A jewel of the western Indian Ocean, the Island of Madagascar holds the World record in endemic species. Its treasures are conserved and protected by natural parks and reserves across the country. We gave our local naturalists the task of selecting the top 10 Nature Preserves in Madagascar to help you plan your dream wildlife adventure.
The Berenty Reserve
This small private reserve lies 56 miles west of Fort Dauphin in the unique spiny forest, also known as the spiny thickets. The De Heaulme family created it 70 years ago to protect 618 acres encompassing spiny forest and dry tamarind gallery woodland along the Mandrare river. The reserve is home to six species of lemur including the beautiful sauntering ring-tailed lemurs and “dancing” Verreaux sifakas. You will also be able to observe the largest colony of Madagascar fruit bats in the south. Take a cultural break and enjoy a riveting museum depicting the life of the local tribe, the Antandroy, and a re-built Antandroy village.
The Nahampoana Reserve
Formerly named the Garden of Acclimatization, the Nahampoana Reserve covers 123.5 acres and is located east of Fort Dauphin. Hiking trails wind through the many exotic plants that can be found on the island, including the Madagascar Pitcher Plant, Lemon Eucalyptus, and young Baobab Trees. Visitors will also enjoy the Triangle Palm Tree, which is unique to the Fort Dauphin area. Every lemur species native to the south of Madagascar lives in this park. Other exciting animals in the park include chameleons, tortoises, crocodiles and a wide variety of birds.
The Kirindy Reserve
Privately managed by a Swiss company, the Kirindy Reserve lies 31 miles northeast of Morondava. This protected area holds one of the most threatened habitats in Madagascar, the dry deciduous forest. Dominated by majestic baobab trees and a 46 foot high forest canopy, here you will find the giant jumping rat, the smallest known primate that hops like a miniature kangaroo, seven species of lemurs, and one of their main predators, the fossa. The remaining species here are nocturnal, such as the rare Coquerel’s giant mouse lemur, and five other lemur species. This magnificent forest also hosts several bats, tenrecs, mongooses, and over fifty reptile species. The flora is also quite unusual and contains several locally endemic plant species including baobabs that reach unbelievable heights.
The Andasibe & Mantadia National Park
South-east of the capital city, we find the Andasibe National Park which is divided in two 2 areas: the smaller Analamazaotra Special Reserve and the much larger Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. Andasibe-Mantadia contains a dense humid forest covered with moss, fern tress and more than a hundred orchids species blooming between September and January. Deforestation and graphite mines have been a threat to the conservation of this area. The special guest here is the Indri Indri Lemur whose call can be heard in the early mornings and late afternoons. They are the largest living lemurs reaching up to 3 feet tall, and are unique in being the only lemur with a short tail. Among the many unique reptiles in this national park, you will find the Madagascar tree boa.
The Lokobe National Park
Found on the island of Nosy Be, the Lokobe National Park covers around 28.5 square miles of the Sambirano Forest. This humid evergreen forest is the last remaining natural habitat for the endangered black lemur. In this reserve, you can also find other nocturnal lemur species such as the gray-backed sportive lemur. Endemic birds such as the Madagascar pygmy kingfisher or the Madagascar Long-eared owl can also be found here. Palms are the most widespread plant species as well as some precious woods. Keep your eye out for the rare black lemur, the females are particularly gorgeous with their deep red fur.
The Tanikely Reserve
Located in the south of Nosy Be, this island is a dream destination for biologists, underwater photographers and travellers with its untouched white beaches and beautiful weather. This tiny island is a wonderful diving spot where you can observe thousands of reef fish, sea turtles, and leaf fish of all colours. Between November and December, whale sharks feed near the island, while humpback whales can be seen migrating through the area during July and August.
The Tsingy de Bemaraha Natural Park
The spectacular mineral forest of Tsingy de Bemaraha stands on the western coast of Madagascar. This protected area of 608 square miles has been designated a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO since 1990. Tsingy is the Malagasy means “walking on tiptoes” and the nearly impenetrable labyrinth of limestone needles justifies this name. The reserve is formed by canyons, gorges, undisturbed forests, lakes and mangrove swamps with an astonishing richness of fauna and flora. Reaching this park involves a rough ten hour drive, and in the park, the trails are difficult and demanding. It is recommended that you have hiking experience.
The Ranomafana National Park
Situated in eastern Madagascar, the Ranomafana (hot waters) National Park lays over a mountainous terrain of dense forests. This is the habitat of the endangered golden bamboo lemur which was discovered by Dr. Patricia Wright in 1986. Wildlife is rich in this park, with many unique bat, mongoose, and bird species to be seen. The threatened crested ibis is one of the beautiful birds you might come across.
Apart from that, there is a wide array of reptiles, butterflies, and spiders. Prepare to be impressed by the flora in the Ranomafana National Park with its pretty orchids and medicinal plants.
The Isalo National park
Located southwest of Antananarivo, the Isalo National Park protects 315 square miles of sandstone wildly eroded by wind and rain into bizarre ridges featuring primitive forms, impressive gorges, and canyons.
Here the flora is more impressive than the fauna; several local endemic plants, such as the elephant’s foot, have been discovered among the 500 species which are found in Isalo. While the wildlife is not as prominent as other parks of the country, there are still many species worth seeing, including the ring-tailed lemurs and the brown lemurs. Keep your eyes peeled for the many species of birds, such as the rare Benson’s rock-thrush and the knob-billed duck.
The Zombitse & Vohlbasia Natural Park
Based in the southwest of Madagascar, the Zobitse and Vohlbasia Natural Park covers 140 square miles of dry forest, marshes, and savannahs. This park personifies the biggest environmental threat in Madagascar, deforestation, with only a patch of protected forest remaining amongst the devastation. The patch gives shelter biodiversity divided into three different sections: Zombitse, Vohibasia,and Vohimena Isoky. Zombitse-Vohibasia acts as a transitional zone between the dry and humid forests of Madagascar. As with all of the countries beautiful parks, there are many lemurs, bright birds, and picturesque orchids.
Madagascar’s natural parks reserve the most endemic, rare and remarkable wildlife. Every day brings new fauna and flora encounters, it seems never to end! In most of the parks, wildlife is not afraid of humans, making your experience rich with animal encounters. There is no other place in the world like Madagascar for natural history expeditions and wildlife photography.
This article is part of the complete guide to Madagascar. Download it now for free!