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Ranomafana National Park is the third largest park in southeastern Madagascar occupying over 160 square miles (415 square kilometers) of the montane rainforest. One of the most accessible, this park is admired for its astonishing array of rare flora and fauna by the visitors who come from far and wide. The park includes no fewer than 12 lemur species. In 1986, one of these endemic primates (the golden bamboo lemur), was discovered that led to the park’s establishment five years later.
The park continues to be at the forefront of scientific research even today and is the home of the cutting edge Centre ValBio. Ranomafana National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most popular stops on any Madagascan itinerary. The Park includes thermal springs on its long list of natural wonders which is why it is named after the Malagasy phrase meaning“hot water,”.
Location: East Madagascar
Nearest Airport: Ivato Airport in Antananarivo
How to reach: 8 hours drive from Ivato airport
Famous for: Lemurs,
Best time to visit: April to December
12 lemur species, including golden bamboo lemur, eastern grey bamboo lemur, greater bamboo lemur, eastern woolly lemur, red bellied lemur, red-fronted brown lemur
About 115 bird species catalogued, 30 are local endemic. Key are threatened crested ibis, Henst’s goshawk, velvet asity
Apart from that, the immense wildlife is completed by 62 species of reptiles, 98 frogs,90 butterflies, 350 spiders etc
The 12 of Madagascar’s iconic lemur species such as the red-bellied lemur, red-fronted brown lemur, eastern woolly lemur,etc in the wild is one of the biggest reasons to visit the park for most of the visitors. The endangered species like the aye-aye and the Milne-Edwards’ sifaka are the possible sightings along with critically endangered species like the Sibree’s dwarf lemur and the golden bamboo lemur. The greater bamboo lemur, one of Ranomafana’s rarest residents was believed to be extinct until the scientists discovered a remnant population living in the park in 1986. Seven different kinds of endemic tenrec and small carnivores such as the Malagasy striped civet are among the other mammals that can be spotted here.
Ranomafana National Park is also one of the most rewarding destinations for bird enthusiasts on the island. Home to at least 115 avian species including 30 that are only found in this region of Madagascar, one can look out for special birds here ranging from raptors like the Henst’s goshawk and the Madagascar long-eared owl to smaller birds like the rufous-headed ground-roller and the velvet asity. This park has a lot to offer for the herpetologists as well with 90 amphibian and 60 reptile species including an astonishing variety of colorful frogs and Chameleons. The beautiful orchids, exotic carnivorous plants, and many more of Ranomafana’s flora are worth getting excited about too.
If one wants to explore this magnificent park, it offers 5 different circuits. Although the shortest treks are the most popular ones, they can get quite crowded especially during the high season. To explore the park in its truest form, the longer treks would be the best option as they are much quieter and more rewarding from a wildlife watching point of view:
Varibolomena circuit: Pass by a beautiful waterfall on this 4-hour trek that gives a good chance to spot bamboo lemurs in the secondary forest. One can also go on this trail by night to discover reptiles and frogs.
Saham Alaotra circuit: A 10 km trek that takes one through the forest and is best to catch sight of lemurs and birds.
Voi Parara circuit: This one is a 2 days trek across the National Park (20 km up and down) where one will discover a sacred lake and can spot lemurs, birds, and other animals.
Varijatsy circuit: This trek is the best for the visitors who want to have a moment of their own amidst the forest as it takes you through a natural pool where you can take a bath. It is a 1 or 2 days trek (15 km of a rough path) across the primary forest where one will pass by a waterfall looking for lemurs and birds.
Soarano circuit: The longest of all treks, this 2 or 3 days hard trek(at least 20 km) takes the visitors through the primary forest to uncover interesting plants, sight lemurs, and other animals. This trek offers an add on which includes a cultural visit to a pair of traditional tanala villages set in the middle of the forest.
Other Must-do Activities
Ranomafana National Park offers so much to its visitors who can carry their swimsuits and escape the humidity with a dip in one of the park’s thermal pools or streams. It is a haven for birding, herpetology, botany, and nature photography which the visitors will enjoy inside the park. The night walk offered by the park’s official guides is one activity that should not be missed at any cost. The walks take place on one of the park roads where the guide will use a flashlight to scan the surrounding trees for mouse lemurs, chameleons, and other nocturnal creatures.