Ilakaka City: the Wild West is over!

Until the end of 1998 there was just a hamlet in the Ilakaka area, stretching about 150 km long and about 50 km wide in the extension of the craggy mountains of Isalo. The city is named after the river which crosses – and where today a great multitude of miners gather to sift their gravel.
In the beginning there were just a few of stones traded by farmers with a local agents, but all of a sudden the rumours about gemstones and fortunes to make spread like wildfire. In a rush people from all ethnic groups gathered, so that today, the municipality of Ilakaka has between 35 and 40,000 inhabitants. But meanwhile the life has cooled down to a normal.
2018 Ilakaka celebrates its 20th anniversary! Renown for its sapphires to which we must add a dozen minerals that made up the foundation of its wealth, many treasures are still waiting to be unearthed. One reason for that is the cumbersome method of so-called artisanal mining, few machines much handwork, but it offers the populace a means of subsistence.
The peculiar hardship to find Ilakaka stones lies in the fact that are hidden amongst alluvial deposits, that is to say one does not find the stones where they crystallized, but the erosion during millions of years have displaced them and water has concentrated them in “gemmiferous gravels”, in the form of rolled stones, in ancient rivers called paleo-channels.
Little is knows, that sapphire are not always blue! Most Ilakaka sapphires shine pink to purple but gems have been found in all colours of the rainbow! These are high in demand, while the most famous is of rose colour, and called Felapaiso.
This article was featured in Prime Magazine May 2018

Useful Information


When to go

This area is characterised by a dry semi-desert climate and can be visited all year, without much regard to the seasons.


How to get there

Ilakaka is located 735km from the capital and 218km from Tulear. It would be more convenient to take a regular flight by Air Madagascar from the capital Antananarivo to Tulear and continue by road on the RN7.


Where to stay

Friends Hotel, an establishment located in the city of Ilakaka, offers you that warm and friendly welcome that the name suggests. You can also book your rooms further away, in Isalo in Le Jardin du Roy and Relais de la Reine or Isalo Rock Lodge.


Where to eat

The restaurant of the Hotel Satrana Lodge is famous in this area for its cuisine with subtle aromas. This property is located at the entrance to Isalo Park.


What to see

Since 2008, the mines of the so-called "Swiss Bank" zone located at 500 m aside of the RN7. It’s nicknamed still manifests the great expectations of the first diggers arriving at this spot. The local company, Colorline offers guided tours to the curious ones. For sure Ilakaka offers a real vision of what the Madagascan life in the bush is really like – far off the conventional tourist world.

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