Wednesday, 7 February 2018

MADAGASCAR: Ranomafana National Park, Worth A Visit

Ranomafana National Park is in the southeastern part of Madagascar in Haute Matsiatra and Vatovavy-Fitovinany.

With more than 41,600 hectares (161 square miles) of tropical rainforest, it is home to several rare species of flora and fauna including the golden bamboo lemur, the greater bamboo lemur, black and white ruffed lemur and Milne-Edwards sifaka, and over 130 species of frogs.

Ranomfana derives its name from thermal springs, which continiously pour warm water which in Malgasy means rano mafana, flow down the mountain into the valley.

With narrowly 410 km², Ranomfana is Madagascar’s third biggest national parks and houses an abundance of endemic occuring only here, animals and plants.

It was declared UNESCO nature heritage in 2007. Ranomafana offers several different hiking trips as almost every national park does.

From simple three-hours-journey up to a 3-day-excursion, every wanderer and nature lover should find its way. You should bring non-slip shoes with you.

Paths are nice to walk, but always wet and since Ranomafana lays inside a valley, you will have a lot of steps to go.

The tribe of Tanala or those, who live inside the forest has its home in this region, but prefers to live rather quiet life. They are considered to be the protectors of the forest and its plants.

Climate in Ranomafana is tropically humid according to a rainforest, naturally. The altitude of ca. 1000 meters lets temperature drop down at night often to sensitively cool grades.

From december until May, it’s rainy season up here. This is the most active time for reptiles and amphibians, but it will rain here throughout the whole year.

Only few people succeed in a walk without rain shower over here, so it is a good idea to bring waterproof shoes and clothes for your visit.

Due to the humid climate, most travelers do not think about camping in Ranomafana as very comfortable and convenient, the campground lays directly in the park, but is equipped a little rustic water taps, toilets, and no electricity.

Around the national park, you will find some nice hotels, which are quickly booked out during high season which is end of July until beginning of september.

You therefore should reserve your hotel or lodge a long time before going there. The village next to the national park has some kind of swimming pool, where you can also get massages.

Alternatively, one can relax inside the warm springs which feed the pool. The park office is located few kilometres outside the village of Ranomafana, directly at the street.

This is where you pay entry fees and get your local guide.

Pitta like ground rollers, blue vangas, short-legged ground rollers and brown mesites can be seen.

The park was established in 1991 with the purpose of conserving the unique biodiversity of the local ecosystem and reducing the human pressures on the protected area.

It is part of the World Heritage Site Rainforests of the Atsinanana. Adjacent to the park is the Centre ValBio research station, established in 2003.

Ranomfana national parks lays right between the regions Haute Matsiatra and Vatovavy-Fitovinany, about 420 km south-eastern of the capital Antananarivo.

You need about one and a half days to travel from Madagascar’s capital on RN7 to Ranomafana, which could be combined with a worthwhile stopover in Ambositra city.

Without a break, driving to this national park by car takes about 10 hours depeding on up to date road condition mostly well drivable.

Short before Alakamisy Ambohimaha, you follow the signs and turn to the left on RN45. This road is also asphalted and well to drive, but like all streets in the highlands quite curvy.

The next bigger city to Ranomafana is Fianarantsoa, which is located some hours south of the national park.

The park is managed by Stony Brook University with a focus on biodiversity research, community health and education, environmental arts and reforestation.

The park is 65 km northeast of Fianarantsoa and 139 km west of Mananjary in the regions of Haute Matsiatra and Vatovavy-Fitovinany.

National Roads nos. 45 and 25 cross the park.

The park office is at the entrance in the village of Ambodiamontana, at 6,5 km from Ranomafana.

The park is an important example of cloud forest, with very high levels of biodiversity.

With around 110 bird species, 90 amphibians and above 60 reptile species, this forests offers plenty of opportunities to discover fauna and flora.

Ranomafana is home to the rare golden bamboo lemur (Hapalemur aureus), who can be watched with its family quite well inside the park.

The brown and white Edward’s sifaka (Propithecus edwardsi) nourishes his offspring in the forest’s treetops, too.

More lemurs you can see inside this rainforest are amongst many others the greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus) and his smaller relative, the eastern lesser bamboo lemur (Hapalemur griseus).

Ranomafana is a hotspot especially for reptile lovers. Numerous amazing and rare chameleon species can be found here, among them Furcifer balteatus, Calumma oshaughnessyi, Calumma glawi, Calumma parsonii parsonii, Calumma crypticum with its blue legs or the small pygmy chameleon Palleon nasus.

If you have an eye for geckos, do not miss the bizarre leaf-tailed gecko Uroplatus phantasticus, which is well camouflaged in the foliage.

Frog friends will also find their personal paradise here. Only few locations offer opportunities for so many frog sightings in the foliage, in old bamboo trunks or on trees.

The number of insect species is enormously huge, especially butterflies can be seen and admired, as well as the unique giraffe necked weevil(Trachelophorus giraffae).

The nocturnal comet moth (Argema mittrei), one of the biggest butterflies of the Earth, can be comonly met in Ranomafana and sometimes even flies near the hotels.

The forests are interspersed with tree ferns and lichens and offer mostly in november blooming orchids.

These fantastic rainforests gives you a maximum of endemism, and every year new plant and animal species are discovered.

There are a number of lemur species, including:

- Peyrieras' woolly lemur, Avahi peyrierasi

- Aye-aye, Daubentonia madagascariensis

- Crossley's dwarf lemur, Cheirogaleus crossleyi

- Sibree's dwarf lemur, Cheirogaleus sibreei

- Greater bamboo lemur, Prolemur simus

- Golden bamboo lemur, Hapalemur aureus

- Ranomafana grey bamboo lemur, Hapalemur griseus ranomafanensis

- Red-bellied lemur, Eulemur rubriventer

- Red-fronted brown lemur, Eulemur rufifrons

- Small-toothed sportive lemur, Lepilemur microdon.

- Southern black and white ruffed lemur, Varecia variegata editorum

- Red mouse lemur, Microcebus rufus

- Milne-Edwards' sifaka Propithecus edwardsi

A local guide is required for visitors entering the park. Guides can be arranged at the park office. A typical excursion would include viewing several species of lemur, gecko, chameleons, and bird species.

Typically, tourists exploring the Talatakely forest. Talatakely does have well defined paths and stairs, however, sturdy shoes should be worn as the path can be slippery, especially when wet.

If there are special interests, such as birding, specialists can be arranged through Centre ValBio for excursions. Guided tours are not available at nighttime.

Walking along side the road and looking for eye shine in the adjacent can typically allow tourists the chance to see mouse lemurs.

Kayaking or canoeing can be arranged and a hot springs pool is located in Ranomafana.

The flora and fauna of Ranomafana have been subject to extensive scientific research. Scientific publications have been published.

There are four main sites for scientific research. Talatakely is located within walking distance of the research station, Centre ValBio, and is also accessible to tourists off of Route 25.

Talatakely is where the original research camp was located and is one of the only locations in the park where Prolemur simus can be seen.

The three remaining research sites maintain bush camp facilities and are Vatoharanana, Valohoaka, and Mangevo. In addition to these main sites, research has been conducted throughout the park.

There is a lodge and an ecolodge of a private touristic operator at the entrance of the national park. There are also several hotels in Ranomafana village available for lodging.

Additionally, it is possible to camp at the campsite near the main road through the park or to find lodging at Centre Val Bio, where most of the scientific research is based from.

Tourism Observer

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