Ranomafana National Park is situated in the southeast of Madagascar and 30km from the popular tourist road, the RN7, which runs down the island from the capital to the south.
At the entrance we met our local guide, Rodan, who showed us the map of the park and told us that the 161 square miles of tropical rain forest was established in 1991 to protect the newly discovered golden bamboo lemur. On the positive side, I’d read it was the best places to see lemurs (there are 12 species) but was slightly concerned with the comment ‘the trails are steep and arduous, it often rains and there are leeches’.
We set off on our hike at 7.30am firstly descending towards a bridge over the river which we could hear in the distance. Our first sighting was the finger-length dinosaur chameleon which was quickly followed by the long-necked giraffe weevil, crab spiders and dragon flies. We crossed the bridge and took the downward path as the start of our loop. The vegetation was broad leaved typical rain forest with vines, creepers and tall trees, including the birds nest fern.
We came across the original Ranomafana research station, now derelict and replaced with the impressive Centre ValBio which we subsequently visited. We continued onwards following a good paved path which subsequently petered out.
Our first lemur sighting was the golden bamboo lemur and then the red fronted brown lemur who showered us with leaves from his position high up in the tree.
The trail was up and down but dry, and Rodan said we were lucky with the weather. We were not so fortunate with the terrain and we were soon climbing gradually, before deviating into the bushes to seek out the Milne Edwards sifaka hiding high amongst the leaves. One had a baby, intent on breaking away from mum, but it was quickly brought back into line. Sadly, there are no photos of lemur or sifaka as tree height, dense foliage and their speed made photography difficult.
Back on the main path, we continued climbing to the view point with its well-constructed shelter and large information boards. After a short, well deserved rest and photographs we were pleased to find the route back was more direct and although very steep, well-constructed steps had been cut out of the ground, and there was a hand rail in the trickier parts. However, our hiking poles were invaluable.
There is no doubt that you need to be relatively fit for visiting the park, but it would have been more difficult with bad weather and rain.
Although the park is only open during the day, whilst staying at Setam Lodge, we went on a night walk along the road leading to the entrance. We were lucky to see three types of chameleon: stump-tailed, blue-legged and short-nosed. The latter was initially very brightly coloured, but after around 10 minutes it turned brown to blend in with the background. We also spotted frogs, a snake and the nocturnal mouse lemur before returning for dinner.