The unique flora and fauna of Madagascar is one of the country’s most popular attractions. The best places to experience the astounding variety of plants and special creatures are in the country’s numerous National Parks and Special Reserves. Because of such extensive diversity you will find these parks all around the country. This month, we’re highlighting some of the very best parks in the northern region of the island, such as Montagne d’Ambre, Ankarana, Anjajavy, and Masoala, as well as some smaller ones you may not have heard of but that are definitely worth a visit. We have broken down what makes each one so special as well as what type of landscape and animals you can find there.
AMBER MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
Montagne d’Ambre National Park is located around 30 km south of Diego Suarez. The infrastructure in the reserve is very well developed. As points of interest are signposted, you have a great chance to see many different species. That’s also why it is one of Madagascar’s most accessible parks, as guests can explore it on their own without any guide.
The park covers an area of 18.200 hectares on an isolated volcanic massif, of mostly basaltic rock, above the surrounding dry region. It has amazing biodiversity in the huge tropical forest with endemic fauna and flora, lush vegetation and numerous waterfalls and volcanic lakes.
Of course, there is also a big number of animal species inhabiting the National Park. You can find 25 species of mammals, with 8 lemurs such as the Sanford’s Brown lemur, Crowned lemur, Lesser Bamboo lemur and five species of nocturnal lemurs. The forests are also home to 75 different bird species, 60 reptiles, and more than 40 different butterflies.
MASOALA NATIONAL PARK
Masoala National Park, located in northeast Madagascar, is the largest of the island’s protected areas. The park protects areas of tropical rainforest, coastal forest, flooded forest, marsh, and mangrove. Coral reefs and an overwhelming range of marine life are protected by three marine parks and they are also excellent destinations for kayaking and snorkelling.
The National Park offers fantastic hiking and trekking opportunities, but all visits must be accompanied by an official park-approved guide.
Masoala provides an excellent opportunity to experience the unique flora and fauna of the country. There are ten lemur species, including the flamboyant Red Ruffed lemur and you can find animals such as the Madagascar Day gecko, Leaf-tailed gecko, chameleons of all sizes, spectacular birds and the Madagascar serpent-eagle in this National Park. Furthermore each year from July to early September, hundreds of humpback whales visit the Antongil Bay during their long migration.
ANJAJAVY PRIVATE NATURE RESERVE
Located on a peninsula protruding into the Indian Ocean on Madagascar’s northwest coast, Anjajavy Private Nature Reserve is a remote, stunningly beautiful 450-hectare reserve.
Though you can only reach it by air it is worth the journey harbouring dry deciduous forest, pristine beaches, coral reefs, Tsingy limestone pinnacles and a unique array of wildlife. More than 1 800 species of mostly endemic flora can be found in this reserve. There are also well-maintained walking trails with easy access and suitable for all fitness levels.
As some fantastic wildlife can be found in this area, this makes the reserve different from all the other beach resorts. You can spot common brown lemurs, the tiny nocturnal mouse lemur and of course more diverse animals like Leaf-nosed bats, rare and unique birds and stunning reptiles.
ANKARANA NATIONAL PARK
Ankarana National Park lies about 90 km south of Antsiranana covering an area of 182,5 km². It consists of a little, vegetated plateau composed of 150-million-year-old limestone, parts of dense tropical jungle, thick forest, deep caves and some rivers. There is limestone karst topography in this area, which results from an annual rainfall of almost 2000 mm in combination with underlying rocks that undergo heavy erosion. This occurrence is also commonly known as “Tsingy” which in Malagasy means “the place where one cannot walk barefoot”. In fact, the Park is one of the most visited in Madagascar especially among hikers, because it offers a big array of incredible trails, unique landscapes and a lot of wildlife to discover.
This reserve includes one of the highest density of primates worldwide. Its concentrated forests support one of the largest and least disturbed populations of Crowned lemurs. Sanford’s brown lemur, Perrier’s black lemur, northern sportive lemur and dwarf lemurs, Ring-tailed mongoose, fossa, tenrecs and Madagascar striped civet are also commonly spotted. Almost 100 bird species, 50 reptiles, 14 bat species and the world’s only known cave-living crocodiles are found here.
ANKARAFANTSIKA NATURE RESERVE
Ankarafantsika Nature Reserve is one of Madagascar’s largest parks, occupying about 1, 350 kilometres. The Nature Reserve is found in the Boeny Region of Madagascar and consists of parts of dense dry tropical forest with parts of less thick areas. You can also find Savannah, scrub and sandy eroded rock areas in this reserve and some land is farmed by the indigenous Sakalava people.
The area is a birdlife haven and many tourists only come for this reason, but there is naturally a lot more wildlife to discover: Ten species of amphibians and 44 reptile species are at home in Ankarafantsika. Mammals include eight species of lemur, two of them are mouse lemurs, the world’s smallest primates. The greater big-footed mouse is a recently detected small rodent known only in the park and its surroundings.
LOKOBE SPECIAL RESERVE
Lokobe Special Reserve is found on the island of Nosy Be, which is a very popular tourist destination just off northern Madagascar. Lokobe spans 740 hectares and is home to the last remaining lowland rainforest on the island. Regarding the flora, the most widespread species are palms and especially a couple of local endemic palm species and precious woods can be found there.
The reserve is particularly known for the Black Lemur and apart from that, there are other nocturnal species such as the Grey-backed sportive lemur and some mouse lemurs. It is also home to some endemic birds like the Madagascar long-eared owl, as well as spectacular panther-chameleons, local endemic frogs, and several snakes.
Tsaratanana Integral Reserve covers a surface area of 486 km² made up of tropical forest encircling the spectacular Tsaratanana massif. This impressive mountainous region provides a significant amount of water to the area. The reserve also hosts two waterfalls and thermal baths.
As the highest mountain of Madagascar, the Maromokotra (2.876m) lies within the reserve, it is possible to organise a trekking adventure to explore this volcanic granite massif, but currently, tourists are not allowed to stay within the Reserve.
The combination of Northern tropical forests, as well as a high mountain ecosystem, offers great biodiversity with a high rate of endemism. You can find about 95 bird species and 20 mammal species including 11 lemurs, such as the endangered Black lemur, Eastern fork-marked lemur, and Aye-aye in the reserve. But reptiles and amphibians are also widespread in this area.
MAROJEJY NATIONAL PARK
Marojejy National Park, a rough and wild mountainous area of 600 km², is one of the most strikingly beautiful areas of the country. In June 2007, it was even officially declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its unparalleled biodiversity and stunning landscapes. Marojejy is a place where you can hike from the dense jungle to the high mountain tundra in a relatively short distance.
275 species of ferns and more than 50 species of palms have been detected in the different types of forest depending on the altitude: low altitude rainforest is dominated by palm trees up to 800 m, montane forest is home to 300 epiphytes species, which grow together with bamboo, mosses, and lichens, sclerophyllous forest is where the lichens and mosses are most common, and there is moorland mountain vegetation from 1800 upwards.
Concerning the fauna, 150 species of amphibians and reptiles live in Marojejy, including 60 frogs, leaf-tailed geckos, Brookesia chameleons and lot of leeches. There are 45 mammal species, among them 11 lemurs of which the most representative is the critically endangered silky Sibasa.