ANKARANA NATIONAL PARK
ANKARANA NATIONAL PARK (Geological wonder and hikers paradise)
Ankarana National Park was established in 1956, about 90 km south of Antsiranana. It is a spectacularly eroded limestone fortress of sharp spires or tsingy, interspersed with patches of dense tropical jungle, green forests, deep canyons, raging rivers, and the most extensive underground network of caves in all of Africa. A history of heavy rainfall has given rise to extensive erosion in the area, producing the most amazing karst topography, specifically it’s fantastical “tsingy”.
This reserve contains one of the highest density of primates in any one forest in the world (with 11 species). Its dense forests in the lower portion of the park, support one of the largest populations of crowned lemurs. Other lemur species include Sanford's brown lemur, perrier's black lemur, northern sportive lemur and dwarf lemurs. You may also come accross while ringtailed mongoose, fossa, tenrecs and Madagascar striped civet. The black sifaka lemur was last seen in the park in 1995.
With over 100 bird species, it also offers something for the ornithologist. There are also a wide variety of reptiles (including some endemic and threatened snakes and geckos) and amphibians – frogs of all shapes and sizes. Inside the spectacular labyrinth of caves 14 bat species occur, as well as local endemic blind shrimps and the world's only known cave-living crocodiles. At night swarms of bats and flying foxes head out into the forest to feed.
Besides animal life, the park harbors 350 plant species. Some significant species are the "vazaha tree", pandanus, ficuses and the endemic baobab Adansonia madagascarensis.
The Parks diverse system of trails, and unique landscapes, make it one of Madagascar’s most rewarding hiking destinations. There are hikes to suit every skill/fitness levels, combined with some amazing wildlife viewing opportunities. Trails lead though spectacular scenery, across precarious rope bridges, through forests and deep canyons, to high ridges looking down on hundres of limestone needles.
Getting into the centre of the park, however requires a good guide and the ability to cope with often high temperatures (up to 37° in March and April) and an unusually high number of scorpions. The best time of year to visit is during the dry season, from April to November and visitors need to bring in all of their own food and equipment.
The main entrance point to the park is in Mahamasina and accommodation options include the simple yet comfortable Relais l’Ankarana, located just outside the park. The hotel also has an excellent guide here can help you explore the rivers, canyons, caves and tropical forests of the region.
Another comfortable option is Tsingy EcoLodge, about 1km from the park entrance.