Top 8 National Parks in Madagascar

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Explore The Most Beautiful and Unique Animals & Plants found only in Madagascar

About 88 million years ago, the island nation of Madagascar separated from the Indian subcontinent. Since then, its plants and animals have continued to evolve in isolation. Today, more than 90% of the country's species, including 103 different types of lemurs, cannot be found anywhere else on Earth. This high level of endemism has led to Madagascar being dubbed the "eighth continent", making it a favorite destination for bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts.

Unfortunately, despite Madagascar's status as a biodiversity hotspot, human activity, including deforestation, hunting, and the introduction of invasive species, has led to the widespread destruction of its natural resources. As such, its national parks are invaluable sanctuaries for the island's remaining wildlife. From the fantastic stone forests of Tsingy de Bermaraha to the waterfalls of Amber Mountain, each has its own strange and wonderful reasons to visit.

1. Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

Located 3.5 hours by car from the capital, Antananarivo, the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is one of the most accessible and visited protected areas in the country. Covering an area of ​​60 square miles, it is divided into two distinct areas: the Analamazaotra Special Reserve, in the south, and the Mantadia National Park, in the north. Both are part of the same primary tropical forest and have dense and humid green spaces full of exotic flora and fauna.

In particular, the park is known for its 14 different species of lemurs. Of these, the most famous is the indri, the largest lemur in Madagascar. There are several accustomed families living in Andasibe-Mantadia, making it the best place on the island for a close encounter with these endangered primates.

The park is also an important hotspot for endemic bird species that depend on the Madagascar rainforest; In total, there are more than 100 different types that live in Andasibe-Mantadia. You can locate them on a series of guided walks. The easiest trails are in the Analamazaotra section of the park, while the most beautiful are in Mantadia.

2. Isalo National Park

Another of Madagascar's most popular reserves, Isalo National Park covers more than 300 square miles of land in the south-west of the country. It is famous for its picturesque sandstone landscape, which has eroded over time into a spectacular array of mineral-studded plateaus, gorges, outcrops and pinnacles. In between, rivers and streams make their way through grassland plains and dense forest patches. This diversity has made Isalo an important destination for hikers, who come to test their endurance on trails that last from a few hours to several days.

Things to see along the way range from idyllic natural pools in jewel-like jade and turquoise hues to the sacred burial sites of the native Bara. Wildlife is also abundant, including 14 species of lemurs and 81 species of birds (27 of which are endemic). In particular, Isalo National Park is known among bird watchers as one of the best places to observe the rare Benson's Thrush. Guides are mandatory and can be booked at the park office in Ranohira village.

3. Ranomafana National Park

Ranomafana National Park is one of the six tropical forests of Atsinanana, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is located about an eight hour drive southeast of Antananarivo and comprises 160 square miles of pristine mountain rainforest. Above all, Ranomafana is famous for its incredible biodiversity. It was established in 1986 after scientists discovered the golden bamboo lemur here; Now, the golden bamboo lemur is just one of 12 species of lemurs that live in the park.

Others include the endangered Milne-Edwards sifaka and the critically endangered dwarf lemur Sibree. Of the 115 species of birds in the park, 30 are narrow endemics found only in this region of Madagascar. Visitors come to the park to hike five trails ranging from half-day adventures to three-day expeditions. Along the way, watch out for the sacred lakes, waterfalls, traditional villages of Tanala, and the thermal pools that give the park its name (derived from the Malagasy expression meaning "hot water"). You can also go kayaking on the park's main river, Namorona.

4. Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park

Accessible only during the dry season from April to November, Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park is located in the remote desert of northwestern Madagascar. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it covers 580 square miles and is most famous for its two unique geological features: Great Tsingy and Little Tsingy. The word "tsingy" comes from the Malagasy word meaning "the place where you cannot walk barefoot", a fitting description for the karst plateaus made up exclusively of sharp limestone pinnacles.

The only way to cross these otherworldly landscapes is via a network of hanging aerial bridges, with several different routes to explore. In addition to the majestic landscape of the park, animals to observe include 11 species of lemurs (five of which are only found in western Madagascar), falanoucs and holes, and 96 species of birds. Several animals, such as the Antsingy Leaf Chameleon and the Tsingy Wood Trail, only exist in this national park. Canoe expeditions through the Manambolo Gorge are another highlight, stopping along the way at natural pools, Vazimba tombs, and caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites.

5. Amber Mountain National Park

Located in the far north of the country, Amber Mountain National Park is nestled on an isolated volcanic massif that rises above the arid countryside and has its own unique microclimate. While the surrounding area receives 39 inches of rain annually, Amber Mountain receives 141 inches. It is a green wonderland of dense montane rainforest cut by rivers, streams, crater lakes, and majestic waterfalls. The plant life here is particularly diverse, with more than 1,000 species of exotic vines, orchids, and ferns.

25 species of mammals also live on Amber Mountain, including eight different types of lemurs. Among them are the endangered crowned lemurs, Sandford brown and aye-aye lemurs, as well as the critically bred northern sport lemur. Reptiles and endemic birds abound, and visitors, in particular, should be on the lookout for two park specials: the Amber Mountain Leaf Chameleon (one of the smallest reptiles in the world) and the Amber Mountain Thrush. The park can be explored on 30 kilometers of marked trails, including one that leads to the top of the mountain. There are also several campsites.

6. Masoala National Park

With 888 square miles of rainforest and 38 square miles of marine parks, Masoala National Park is the largest protected area in Madagascar. Located in the northeast of the country, on the Masoala Peninsula, it is also one of the six tropical forests recognized by UNESCO in the Atsinanana parks. Due to its large size, the park incorporates an astonishing variety of different habitats, including rainforest, coastal forest, swamps, mangroves, and flourishing coral reefs.

It has exceptional biodiversity and is home to many of the peninsula's specialties. Among them is the red frilled lemur, one of the 10 species of lemurs that live in the park. Bird watchers look for the Malagasy snake eagle, a species so rare it was thought to be extinct. You can cross the park on a series of guided walks, some of which last for several days. Other activities include spotting elusive aye-aye lemurs in the Nosy Mangabe Island Reserve, snorkeling and kayaking in marine reserves, and lounging on golden beaches. From July to September, migratory humpback whales congregate in Antongil Bay.

7. Andringitra National Park

Another member of the Atsinanana tropical forests, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Andringitra National Park covers 120 square miles in southeastern Madagascar. It is dominated by the granite massif of the Andringitra mountain range, including Imarivolanitra, the second-highest peak in the country. High mountain ranges and deep valleys create a spectacular setting, while three distinct habitats - lowland rainforest, mountainous rainforest, and high-altitude vegetation - are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna.

In total, Andringitra has more than 1,000 species of plants, 100 species of birds, and more than 50 different types of mammals. Among them are 13 species of lemurs, including ring-tailed lemurs with especially thick fur. It is an adaptation that allows them to cope with the low temperatures of the mountains, which usually have snow in winter. This national park offers a series of short multi-day guided hikes, with sights to see along the way, such as unique flora and fauna and sacred waterfalls. It is possible to climb to the top of Imarivolanitra, and there are several campsites to choose from.

8. Ankarafantsika National Park

In northern Madagascar is the Ankarafantsika National Park, which protects one of the last remaining areas of rainforest on a dry island. The park spans 520 square miles on each side of the R4 highway and is home to many endemic and endangered species, including more than 800 rare species of plants and trees. Of the eight different types of lemurs found here, only Coquerel's sifaka is active during the day. For this reason, it is worth planning at least a one-night walk during your stay.

The golden-brown rat lemur is one of several species that can only be found in Ankarafantsika National Park. Of the 129 species of birds recorded, no less than 75 are endemic. There are 11 well-maintained trails, with potential points of interest ranging from giant baobab forests to the sacred sites of the Sakalava people. Don't miss Lake Ravelobe with its crocodiles and abundant birds. The endemic osprey of Madagascar is a special highlight. It is also possible to enjoy a boat trip on the lake.

We hope you enjoy watching this video about the top National Parks to Visit in Madagascar

Source: Epic Wildlife

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