“ Ankarafantsika National Park in the northwest of Madagascar is a mosaic of dense dry deciduous forest forests and wetlands, which are a haven for birdlife. Ankarafantsika is located 450 km from Antananarivo and 114 km from Mahajanga, and is bisected by RN4. Most visitors to Ankarafantsika come for the birds and Coquerel's sifaka, although Milne-Edwards lepilemur, the mongoose lemur, the western wolly lemur, the grey mouse lemur, the fat-tailed dwarf lemur, and the endemic golden-brown mouse lemur are also found in the park. The park is readily accessible (about a 2-hour drive) from Mahajanga. The Park Office is located in Ampijoroa and there are facilities for overnight stays as well as camping. Birdwatchers often hire a boat for Ravelobe Lake. „
Anarafantsika National Park
Ankarafantsika is one of the best examples of dry deciduous forest in Madagascar. We flew to Mahajanga, a port on the west coast of Madagascar where we were met by a guide and driver then we drove to the Sunny Hotel five minutes from the airport. The next day we were collected at 8 am and driven 2 hours inland along a reasonably good tarmac road to Ankarafantsika National Park next to the village of Ampijoroa where we stayed a night in the en-suite lakeside bungalow at Gite de Ampijoroa with all meals included.
This National park is particularly known for its rare endemic birds such as the Madagascar Fish eagle which we saw when we were on our boat trip on the lake. The lake is also known for its population of Nile crocodiles and there is some evidence that the Madagascar Nile crocodile might actually be a slightly different species to that found on the continent of Africa.
We did hear the local legend about the lake and saw the spot where a zebu is sacrificed every year. According to legend the King of a Sakalava tribe lost a battle to the king of the tribe from Antananarivo and rather than be made a slave he threw himself into the lake. The next day people saw a crocodile in the lake and so they believe the king was re-incarnated as a crocodile.
In the lake are about forty crocodiles now and tilapia, Nile perch and carp. There are a number of heron types as well as a pair of sea eagles which we did see the next day.
On our second day at 3pm we were taken for a walk along the road past all the village stalls and down to a small flat bottomed boat. This was a much more pleasant way of exploring the lake and we saw so much more that I really don't know why they walked us around it the previous day as we had three walks that day and two were in the heat of the day. On the boat trip was when we saw the sea eagles, the crocodiles and a number of water fowl and we also enjoyed a pleasant breeze and had a stool to sit on.
Not too far from the lodge and within the National Park you can see three trees which are the tallest Baobabs in the world. They were enormous and certainly worth a visit. On the way to the Baobabs we passed other native trees one of which was a large raffia palm native to Madagascar that fruited only once in its life, strange sort of pine cone looking fruit from the outside but orange flesh and a large seed.
Within the dry deciduous forest the most famous resident is Coquerel's sifakas which look like cuddly white teddy bears with brown fronts and arms and tops of their legs. Their heads are white and fluffy and their faces black. They are just beautiful and look at you with big round eyes and are totally irresistible. They leap from tree to tree with such speed and agility and are really quite tall when stretched out fully.
Our guide pointed out the most amazing insects that looked like a sort of tree fungus until you shook the branch then they all moved around. Each individual insect looked like a small flower. They were called flaccid Leaf bugs and I have never seen anything quite like them before, they were weird. We saw them again at night when they all clumped together into one lump on the branch and looked like a white clump of small flowers. The guide told us that they change and became butterflies at some stage later in their life cycle.
Within the lodge grounds there is a turtle and tortoise breeding program set up by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust to preserve endangered species of Madagascan turtles and tortoises. We couldn't see much from the outside but it is nice to know that something is being done to preserve these lovely creatures.
The park is also known for a great variety of bird life and while we staying there were two groups staying in the lodges looking at the birds and they all had the most enormous cameras and lenses they carted around with them. We were very lucky at we saw a number of the Vanga species including Vam Dam's Vanga, the Blue Vanga and another that I forget now. Our guide told us that the birdwatchers would be very jealous at the one we saw was number one on the list of ' Top Ten birds to see'.
Our final walk was a night walk along the edge of the forested area and we saw a number of mouse lemurs, the Golden and the Grey mouse lemur as well as a Sportive Lemur all of which are nocturnal. The night sky was so clear that the stars were really beautiful. I am sure we could see the whole Milky Way. This walk was about an hour and a half and so we felt we had earned our beer that evening.
This was another very special place with regard to animals that can only be seen in this one area. It was certainly worth the rather uncomfortable night in the hot and mosquito ridden lodge and the poor food to experience these fabulous animals.
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