Unbelievably rich and biodiverse, so much of Madagascar’s wildlife is unique to the island. This is due to the island’s geographical history, breaking away from its nearest neighbour over 160 million years ago, allowing both flora and fauna to evolve in isolation. Madagascar lays claim to all of the planet’s lemur species and they are undeniably a huge attraction for visitors. From the mysterious, some might say downright ugly, aye-aye to the comical dancing Verreaux’s sifaka (we dare you not to smile). Lemurs aside, chameleons are another popular inhabitant and Madagascar has roughly half of the world’s species, including Brookesia micra, about the size of your fingernail. That’s just scratching the surface, there’s so much more to see.
- Andasibe-Mantadia National Park: Just 3 hours from Tana along the main RN7 lies this montane rainforest reserve. With no fewer than 11 lemurs species including the largest, the indri. With two habituated groups, this is the place to see them. Other species include sifakas, grey bamboo lemurs, woolly lemurs and mouse lemurs. Frogs and reptiles are also well represented here, with the large Parson’s chameleon likely to be spotted.
- Analamazaotra Reserve: Whilst this reserve is part of Andasibe-Mantadia it is visited separately. Morning or late afternoons are the best times to visit, this is when you’ll hear the haunting cry of the indri. You may also see red-fronted and black-ruffed lemurs too!
- Berenty Reserve: With a varied habitat including spiny forest, canopy forest and open scrubland, Berenty is home to six species of lemur with excellent chances of seeing both ring-tailed and Verreaux’s sifaka. You’ll find an abundance of fruit bats, over 100 species of birds and both radiated and spider tortoises. Berenty has been a base for scientific lemur research for over 40 years. Night walks provide an opportunity to seek out nocturnal species.
- Isalo: One of Madagascar’s most popular parks. Superb birding, amazing amphibians and lemurs abound. The red frog is only found in Isalo and of the lemurs, seven of the nocturnal species are unique to the park. Birders will not be disappointed with nearly 80 species recorded. Add to this the dramatic scenery of canyons, waterfalls and beautiful rock formations and it’s easy to see why this is a sought after location.
- Ranomafana: A picturesque rainforest. It is easily accessible and offers an opportunity to see the critically endangered bamboo lemur. The biodiversity supports a remarkable range of wildlife which includes 12 lemur species, over 115 bird species and almost 100 species a frog. Amongst these you will find the satanic leaf-tailed gecko, striped civet and around 90 species of butterfly.
- Masoala: For many the fascinating looks and folklore surrounding the rarely seen aye-aye put it firmly on the list of many visitors. One of the places to try to spot them is Nosy Mangabe, a small densely forested island off the Masoala peninsula. If you miss them, there are still plenty of other lemur species to look out for including the black and white ruffed lemur. Every August humpback whales frequent the area and dolphins and dugongs can also be spotted.
- Kirindy: This is one of the last remaining areas of deciduous dry forest provides a haven for a diverse collection of wildlife. Amongst the usual suspects, the lemurs, it’s also home to greater and lesser flamingo and the Malagasy kingfisher, plus another 100 different species of bird. Madagascar’s largest predator lives here too, the endangered Fossa and this is the only place on the entire planet that you’ll find the Malagasy giant jumping rat living in the wild!
- Palmarium Reserve: Also known as Ankanin’ny Nofy is spread across 50 hectares of land on the East coast of Madagascar. This is a good place to look for indris, aye-ayes and black and white ruffed lemurs. They are all found here and are quite used to visitors and, as such, are usually less skittish.
- Anja Community Reserve: Ring-tailed lemurs are the undisputed stars of this reserve. A guided walk is the best way to see them. They live here alongside chameleons, lizards and a host of other interesting flora and fauna. If you’re lucky you may even happen upon a streaked tenrec, these spiny little creatures are active both day and night.
- Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park: Another superb example of dry deciduous forest for you to explore on foot. Look out for lemurs in the trees, and keep an eye out for geckos endemic birds such as Appert’s greenbul. Of the eight species of lemur in this park, you are most likely to see the ring-tailed lemur, Verreaux’s sifaka and the red-fronted lemur. The others are all nocturnal.