Ankarafantsika National Park
Ankarafantsika National Park was formerly known as Ampijoroa Forest Station. This is one of the largest and last remaining sections of dense dry deciduous forest in Madagascar, filled with critically endangered and endemic species.
Ankarafantsika National Park lies about 450km North from Tana and 110 km South from Mahajanga covering a surface of almost 1,350 km², and it is bisected by the R4 highway. It became National Park in 2002, when the two sections separated by the main road were finally joined.
The vegetation consists mainly of relatively low and scrubby deciduous forest with savannah areas and gallery forest around the Ravelobe Lake. The main ethnic group is the Sakavala, which are mainly zebu holders and farmers.
Flora and Fauna at Ankarafantsika National Park
Ankarafantsika is the last refuge of several lemur and bird species, which makes the conservation of the Park so important. The area is home to eight lemur species: a night walk is usually exciting and rewarding.
On your Madagascar safari, one may find Milne-Edwards sportive lemur, mongoose lemur, western wolly lemur, grey mouse lemur, fat-tailed dwarf lemur, and it is the only place where the golden-brown mouse lemur occurs. During the day Coquerel's sifaka are commonly seen.
Ankarafantsika National Park is also one of Madagascar's finest birdwatching destinations with 129 species (75 are endemic). Theyy include the banded krestel, Rufous vanga, Van Dam´s vanga, Madagascar fish eagle.
10 frogs and 45 reptiles are found here, like Oustalett's, dwarf, horned and Rhinoceros chameleons, several vulnerable snakes, the extremely rare Madagascar big-headed turtle and even crocodiles around the lake.
The flora in Ankarafantsika National Park is rich as well. More than 800 species grow in Ankarafantsika, with a high rate of endemism.
Some significant species are the Cedrelopsis grevei, an odorous medicinal tree used, baobabs, palisander, wild vanilla, retendrika, crocodile tree, lohavato or the sakoanala tree, all of them endemic.
Interpretative panels in the well arranged botanical garden help visitors on Madagscar tour deepen their knowledge about the local flora.
Where and When to Go to Ankarafantsika National Park
Ankarafantsika National Park is an all year round pack and the best time to go to Madagascar and visit is throughout the year.
Ankarafantsika National Park lies along the R4 highway connecting Tana and Mahajamga (Majunga). The road is in good condition, so the journey takes only about 2 hours from Majunga (it is possible to visit the park as a day trip, but so you miss the rewarding night walk through the Park).
If you are on Madagascar tour and coming from Tana you will need one whole day. Ask the driver to drop you out at the village of Ampijoroa, where the park entrance is.
During the dry season (April to November) it can be really hot here, so do not forget to bring a hat and warm clothes.
Tourism Trails in Ankarafantsika National Park
There are 11 very good maintained trails, which will enable visitors on Madagascar trip to Ankarafantsika National Park to obtain a deep glimpse into the park’s ecosystems. The fees are 15,000 Ar for the short ones and 25,000 for the longer circuits.
The Coquereli circuit (2 hours)
This is an easy trail which allow the visitors to discover some of the most representative lemurs (specially the Coquerel´s sifaka), birds and reptiles. Another easy path begins at the Ravelobe Lake and leads you to some terrific baobabs Andasonia madagascariensis.
The Retendrika circuit (2 hours)
This is ideal for birders and botanists. Visitors can observe many different medicinal plants, flowers and the birds feeding on them. It is the most rewarding circuits in terms of wildlife are probably the Source of Life and the Ankarokarota.
In the first one you will spot waterbirds around the lake as well as lemurs and reptiles. Besides you will get a glimpse into the daily life of the Sakavala communities and visit a pair of sacred places used in religious rituals by the Sakavala people. It takes around 3 hours.
The Ankarokaroka trail (4 hours)
The trail leads you through the savanna where you can find many animals until a big hole (lavaka) caused by erosion surrounded by a strange colourful rocky landscape with astonishing views over the forest.
Some boats are also available on the Ravelobe Lake for a pleasant boat ride. Apart from enjoying the beautiful scenery, you may spot crocodiles and a lot of warer birds, such as fish eagles, heron or ibises. The prices depend of the number of people on boat (from 50,000 Ar for two up to 80,000 for 8 people).
Accommodation in Ankarafantsika National Park
The park management offers ten roofed tent sites and five guest rooms with electricity and shared toilets/showers. Further tent sites are available at a camping site in Ambodimanga, a village in walking distance to the park entrance.
There is also a restaurant at the park entrance where you can have breakfast and eat à la carte. Lately they also finished a number of small more comfortable bungalows with private facilities close to the lake Ravelobe (the place is called Gite D'Ampijoroa).
The Park Office is located in Ampijoroa, just on the R4. They have more than enough information about the wildlife and the traditions in this area. There is a cute gift shop as well.