MADAGASCAR'S NATIONAL PARKS
AMBER MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK (Madagascar's oldest park)
Montagne d'Ambre (Amber Mountain) National Park was established in 1956 and is nestled at the northern tip of Madagascar, near Diego Suarez. This mountainous park takes its names from resin found in the local trees, which is believed, by the local Malagasy people, to have medicinal qualities. In contrast with the surrounding dry landscape, the park has it’s own a microclimate, where temperatures are lower and rainfall reaches around 3600 mm per year. The park offers breathtaking waterfalls, volcanic lakes, and a lush rainforests. The park has a rich floral diversity which includes three principal ecosystems (montane rainforest, mid-altitude rainforest and dry deciduous forests) which give shelter to multitude of plant species.
As Madagascar’s oldest National Park, it has greatly benefitted from its long-term protection and is one of the most biodiverse rainforests in Madagascar. New species are literally being discovered here every year. You’re likely to encounter huge selection of animals from frogs, chameleons and geckos, to rare aye-ayes, butterflies and endemic bird species.
The park has:
6 species of carnivorous mammals (including the fossa),
8 species of lemurs (5 nocturnal),
13 species of bats
75 different bird species, of which 35 are endemic,
60 reptile species,
35 frogs and
more than 40 species of butterfly.
If you’re a hiking enthusiast, there are a number of well-maintained trails within the park, all clearly marked, so it’s not hard to explore on your own. Some of the most popular trails incorporate the Cascade Sacre (Sacred Waterfall), Cascade Antomboka, and Cascade Antankarana. The easiest and most traveled waterfall trail is to the Sacred Waterfall, where the local people make spiritual offerings. It is a relaxed and rewarding walk with an abundance of lemurs, orchids and birds along the way. The waterfall itself is part of a beautiful grotto with an enticing pool, and in summer it’s inhabited by a small colony of bats.
The Cascade Antankarana circuit is also relatively easy and not long, while the Cascade Antomboka is a little more strenuous. Other treks lead to some crater lakes, while the hike to Lac Grand and Lac Maudit will take a full day.
If you have the time a hike up Amber Mountain will award you with spectacular views over the forest. You could do it in one day, although most people prefer two, with an overnight camp at Lac Grand.
The best time to visit the Park is between September and November, when warmer temperatures lead to an increase in animal activity and sitings increase enormously. Those looking to stay within the park are limited to camping, but it is easily accessed from nearby Joffreville, which has a selection of properties. This old French colonial town has a friendly village atmosphere. The park is also a popular day-trip Diego Suarez..
Local communities have been involved in the planning and management of the park, since its beginnings, making this one of the countries ecotourism success stories.
ANDASIBE & MANTADIA (Best lemur experience)
The Andasibe and Mantadia National Parks (also known as simply the Andasibe Mantadia National Park), were founded in 1989 and are located just Southeast of the capital city, Antananarivo. Due to their close proximity to the capital and their good road structure, they are popular parks, which are open year-round.
The primary forests of Andasibe-Mantadia contain a dense humid montane forest covered with lianas, moss, tree ferns and over a hundred orchids species blooming between September and Januar. Other common plants include pandanus, ravinala palm-tree, tambourissa, bamboos and some precious wood species, like palisander and ebano.
Andasibe probably offers one of the best lemur experiences in the world and almost guarantees lemur sightings. It is the best place to spot the teddy bear-like Indri, given that there are a couple of families that have become habituated to humans! Indri’s are the largest living lemurs reaching up to 3 feet tall and are unique in being the only lemur with a short tail. Their eerie, yet beautiful call can be from over a mile away, while seeing them in the wild is an absolutely exhilarating experience. They live in small family groups and cannot survive in captivity. They are considered throughout Madagascar, but despite this they have become endangered due to deforestation of their habitat.
Besides the Indri, the park is home to another 13 species of Lemur, including the woody lemur, grey bamboo lemur, diademed sifaka, brown lemur, red mouse-lemur, red-bellied lemur, black and white ruffed lemur and even the elusive, nocturnal aye-aye.
Andasibe is also home to some wonderful reptile and amphibian species. Among it’s 50 reptile species are the enormous Parson’s chameleon and the tiny nose-horned chameleon, as well as the majestic infamous boa manditia. It also has over 80 species of amphibians, including a myriad of frogs. This is a bird watchers paradise, with over 100 bird species (many endemic), like the Madagascar yellowbrow, Madagascar baza, Madagascar wagtail or the Madagascar serpent-eagle, and also the velvet asity, blue coua and nuthatch vanga. It’s also home to hundreds of insects, including some extremely huge, and extraordinarily colorful butterflies.
Besides wildlife watching Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is great for a range of activities, depending on your fitness levels and how long you plan on staying. There are hiking circuits in both Andasibe and in Mantadia, to suit everyone.
If you are a serious hiker, enjoy a wilder, denser forest with older and taller trees, and not as many visitors, go to Mantidia. Trails here are extremely rugged and more varied, and not for the faint of heart! The variation in altitude (900 to 1200m) is greater here than in Andasibe (which is generally flat).
Sacred Waterfall Circuit (this is a cultural path passing through several holy places of the ancient inhabitants, it takes 2 hours), Rianasoa circuit (you will spot indris and see orchids as well as visit the sacred waterfall and a nature pool where you can take a bath, this circuit usually takes one or two hours), Tsakoka circuit (longer trail of 4 hours in which you will try to find more lemurs and other animals) and a night tour (1-2 hours), Belakato circuit (a harder trail going up and down while looking for indris and other species and passing by the waterfalls, around 3 hours).
The local NGO Mitsinjo has an office located just opposite to the Park entrance. This fabulous organisation manages the Analamazaotra Forest Station located just behind the office and offers some great opportunities for wildlife spotting and gives shelter to some habituated Indri families and other lemurs, as well as a range of chameleons and geckos. You can also enjoy some rewarding night walks here for a chance nocturnal lemurs (like the Aye-Aye), frogs and nocturnal reptiles.
Association Mitsinjo is a Malagasy organisation that started as a community initiative. Located in Andasibe Mitsinjo it works in conservation, nature-based tourism, environmental education, habitat management, and sustainable development. Apart from being less than the National Park, you entrance fee to this park, will also help to support several community projects.
The best place to stay during your time in Andasibe is the comfortable Vakona Lodge or Andasibe Hote
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.
ANKARAFANTSIKA NATIONAL PARK (Bird Haven)
Ankarafantsika (formerly known as Ampijoroa Forest Station) became a national park in 2002 and is one of Madagascar’s largest parks, occupying a staggering 1,350km. This vast portion of land combines deciduous dry forest, savannah and wetlands and is one of the last remaining stands of dense dry deciduous forest in Madagascar.
It is also the last refuge of several lemur and bird species, which makes the conservation of this park so important.
With over 120 species (75 endemic), the Park is one of Madagascar’s finest birdwatching venues, and a large number of visitors come here for this reason alone. Species include the banded krestel, Rufous vanga, Van Dam's vanga, Madagascar fish eagle.
The area is home to eight lemur species including Milne-Edwards sportive lemur, mongoose lemur, western wolly lemur, grey mouse lemur, fat-tailed dwarf lemur, and it is the only place where the golden-brown mouse lemur occurs. Nocturnal hikes are recommended as many lemurs come “alive” in a nocturnal envirnoment. During the day Coquerel's sifaka are commonly seen.
Besides birds and reptiles, 10 species of frogs and 45 reptile species are found here, including Oustalett's, dwarf, horned and Rhinoceros chameleons, several vulnerable snakes, the extremely rare Madagascar big-headed turtle and crocodiles around the lake.
The park has a rich plant life with more than 800 species and a high rate of endemism. Significant species include the Cedrelopsis grevei, an odorous medicinal tree used, baobabs, palisander, wild vanilla, retendrika, crocodile tree, lohavato or the sakoanala tree, all of them endemic. Interpretative panels in the well-arranged botanical garden help visitors to deepen their knowledge of local flora
For the active visitor, the park offers 11 very well maintained trails.
The Coquereli circuit, as the name suggests, is the best trails to discover some the the parks most representative lemurs. Its an easy trail, taking about 2 hours to complete.
Another easy trail starts at the Ravelobe Lake and leads you to some terrific baobabs (Andasonia madagascariensis).
Bird lovers and botanists should consider the Retendrika circuit (2 hours). Visitors can observe many different medicinal plants, from which some of the most popular birds such as the banded kestrel and vanga are known to feed.
The most rewarding circuits in terms of wildlife are probably the Source of Life and the Ankarokarota.
The former takes about 3 hours, and combines wildlife and birdlife.You’re likely to see waterbirds that frequent the lake, as well as lemurs and reptiles. You’ll also get a glimpse into the daily life of the Sakavala communities and visit a pair of sacred places used in religious rituals.
The latter, Ankarokaroka trail (4 hours) leads through the savanna to a huge depression (lavaka) caused by erosion. It is surrounded by a strange and colorful rocky landscape, offering astounding views over the forest.
A boat ride on Ravelobe Lake will afford some beautiful scenery, as well as wildlife including crocodiles and a multitude of warerbirds, such as fish eagles, herons or ibises.
The park is about 2 hours from Majunga, making it an easy day trip with good road conditions. If you are coming from Antananarivo (450km) you should spend at least one night here as it’s a full day’s drive. Ankarafantsika is open year-round.
Accommodation within the park is limited and very basic. It consists of ten covered tent sites and five guest rooms with electricity and shared toilets/showers. Further tent sites are available at a camping site in Ambodimanga, a village in walking distance to the park entrance. A number of small bungalows with private facilities are also available close to lake Ravelobe.
The park is best visited during the drier season between May and October and the majority of rain falls between January and April.
BERENTY PRIVATE RESERVE (habituated lemurs)
Berenty is a small private reserve is located 90 km western of Fort Dauphin. It was established 70 years ago, by the de Heaulme family to protect 618 acres encompassing spiny forest and dry tamarind gallery woodland along the Mandrare river. It is now one of the last remaining stands of gallery forests in the country, surrounded by a sea of sisal fields.
The reserve is home to six species of lemur and is known as one of the best spots to view habituated ringtail and Verreaux sifaka lemurs at close range for amazing photographic opportunities. A nocturnal walk in the park will give you the chance to see white-footed sportive lemur, Grey mouse lemur, the newly recognised red-and-grey mouse lemur. It is also home to the largest colony of Madagascar fruit bats in Southern Madagascar.
Berenty is one of the few parks in Madagascar where you can venture without a guide. Exploring its network of well-kept trails will afford you the opportunity of seeing some of the 103 bird species, including parrots, eagles and paradise flycatchers.
The reserve can be visited all year round. It has cold, dry winters and hot summers (November to February), when temperatures can exceed 40°C and heavy thunderstorms can occur. Baby lemur season is September/October. Be warned - over 8000 people visit Berenty each year, so if you are planning to come here, plan your visit well in advance.
The main (in fact only) accommodation option in the area is Berenty Lodge. It offers spacious wooden chalets. From here you can also You can also visit the local art museum, the sisal factory and also an interesting ethnological museum, which depicts the life of the local tribe, the Antandroy, as has a model reconstruction of an Antandroy village.
ISALO NATIONAL PARK (Heaven for hikers)
Established in 1962, the Isalo National Park is located in the southwest region of Madagascar, approximately 700 km west of Antananarivo. It protects a 315 square mile area, encompassing a sandstone massif. Gradually sculpted by years of wind and rain, Isalo’s is nestled amidst an unearthly, wildly eroded topography of wild ridges (known as “runiformes”) impressive gorges, sweeping canyons and tiny stalagmite pinnacles. The diverse colors, agreeably warm climate and uniquely Jurassic landscape attracts hikers from around the world.
Its interior boasts canyons filled with waterfalls and valleys, dominated by the fire-resistant tapia tree, pandanus pulcher, and the locally prevalent feather palm. Cliffs and rocks are dotted with common succulents including the Elephant’s Foot and Isalo Aloe.
In this park flora is indeed more impressive than the fauna. Among the 500 species found here, several locally endemic plants, such as the elephant’s foot, rare palm and also aloe species, have been discovered.
While the wildlife is not as prominent as other parks in the country, there are still many species worth seeing, including the 14 species of nocturnal lemurs (of which 7 are endemic), as well as the ring-tailed lemurs, brown lemurs and Verreaux’s sifiaka. The park is also home to approximately 80 species of birds, including the rare Benson’s Rock-thrush and the knob-billed duck, many found in the Canyon des Nymphes area. You’ll also find 35 reptile species and several endemic frogs such as the red frog (Sacphiophyme gottlebei).
While the spectacular mountains of the Isalo massif are the park’s most famous feature, there are other attractions worth seeing such as natural swimming pools, astounding scenery at the Canyon des Singes and Canyon des Rats.
Some of the most popular trails:
The piscine naturelle
Piscine is a true oasis in the heat of the canyons. A natural stone cave overlooks a crystal-clear waterfall flowing into a deep green pool, surrounded by pandanus trees. This tranquil pool is an oasis in the heat, and offers a welcome relief after the long hike getting there.
The Canyon des Singes
The Canyon des Singes (Canyon of Monkeys) is a popular hike. A trail of dense forest scrub-land leads to a wonderful ravine, where you’ll discover ring-tailed lemurs leaping through the trees, and Sifakas, dancing in their bizarre sideways gait along the ground. A popular extension leads from here to the piscine naturelle along a breathtaking trail of brilliantly colored mountains. As the heat in the Canyon builds the inviting pools provide the perfect opportunity to cool off after the challenging hike.
This trail passes through an unusually formed canyon, with lush vegetation, and past a waterfall and deep pool
Those equipped for trekking and camping can spend several days or longer wandering around the Isalo Massif, which is undoubtedly the most rewarding but time consuming way to explore this place.
A recommended two-day trip would be to visit the piscine naturelle and the Nymphes waterfalls with an overnight at the waterfalls campsite. On the 2ndday you’d hed for Maki canyon. If you have time for a 3rdday you would also visit Rats canyon.
Portuguese Cave is a very challenging hike and only for the very fit. The cave is at the northern end of the park and involves a 4-day hike, through the beautiful Sahanafa forest with natural springs and a lot of lemurs.
Another particularly fascinating attraction is the Window of the Isalo, which is especially beautiful at sunset.
Isalo is accesible during all the year and lies right next to the highway connecting Tana with Tulear. The road is one of the best of Madagascar, so the journey is quite comfortable. From Tana it takes around 15 hours (700 km), from Tulear 4 hours (250 km).
There are two decent campsites inside the Park with shared facilities and showers.
The Park Office is great and has a lot of information, many excellent guides who speak fluent English and an interesting museum about the geology, fauna and flora of the region.
There are two main lodges in the area, Le Relais de la Reine and Jardin du Roy, both of which are extremely comfortable lodges and set amidst spectacular rock formations.
KIRINDY PRIVATE RESERVE (Finding Fossa)
Kirindy is only two-hours (31 miles) northeast of the town of Morondava, making it an ideal one-day trip. Is a privately managed forest by a Swiss company dedicated to a selective and sustainable logging (Centre de Formation Professionelle Forestière). It comprises one of the most threatened wildlife habitats in Madagascar: the dry deciduous forest, the area of which has been reduced to 3 % of it’s original extent. Dominated by majestic baobab trees and a forest canopy of up to 46 feet high, this park is home to the worlds smallest known primate, the giant jumping rat. It hops around like a miniature kangaroo, but also walks on all fours. Kirindy is actually the best place in Madagascar to observe fossas, specially during the mating time between October and December. It also home to seven species of lemur. The most common are the common brown lemurs and the Verreaux's sifakas. The remaining species are nocturnal and include the rare Coquerel's giant mouse lemur and pygmy mouse-lemur, fork-crowned lemur, Gray mouse lemur, western fat-tailed dwarf lemur and red-tailed sportive lemur. Several species of bats, tenrecs, mongooses and rodents are also found, as well as 40 bird, 50 reptile and 15 amphibian species.
The flora is also quite unusual and contains several locally endemic plant species including 2 baobabs that reach incredible heights. Baobabs are sacred to the locals, who believe them to be the first trees that the gods planted. Due to the gods inexperience, however, they planted them upside down, which explains the bizarre look of these amazing trees.
The park also has a good network or well maintained trails. We would recommend staying overnight as a night-walk is truly a highlight to every visit, and allows you to see nocturnal lemurs, fossas, the giant jumping rat, reptiles, frogs and rare insects.
The best time to visit the Reserve is at the beginning of the rainy season, since the forest is green, all the animals are active and the road is still “Ok”. The bad point is that it can be crowded during this life explosion. The rest of this season is very wet and very hot (up to 110 deg) and the park is often not accessible, due to the rain. During the remainder of the year (end of March until the beginning of January) temperatures are milder (60-80 deg) with almost no rain. During this time, however, the forest is leafless and many reptiles and small mammals hibernate.
Visitor facilities have improved in recent years – there is small office and a restaurant serving local dishes. There are also several bungalows with mosquito nets, with shared or private facilities, shower and even electricity for a few hours a day. There is also a cheaper dormitory with communal facilities.
Camping is no longer possible as there have been some fossa attacks
LOKOBE INTEGRAL RESERVE (Last black Lemur)
Lokobe Integral Reserve is located in the south-eastern part of Nosy Be in the north of Madagascar, and protects about 29 square miles of the last remaining stands of Sambirano Primary Forest. This humid evergreen forest is the last remaining natural habitat of the endangered black lemur – the females are particularly striking with their deep red coats. Protection of the area started as far back as 1927, and in 1966 the reserve was created. It’s status as a national park, however, has not yet been confirmed. At present only a small portion of the park is open to visitors.
Apart from the black lemur, you’ll also find other nocturnal lemur species such as the gray-backed sportive lemur and mouse lemur. Lokobe is also home some endemic birds like the pygmy kingfisher or the Madagascar Long-eared Owl. Endemic reptiles (panther chameleons) and frogs can also be found.
With regards to flora, palms are the most widespread species, some being endemic to the area, as well as some precious woods.
MASAOLA NATIONAL PARK (Staggering biodiversity)
Established in 1997, and encompassing 2,300 square kilometres of rainforest and 100 square kilometres of marine parks, Masoala National Park and it’s offshore island reserve, represent Madagascar's largest protected area. The park was established to preserve it’s unique ecosystem comprising coastal rainforest, flooded forests marshland, coastal forest and mangroves, from the serious threats by encroachment due to agricultural and logging.
The Masaola peninsula is truly exceptional in terms of diversity and about 2 percent of the worlds animal and plant species are call this area home. This primary rainforest provides sanctuary for some extremely rare and endangered species, such as the noctural aye-aye, red-ruffed lemur, Madagascar Red owl and serpent eagle, that are endemic to the peninsula and found nowhere else on earth. Keep and eye out for chameleons, leaf-tailed geckos and tomato frogs, as well several species of butterflies. Adorable little tenrecs and a total of 19 species of lemur call the forest home.
Experience the abundant beauty of both land and sea in Madagascar’s largest national park, being one of the few places in Madagascar where the forests meet the unspoiled shore, with unexplored golden beaches and three marine parks that protect breathtaking coral reefs, marine plants and mangroves around the peninsula. Presently, more than 3,001 fish species have been inventoried in the marine parks. Hundreds of humpback whales shelter in Antongil Bay during the breeding season, from July to September and can be seen breaching and splashing just offshore.
Keen divers and snorkelers should consider visiting the main reserve of Tanjona, in addition to Ambodirafia and Marofototra, which all offer great swimming. The coral reef system has a vibrant array of colourful fish, accessible to snorkelers and divers, and there are some stunning beaches to explore once back on dry land.
The special reserve of Nosy Mangabe, located just 2 kilometres off the coast, is small and easy to navigate. Covered in dense forest, this island has its own wildlife viewing potential; Brookesia (the smallest chameleon found in the world) and the eerie aye-aye are regularly seen. Spotting the black and white ruffed lemur and white-fronted brown lemur are also more likely here.
Hiking and trekking opportunities abound, and Masaola has arguably the largest, most unique and most variable hiking circuits of all the National parks. Excellent hiking trails snake through the thick and wild forest, across cooling rivers, some suitable for swimming but some filled with crocodiles, and along beaches. The main trails for visitors are at Nosy Mangabe, Tampolo/Ambodiforaha, Cap Est, and a multi-day hike is possible across the peninsula.
One of the best areas is the Alohatrozana trail through a stunning virgin rain forest located about midway down the western side of the peninsula.
On the Western coastal trail, Lohatrozona is a paradise for ornithologists.
The marine reserve of Tanjona harbors a wonderful mangrove forest.
The marine reserves of Tampolo, Ambodirafia and Marofototra have superb corals and nice, clean beaches perfect for a swimming.
The coastal trail, between Alhoatrozana and Antalavia, will take you onto golden-sand beaches, past rocky coves, and through ush forest, and is arguably the most beautiful trail in Masaola
Andranoanala trails are easy, and you can easily observe water birds in the park's pond and even crocodiles on the river. If you want to venture south from here, a trail leads you through small fishing villages to the Masoala Cap. The white and sometimes reddish beach is crossed by mangroves and rivers.
The park can be accessed from the towns of Maroantsetra or Antalaha. It is possible to arrive by motorboat from Maroantsetra or by road to Cap Est. from Antalaha. The best accommodation is in the park itself, at Masaola Forest Lodge, however you can also stay at Relais de Masaola, which offers easy access and charming accommodation.
The rugged landscape of the park, combined with incredible marine parks and some of Madagascars most pristine rainforest, makes Masaola a good choice for exploration and with fewer visitors and a larger area you are likely to the park in relative isolation.
RANOMAFANA NATIONAL PARK (Sanctuary of the Golden Bamboo Lemur)
Established in 1991, Ranomafana (meaning “hot water” in Malagasy) is doubtless one the most spectacular National Parks of Madagascar. It derives its name from the hot springs found in the area. Due to the good access and suitable location, great biodiversity and developed infrastructures, it has become one of the most visited places of the island. It covers an area of 415 km², which are completely covered by dense, humid primary and secondary rainforest, at altitudes between 800m and 1.200m. The critically endangered golden bamboo lemur was discovered here in 1986, by Dr. Patricia Wright, which no doubt, led to the area gaining national park status. It now provides a protected environment for these animals.
Lemur lovers will be enthralled by this wildlife rich park, which is home to 12 lemur species (including the golden bamboo lemur). Other species include the eastern woolly lemur, red bellied lemur, eastern grey bamboo lemur, greater bamboo lemur, red-fronted brown lemur, black-and-white ruffed lemur, Milne-Edward´s sifaka, Small-toothed sportive lemur, greater dwarf lemur and brown mouse lemur and the very rare aye-aye. Other mammals within in the park include 7 species of tenrecs, 8 bats and 6 carnivorous, like the Malagasy striped civet and some mongooses.
The park is home to the Kianjavato Lemur Project where volunteers can track the elusive aye-ayes and assist with research.
Apart from mammals, there are 62 species of reptiles ( chameleons, snakes and fringed and satanic leaf-tailed geckos are pretty common), 98 frogs, 90 butterflies, 350 spiders and several fishes and crayfishes.
Of the 115 (approximate) bird species in the park, 30 are endemic to this isolated region around Ranomafana. Among these species are Henst's goshawk, Rufous-headed ground-roller, the crested ibis (endangered) and the velvet asity.
Many of the plants which grow in these rain forests, are used by the Tanala and the Betsileo people for medical purposes. There are also many precious wood and palm trees, many orchids and carnivorous plants. In addition to its densely forested hills, this area is also characterised by numerous small streams, which flow down to the picturesque Namorona River. This river bisects the park and is used by the hydroelectric power station at Ranomafana, to produce electricity for the surrounding areas.
Ranomafana can be explored via 5 hiking circuits of varying lengths. The shortest treks are also the most popular, and trails can get quite crowded especially during the high season. The longer treks are much quieter and more rewarding from a wildlife watching perspective.
Varibolomena circuit is an easy 4 hour hike, offering a good chance of spotting bamboo lemurs. The hike passes a beautiful waterfall. It is possible to do this hike at night, to discover nocturnal creatures – particularly reptiles and frogs.
Sahamalaotra circuitis a 10 km trek through the forest, where you’re likely to see lemurs and birds.
Vohiparara circuit is a 2 day trek across the National Park (20 km round trip) You’ll have the opportunity to see lots of wildlife and visit a sacred lake.
Varijatsy circuit can be done in 1 or 2 days trek, and traverses some rough terrain (15km). It takes you though primary forest in search of lemurs and birds, and passing by a waterfall with a natural pool where you can take a bath.
Soarano circuit is the most challenging trek and takes 2 or 3 days (at least 20 km) to complete. The trail leads through the primary forest, where you’ll discover some interesting plants, lemurs and other wildlife. The trek also has a cultural aspect and you’ll visit some traditional tanala villages en route.
The climate in the park is warm and humid year round. The best month are May and September through November. Even though the dry season extend from April to December, the North East and Central East regions will experience periodic rain throughout.
Ranomafana National Park is very easy to access. There are two tarred roads which cross the park and offer year round access, although drive time can be longer during the rainy season. The park entrance is in Ambodiamontana, approximately 6 km from Ranomafana Town.
The best places to stay in Ranomafana National Park are Centrest and Setam Lodges.