Ankarana National Park
Ankarana National Park was created in 1956 and lies about 90 km south of Antsiranana covering an area of 182,5 km². It is a spectacularly eroded limestone fortress of sharp ridges, patches of dense tropical jungle, deciduous forest, deep caves and canyons (actually the biggest underground network of Africa) and rushing rivers.
With an annual rainfall of almost 2000 mm, the underlying rocks undergo a heavy erosion producing an amazing karst topography, being its most known result the fantastically eroded limestone spires, known as “tsingy”.
The Park is in fact one of the most visited especially among hikers as it offers incredible trails, unique and terrific landscapes and a lot of animals!
Biodiversity in Ankarana National Park
Ankarana National Park contains one of the highest density of primates of any forest in the world. Its dense forests support one of the largest and least disturbed populations of crowned lemurs.
Sanford's brown lemur, perrier's black lemur, northern sportive lemur and dwarf lemurs, ringtailed mongoose, fossa, tenrecs and Madagascar striped civet are also a common sight.
Almost 100 bird species, 50 reptiles (including some endemic and threatened snakes and geckos) and 10 frogs cohabit in the Park.
Inside the spectacular and huge labyrinth of caves 14 bat species, local endemic blind shrimps and the world's only known cave-living crocodiles are waiting for your visit on Madagascar safari tour.
At night, swarms of bats and flying foxes swoop in the darkness.
More than 350 plant species grow in Ankarana. The luxuriant forests around the gorge are always green and are the richest ones in number of species. Some significant species are the "vazaha tree", pandanus, ficuses ad the endemic baobab Adansonia madagascarensis.
Human Activities around Ankarana National Park
The Antakarana is the main ethnic group who lives in this region. They subsist on growing vegetables, chicken and cattle and apiculture. Although they still practice slash and burn agriculture, the biggest threat for Ankarana is the rapidly increasing sapphire mining and the illegal cut of precious woods.
Ankarana is one of Madagascar's most rewarding hiking destinations. The trails lead to awesome viewpoints on ridges above hundreds of limestone needles.
Getting into the centre of the park requires a guide and coping with high temperatures (up to 37° in March and April) and an unpleasant high number of scorpions.
The best time to visit Madagascar and go to Ankarana ational park is during the dry season, from April to November.
Visitors on Madagascar tour need to bring in all of their food and equipment.
Tourism Circuits in Ankarana National Park
The classic 6-hours circuit from Mahamasina includes the visit of perte de riviere, the Chauvessouris cavel, petit Tsingy, the Ambahibe cave and the panoramic point of Ambohimalaza. Including the Lac verd and Grand Tsingy will involve a more strenous trekking, which is however extraordinarily rewarding.
From Matsaborimanga several half-day trails of average difficulty will include the cages of Milainteny and Andrafiabe, the "Cathedral", the Lac vert and the grand Tsingy.
In Amboandriky the cave of the crocodiles and Lac Mangily are the main interesting points.
A three day tour will combine the Matsaborimanga with either the Mahamasina or the Amboandriky circuit.
How to Get to Ankarana National Park
If you are travelling with public transport the taxi-brousses making the route Ambilove to Diego can drop you out at the entry of the park. The taxi-brousse service from Ambilobe to Ambatoharanana passes by the Western entrace of the park.
If you are on a tight budget you can try this option and camp on two of the campsites of the park while crossing the whole park from West to South. This option will enable you to visit of most important sights of the park on your way to the exit point at Mahamasina.
Most visitors book the whole trip through a local travel agency in Diego. This is by far the easiest and most comfortable way to visit Ankarana.
Entry into the Ankarana National Park
There are three different entry points to the park. The most accessible one is located at the town of Mahamasina on the RN 6 road coming from Ambilobe.
Another entry point is located on the West, near the town of Amboandriky, which requires however a 4x4 vehicle. The last one is located on the North at Matsaborimanga, but the track is really unpassable during the rainy season.
Accommodation in Ankarana National Park
The park maintains four camping sites near all three entries. If camping is too rough for you, you can stay overnight at one of the basic bungalows at Mahamasina.
Chez Aurelien is a roof over your head for Ar 10,000 for two. Chez Goulam is another basic set of bungalows inside the park with shared faciltiles for also 10,000 Ar.
7 km before reaching Ambilobe at a place called Isesy there is a place called Tsingy Relais (also known as Chez Robert, phone: 261 20 82 065 65), which offers simple bungalows at 20 € / night with half board.
The most comfortable options are:
Relais de L´Ankarana - This brand new hotel is located in the village of Mahamasina and offers 6 large and welcoming bungalows with private facilities, electricity and hot water for 32 € for two people. The restaurant serves international and local meals.
Tsingy Lodge - This ecolodge lies in the middle of the wild nature about 1 km from the Park entrance. There are high standard tents for 29 € and rooms from 35 to 49 €, depending on the facilities.
The entry fees cost Ar 25,000 for one day and Ar 37,000 for two days. The guide tariffs will depend on the circuit chosen. A guide fee for a three-day-circuit is about Ar 40,000 for a group of one to six persons.