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Montagne d’Ambre National Park - A view from our expert author
Even non-birders will be fascinated by the numerous species here; the Madagascar paradise flycatcher with its long trailing tail feathers is striking enough to impress anybody.
This 18,500ha national park was created in 1958, the French colonial government recognising the unique nature of the volcanic massif and its forest. The park is part of the Montagne d’Ambre Reserves Complex which also includes Ankarana, Analamera and Forêt d’Ambre. The project was the first to involve local people in all stages of planning and management. The aims of conservation, rural development and education have largely been achieved. Ecotourism has been encouraged successfully with good information and facilities now available.
Montagne d’Ambre National Park is a splendid example of montane rainforest: the massif ranges in altitude from 850m to 1,475m and has its own microclimate with rainfall similar to the eastern region. It is one of the most visitor-friendly of Madagascar’s protected areas, with broad trails, fascinating flora and fauna, a comfortable climate and readily available information. In the dry season vehicles can drive right up to the main picnic area, giving a unique opportunity (in Madagascar) for elderly or disabled visitors to see the rainforest and its inhabitants.
The most rewarding time to visit is during the warm season (September to November); there will be some rain, but most animals are active and the lemurs have babies. It is usually relatively dry from May to August, and wettest from December to April. Temperatures on the mountain are much cooler than down in Antsiranana and there is a strong wind – varatraza – most days so it can feel quite cold. It is often wet and muddy (and there may be leeches) so be wary of wearing shorts and sandals, however hot and dry you feel at sea level. Bring waterproofs, insect repellent and even a light sweater.
You should also be aware that, as Antsiranana is on the itinerary of some cruise ships, for three or four days each year the park is inundated with hundreds of day trippers.