The Amber Mountain Reserve in northwest Madagascar is a nature lover’s dream come true with breath-taking waterfalls, volcanic lakes, and wild orchids in an emerald green forest. Due to the altitude and micro-climate temperatures are about 10 degrees lower than the rest of the island, providing cool refreshing air that is a welcome respite from the hot coast just a few kilometres away.
Named for the resin that seeps from the trees, the first and oldest National Park in Madagascar has greatly benefitted from its long term protection and is a rare animal and plant paradise. It is one of the most biodiverse rainforests in Madagascar with new species being discovered every year. The local community were invited to participate in planning and management from the beginning, making the park one of the country’s most successful examples of ecotourism, covering an area of 18,200 hectares, spread over a volcanic massif with well-maintained and clearly signposted pathways.
The park has three famous waterfalls. The Sacred Waterfall where locals make their spiritual offerings is the easiest to access, a relaxed walk with lemurs and orchids found in abundance along the way. The waterfall is part of a beautiful grotto surrounded by lush ferns with water flowing into an enticing pool. In summer a small colony of twittering bats inhabits the right overhang of the grotto. The humid rainforest is popular with a variety of bats, 13 of Madagascar’s 33 bats species call the forest their home.
Antankarana Waterfall is also a pleasant walk, a bit further than the Sacred Waterfall. It cascades into a tranquil pool enveloped by fern-covered cliffs. The 3rd waterfall, Antomboka, is the furthest and more of a trek, perfect for those with time and a passion for hiking. There are some steep ascents and descents on the path. This waterfall plunges into the forest from an 80m cliff, which provides an excellent viewpoint.
Another wonderful viewpoint and an exhilarating path is to Lac de la Coupe Verte a vibrant green crater lake. Travelers who are keen hikers and are staying the area for a few days can also summit the 1475m mountain, camping overnight by Grand Lac (Great Lake) if they wish, to be rewarded with a spectacular view over the northern tip of the Madagascar with the Mozambique Channel to the left and the Indian Ocean to the right.
If you are hoping to see a variety of colourful chameleons look no further than the trees and shrubs of the forest, as amphibians and reptiles thrive in the moist and humid conditions. The world’s smallest chameleon, the Brookesia chameleon, resides in the forest among fallen leaves and you’ll need a keen eye or better yet the help of a guide to find them. The Reserve is also home to 8 species of lemurs with the Crowned lemur and Sanford’s lemur being the most notable, as well as the smallest lemur in the world, the Red Microcebus which weighs only 50 grams.
Ring-tailed mongooses can be often be spotted scurrying about on the forest floor. 34 species of frogs and 36 species of colourful butterflies transform the forest into an enchanting fairy tale setting.
The trees of the forest are entangled in lianas and dripping with ferns and moss. Of special botanical interest is the Path of a Thousand Trees (Voie des Mille Abres) a majestic walkway lined with tall and intriguing exotic species planted by the French as part of forestry research. Anyone with a passion for nature who delights in the green and the trees of Mother Earth will not want to miss exploring this lush tropical wonderland.