websites JewelryImpressions.com and OurCustomWeddingRings.com

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Madagascar: A gemolgist’s journey (Ambositra)

My goodness, time has gotten away from me. I left for a mission to Madagascar on October 20th and returned just in time for the busy holiday season. Unfortunately I mis-calculated how much time I would have on the Internet during my stay, so I didn’t have the time to post while I was gone. I wish you all a blessed 2015 full of peace and prosperity!

Our next stop after the Ihasofotsy mineral market is Ambositra, pronounced by the locals as Ambustch. For those who desire a little nicer place to stay, there is really only one choice in Ambositra. The pricetag, about $24 – $32 per night depending on the room.

Ambositra

The Artisan Hotel and guest house is very nice. I stayed here on both trips to Madagascar. The accommodations are nice, the food is delicious and there is a good Internet connection. Upon our arrival, a group of local singers and dancers performed for us. Enjoy the video below…

In the morning, we had a bit of time to visit the town of Ambositra. The contrast is stark between the grounds of the Artisan Hotel and just outside its gates. Here is a typical meat market. I’m amazed the people can actually eat this meat without getting sick. It is often very dirty and covered in flies. The Malagasy people must have amazing immune systems!
Ambositra Meat Market

Ambositra is the wood carving capital of Madagascar. We stop in one shop and are fortunate to see wood carvers at work in the back room. I bought some beautiful wooden masks and salt/pepper shakers carved here in Ambositra.
Ambositra home depot
I couldn’t resist the urge to take a photo of the local home depot! We should have stopped here for some wood planks before going over the bridge on the way to Itremo.

In my next post, we will stop along the way to Ranomafana at a placer gold locality!

Author: Michelle M. Rahm is a GIA-trained Graduate Gemologist and is President of Colorado’s Mile High Chapter of the GIA Alumni Association. She has been selling gemstones and jewelry online since 1997. Visit her websites JewelryImpressions.com and OurCustomWeddingRings.com

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Madagascar: A gemolgist’s journey (Ihasofotsy)

Along the way to the quartz mine, locals in Ihasofotsy set up a mineral show. There were lots of amazing quartz pieces including quartz with fuchsite, quartz with hollandite, rock crystal clusters etc. As we shopped, locals looked on.

Ihasofotsy Mineral Show

One table featured several Japan law twin quartz specimens. Those were bought out very quickly by the wholesalers and serious collectors in the group. I hope to get one on my next visit to Madagascar.

Ihasofotsy Mineral Market
I bought a beautiful specimen of quartz with fuchsite inclusions for 70,000 ariary or about $30. It’s about the size of my palm. Everyone was envious. I also purchased the two pineapple quartz with rare hollandite star inclusions for about $.10 each.
My quartz with fuchsite
Unfortunately, due to the bridge being out on the way, we didn’t have enough time to make the last trek up to Itremo Massive. So we hung out in town a little longer to spend more time with the locals. The kids got out of school to see the Vazaha.

When we were coming toward the town, you could see long lines little children running down the hillside to greet us. While they knew we were coming ahead of time, many of the children had never seen a white person before. And it was clear that many had never seen their own reflection before. They were amazed at seeing themselves in the LCD screens of our cameras. It’s amazing what we take for granted. These people are very poor and have had very little exposure to the ouside world.

My quartz with fuchsite

In my next post, we will stop along the way to Ranomafana in a town called Ambositra!

Author: Michelle M. Rahm is a GIA-trained Graduate Gemologist and is President of Colorado’s Mile High Chapter of the GIA Alumni Association. She has been selling gemstones and jewelry online since 1997. Visit her websites JewelryImpressions.com and OurCustomWeddingRings.com

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Madagascar: A Gemologist’s Journey (Drive to Itremo Massive)

Early in the morning, we leave Ambatofinandrahana for the long drive to Itremo Massive, the quartz capital of Madagascar. This area is famous for numerous quartz veins producing an enormous number of quartz specimens each year including rock crystal quartz, pineapple quartz, quartz with rare fuchsite or hollandite etc. The countryside is beautiful!
The road to Itremo Massive
National road #35 was so bad it took us over four hours to go 35km (21.7 miles). Some of us took the opportunity to get out and walk for a little exercise. Sometimes it was quicker to walk than ride! I met my driver at the top of the hill. Many national roads in Madagascar are difficult to navigate and require the use of a 4 wheel drive vehicle.
The road to Itremo Massive

There’s a bit of a problem when we come upon the only bridge across a river and it’s missing some boards, making it impassable for our 18 4-wheel drive vehicles. Drivers and security guards scramble to find wood for a makeshift repair.

As we await the slow and careful passage of all 18 4-wheel drive vehicles over the semi-repaired bridge, we get our first lesson in Malagasy: Mora mora = slowly, slowly!

In my next post, we will stop along the way to Itremo in a town called Ihasofotsy!

Author: Michelle M. Rahm is a GIA-trained Graduate Gemologist and is President of Colorado’s Mile High Chapter of the GIA Alumni Association. She has been selling gemstones and jewelry online since 1997. Visit her websites JewelryImpressions.com and OurCustomWeddingRings.com

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