The country’s largest national park
Madagascar's largest national park, where lowland rainforest still extends right down to the sea.
Part of the Atsinanana Rainforests and one of the country's three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Masoala National Park is Madagascar’s largest remaining lowland rainforest and also the country’s largest national park, covering 230,000ha. The nearest town, Maroantsetra, is currently only reliably accessible by chartered flights. Rough terrain and a rainy climate (up to 6000mm/236in per annum) means the Masoala Peninsula is sparsely inhabited and lacks roads. The park should be visited from late August to late December to enjoy the best weather.
In the deep, blue Antongil Bay, 5km from Maroantsetra, the rainforest-clad uninhabited island of Nosy Mangabe has been designated as a place for lemur conservation. A Nosy Mangabe tour combines well with Masoala National Park, although slopes on the island are steep and slippery after rain. Boats land at a small beach and if permitted, fully equipped camping for a night is recommended, although day excursions are rewarding too. Vociferous black-and-white ruffed and white-fronted lemurs are common, as are fringed geckos and aye ayes. Other wildlife includes a whole host of chameleons and frogs, such as the elegant little climbing (green-backed) mantella.
One of Madagascar’s lesser-known but particularly stunning postcard images is created by the lowland rainforests of Masoala meeting the blue waters of Antongil Bay. The mountain chains are often covered in a cloud mantle and clear rivers and streams run into the bay. Lohatrozona and Tampolo, down the west side of the peninsula, are accessible by boat in the mornings. Activities on a tailor made Masoala holiday include sea kayaking, snorkelling, boat trips and visits to a Betsimisaraka village. Seasonally, humpback whales might be seen in Antongil Bay, along with dolphins, porpoises, shoals of game fish and iridescent flying fish. Guided rainforest walks are popular too, and take place during both day and night, although it should be noted that many trails have some rather steep slopes to negotiate. The peninsula’s flagship mammal is the endangered red-ruffed lemur. Other common wildlife includes lowland streaked tenrecs, tomato frogs and sought-after birds like red-breasted coua, scaly ground-roller and helmet vanga.
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