Meaning ‘hot water’ in Malagasy, due to the hot springs found in the area, Ranomafana National Park is one of the most picturesque national parks in Madagascar. Covering a mountainous area of 415 kilometres, the park is set at altitudes that range between 800 and 1,200 metres in a vast tract, comprised mainly of dense rainforest. The rare golden bamboo lemur was discovered here in 1986 by Dr. Patricia Wright, which led to the area gaining National Park status. It now provides a protected environment for these endangered animals and is one of the island’s most accessible and appealing stops on any itinerary.
There are some 30 endemic species of bird that are isolated to the region around Ranomafana including, but not limited to, the Henst goshawk, endangered crested ibis, velvet asity and Rufous-headed ground roller.
The park has five different trails that vary in length and duration. The shorter circuits are more popular and, hence, get busier, whilst the longer ones offer wildlife spotting away from the higher footfall. The Varibolomena circuit takes about 4 hours to complete, and offers some great opportunities to spot the bamboo lemurs, passing a waterfall en-route. The Vohiparara route can take up to two days to complete, crossing the national park via a sacred lake, whereas Sahamalaotra is a 10 kilometre round circuit. Varikatsy is comprised of slightly rougher terrain, taking one or two days to complete, and has the added attraction of a natural pool to cool off in. The most challenging trek available is Soarano which, depending on fitness levels, can take two or three days to complete, visiting some traditional tanala villages on the way.
Lemur lovers will not be disappointed here with a total of 12 lemur species calling it home. In addition to the golden bamboo lemur, you may spot the rare Aye-Aye, Milne-Edward’s sifaka, black-and-white ruffed lemur, eastern woolly lemur, eastern grey bamboo lemur, red-bellied lemur, greater bamboo lemur, red-fronted brown lemur, Small-toothed sportive lemur, greater dwarf lemur and brown mouse lemur. Other wildlife within the park includes mongoose, tenrecs, bats, geckos, countless frog species and the Malagasy striped civet.
The best place to stay in Ranomafana National Park does vary however it is a close call between Centrest and Setam Lodge.