IKAKAKA and SAKARAHA, the two towns nearest to Zombitse National Park, have boomed on the highway from almost nothing over the last twenty years, as rural migrants have arrived seeking fortunes from mining for gems – particularly the sapphires of which this region is now the world’s biggest producer. The fortified emporia of Sri Lankan gem traders and others line the streets of each town – pure Wild West, and none too welcoming. Sakaraha has a new bank with a useful ATM, the only one between Tuléar and Ihosy.

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