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Stunning Views Across Ranomafana National Park In Madagascar

Madagascar: Ranomafana National Park

Being the third largest national park in Madagascar, Ranomafana is home to a wealth of endemic plants and animal species. Declared as a UNESCO world heritage site, this national park boasts of twelve lemur species and other mammal species.

It was an early start as the best time to see the lemurs is before the day gets too hot, so after a quick cup of coffee we headed down the street to the entrance of the Ranomafana National Park. Already groups had started to gather being their treks into the forest. This was not like visiting the Masai Mara or Serengeti, the numbers of people who come here are small, so once you are in the jungle you don’t bump into many people. We had two guides for our Ranomafana adventure, one who would stay with us whilst the other would be going ahead of us to find the lemurs.

Ranomafana is located in southeastern Madagascar and is one of the premier lemur-watching sites in the country. It also has one of Madagascar’s most sophisticated research stations. Built in 1991 and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this park spans 161 square miles of dense forests. This park is most known for being the location in which Dr Patricia Wright discovered the Golden Bamboo Lemur. In total, there are 12 species to be found here including the golden bamboo, aye-aye, Milne-Edward’s sifaka and the greater bamboo.

The first section of the trail was downhill along a wide, gravel trail and across a solid-looking bridge the Ranomafana River.

The bridge across the Ranomafana River in the Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar
The Ranomafana River runs througj the Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar

From here the trails got more rugged with a lot more rocks and tree roots along the way. It also got a lot steeper.

When we trekked mountain gorillas in Uganda, we had been accompanied by experienced guides who set out in the mornings before the tourists arrived to find where the families of gorillas were in the dense rainforest. When they found them, they would work with a guide travelling with the groups to help them to the gorillas’ location. They would also help the tourist when they arrived by hacking a trail through the virgin undergrowth with machetes.

It was a similar arrangement here in Ranomafana, where our had gone on ahead to find the lemur. So, after about 20 minutes of uphill slog along the trails, our guide got a call and off we went. Soon, we were heading off-trail into the forest. The mountainside was steep so keeping your footing was challenging so it was a matter of gripping onto what was ever at hand – which can be a bit risky in the jungle. It was slippery underfoot, not helped by the tree roots and liana vines trailing across the ground. Hard work it was – but fun! It was helpful to have our guides with us to help us through the most difficult sections.

The rainforest in Ranomafana National Park is incredibly dense and hard to penetrate
A large snail sitting on the trail in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar

Eventually, we arrived at a spot where there was a grey bamboo lemur, also known as the eastern lesser bamboo lemur, hiding in a tree. Whereas spotting gorillas was easy, lemurs are not so easy to see in the dense foliage of the rainforest. But with a bit of manoeuvring that would have befitted a gymnast, we got ourselves into a position to get a good sighting of the lemur. Getting a photograph was almost impossible.

This required us to do more bushwhacking and make our way through the jungle. This time we got to see a greater bamboo lemur, the largest of the bamboo lemurs at 2.5kg (5lbs). It is about the size of a ring-tailed lemur. But even its large size didn’t help us see it easily with its dark colouring with the rainforest as a background.

We rejoined the main trail and continued of journey uphill, finally reaching a viewpoint which looked through an opening in the canopy across the rainforest to the valley below. Spectacular! It was also a chance to take a break before beginning our descent.

Stunning views across Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar
The Ranomafana River running through the national park of the same name

On the way back we followed the main trail. Harry got another call from Andry saying there was a family of lemurs ahead. These turned out to be Milne-Edward’s sifaka, one of the largest of all lemurs. The average weight of a male is 5.9kg (around 13 pounds). They typically have a black body with a white saddle, which together with their size makes it easier to see them in the canopy. The sifaka are very acrobatic and active. The other lemurs we had seen were just hanging around in trees, these sifaka were leaping around the trees, making huge jumps from branch to branch.

We were happy with what we have seen but it was time to head back to the park entrance.

A family Milne-Edwards sifakas playing in the canopy at Ranomafana National Park

About Ranomafana National Park

Built in 1991 and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this park spans 161 square miles of dense forests. This park is most known for being the location in which Dr Patricia Wright discovered the Golden Bamboo Lemur. In total, there are 12 species to be found.

While most visitors come for the Lemurs, you’ll also see over 130 species of frogs, 30 species of birds, 8 species of bats, and 7 species of tenrecs, among others.

Expect to see native birds such as the Crested Ibis, Mesites, Velvet Asitys, Rufous-Headed Ground Rollers, and Henst’s Goshawks. Reptiles also freely roam Ranomafana park; 62 species include Snakes, Leaf-Tailed Geckos, and Chameleons.

As the park is largely a forest, you’ll see many types of fauna and flora, many used by the local Tantala and Betsileo as medicine. In addition to the plants and animals, a hike takes you by and over many streams, which feed into the Namorana River.

There are 7 different trails on which you can explore the park, but we’ll highlight the 5 most popular. if you have time, we suggest the multi-day hikes, as they are less crowded; the dry season is short (as we stated above), so the day hikes tend to be fairly crowded.

Best time to visit Madagascar

Current Weather Forecasts

Antananarivo
Sunday
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76°
few clouds
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Clouds20%
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Humidity38%
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Wind14mph
Mon
Min51°
Max80°
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Toliara
Sunday
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83°
clear sky
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Humidity56%
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Wind11mph
Mon
Min71°
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Thu
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Morondava
Sunday
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82°
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Clouds51%
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Humidity66%
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Wind13mph
Mon
Min74°
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The best time to visit Madagascar depends on what you want to do and see. The country is green and fresh after the rain that falls between January and March, with lemurs and reptiles active and easy to spot. While there are some heavy downpours from April to June, these are interspersed with sunshine, while July and August are cool and dry, making this an ideal time for exploring.

The whales arrive on Île Sainte-Marie in July and remain until the end of September. Between September and November the weather is particularly lovely, remaining fine and warm. This is also when jacarandas are in flower and many lemurs have young. While December is hot, lemurs, reptiles and tenrecs are active, which makes for good wildlife viewing.y-Month

Visiting Maadagascar in January to March

January to March is cyclone season, so we would advise against travelling to Madagascar during this time.

Visiting Madagascar in April to June

Heavy downpours can still be expected in April, May and June, but between these showers the sun will usually shine. Following the rainy season the landscape is lush and green, with wildlife such as lemurs and reptiles often making an appearance.

Visiting Madagascar in July & August

This is a good time to try spotting humpback whales as they begin to arrive in Île Sainte-Marie. The weather is cool and dry, making this a comfortable time to explore.

Events & Festivals
  • Spot humpback whales (July to September): Humpback whales migrate from the Antarctic at this time of year to calve, making for unforgettable sightings from the shore or on a boat expedition around the island of Île Sainte-Marie.
Visiting Madagascar in September

The weather is fine and warm. Humpback whales can still be seen in Île Sainte-Marie until the end of the month, while lemurs begin to give birth to young.

Events & Festivals
  • Spot humpback whales (July to September): Humpback whales migrate from the Antarctic at this time of year to calve, making for unforgettable sightings from the shore or on a boat expedition around the island of Île Sainte-Marie.
Visiting Madagascar in October

Temperatures begin to increase around the country and jacarandas are in bloom, displaying their vibrant purple flowers.

Events & Festivals
  • See fossa in western Madagascar: Endemic to Madagascar, fossa are cat-like, carnivorous mammals. October and November are a great time to spot them in the deciduous forests of western Madagascar such as Anjajavy Private Nature Reserve.
Visiting Madagascar in November & December

Temperatures continue to increase around the country, although there is a little bit more in the way of rain. Lemurs, reptiles and tenrecs can often be spotted at this time..

Events & Festivals
  • See fossa in western Madagascar: Endemic to Madagascar, fossa are cat-like, carnivorous mammals. October and November are a great time to spot them in the deciduous forests of western Madagascar such as Anjajavy Private Nature Reserve.

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