Ranomafana National Park

An abundance of biodiversity in an enchanting setting


Ranomafana National Park, Fianarantsoa II, Madagascar

GPS: -21.263386194134, 47.419966457407

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Located in the south-east of Madagascar, about sixty kilometres from the town of Fianarantsoa, Ranomafana National Park opened in 1991 to protect the exceptional biodiversity of its ecosystem. This includes rare species of fauna and flora, such as the Golden Bamboo Lemur, an endemic variety first discovered in 1986. The largest protected area in the country, Ranomafana National Park plays an important role in the preservation of animals and plants that have lived in isolation on the archipelago since the island of Madagascar separated from the African continent over 60 million years ago.

Meaning “hot water” in Malagasy, Ranomafana National Park benefits from a particularly high level of humidity as it rains more than 300 days per year. It straddles two Malagasy regions (Haute Matsiatra and Fitovinany) on a high plateau that can reach 1,500 metres in altitude. Covering more than 400 kilometres, the park has several types of mountain forests (low and medium altitude tropical forests) fed by an almost permanent mist. The existence of waterfalls and streams favour the coexistence of a variety of wildlife. It is therefore not surprising that Ranomafana National Park is the subject of scientific research and published articles in scientific journals. New categories of lemurs are regularly identified in the more remote parts of the park. Its rainforests are the delight of ornithologists and entomologists who come to study or add to the hundred or so varieties of birds and butterflies already listed in the region.

With its humid and mountainous environment, Ranomafana National Park is home to a very wide range of fauna, including many endemic species (the rate of endemism is nearly 90% for certain groups of animals and plants). This is one of the most enchanting natural sites in Madagascar despite the overexploitation of its tree and forest resources which are threatened with extinction. Various walking or hiking trails can be explored independently or with a guide to discover the park’s wonderful natural heritage.

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  • The abundant fauna (lemurs, reptiles, primates, birds, amphibians, insects, chameleons, butterflies, spiders, crustaceans, fish, bats…) and the high proportion of endemic species
  • The lush vegetation (primary and secondary tropical forests, coniferous forests, mountain forests, rare botanical species, orchids, bamboo, swamps…); the presence of carnivorous plants and medicinal plants
  • The waterfalls of the Namorona River
  • The thermal baths and hot water pools of Ranomafana (closed on Tuesdays)
  • The Varibolomena, Vohiparara and Varikatsy day hikes
  • The Talatakely, Amboditanimena, Sahamalaotra, Soarano-Valohoaka and Vatoharanana tours that take one or more days
  • The Valbio Biological Research Centre (in charge of the study and protection of the park’s fauna and flora)
  • The Betsileo memorial (named after a local tribe); visits to traditional Tanala villages
  • The Ambalavao zebu market on Wednesdays (one of the most important in the archipelago); the discovery of the manufacture of Antemoro (or Antaimoro) paper in Ambalavao designed by hand from fibres and avoha bark
  • The Madagascar archipelago contains half of the world’s chameleon population (including one third of the estimated 200 species found on the planet) and 90% of the lemur species.
  • In addition to endemic lemur populations, Ranomafana National Park is home to hundreds of species of frogs, insects, birds and amphibians. It is one of the most important biodiversity areas in the world.
  • Since 2007, this park, as well as five other protected areas in the country, have been part of the World Heritage of the Atsinanana Rainforests. This natural site, covering almost 5,000 km², is home to ancient primary forests in the eastern part of the island of Madagascar.
  • Together with the small primates of the Philippine Tarsiers and the African Galagos, lemurs represent the last remaining groups of prosimians on the planet. These species are higher up the evolutionary chain than the ape.
  • Madagascar’s lemurs are made up of more than a hundred different species, varying in size and colour, and divided into five major family groups. The Maki catta is the most widespread lemur species (it feeds on leaves and fruits) while the microcebe is one of the smallest (this nocturnal variety weighs about 50 grams and is no longer than 12 cm without the tail). The reduction of forest habitats, poaching, tavy (slash and burn agriculture) and charcoal production are the main threats to the survival of lemurs.
  • Only 12% of the primary forest remains on the archipelago, which has lost almost half of its trees and forest cover in the last 60 years. In the short term, forest fires and illegal logging are having an even greater adverse effect than global warming – 95% of Madagascar’s lemurs are threatened with extinction. They are the most vulnerable mammals in the world, with only 400 golden bamboo lemurs living in the wild.
  • The entrance and information office of Ranomafana National Park is in Ambodiamontana, about six kilometres from the town of Ranomafana.
  • The best time to explore is between May and October, accompanied by a local guide (bring spiked boots and a mackintosh for the muddy trails).
  • Night hiking is now prohibited in the park (walking along National Road 45 may be a good alternative for observing lemurs and chameleons at night).
  • Don’t forget to bring mosquito, insect and leech repellent.

Where to eat

  • La Surprise Betsileo
    (picturesque establishment)
  • Le Relais de la Reine
    (idyllic setting)
  • Hotel School La Rizière
    (elegant cuisine)

Where to go

  • Andringitra National Park
    (beautiful mountainous area)
  • Tsaranoro Valley
    (For climbing enthusiasts)
  • Anja Community Reserve
    (Lemur reserve)

Where to stay

  • Mandrosoa
    (Dormitory accommodation)
  • La Case Madrigal
    (Spacious guest house)
  • Villa Sylvestre
    (Charming residence)