Note: The journal here is from 2 separate visits to the Andasibe area.

(Saturday 15th March, 2014)


Some of the landscape around Peyrieras Reptile Reserve.

his weekend the deal was to go to Andasibe, the rainforest in eastern Madagascar between Antananarivo and the east coast, with my colleague, M. Her boyfriend would come with us which meant we could go there in his car. In the morning they picked me at Karthala and we commenced our drive.

Small roads twisting between small, green mountains. It was very idyllic and incredibly beautiful; breathtaking. On the way to Moramanga we made a stop in two small parks. In one, called Mandraka Park, we went for a small walk and then M wanted to try a part of their ‘activity path’, the zipline. The zipline went from a tall tree, across a river and down far on the other side. She managed to convince me to give it a try, too, and it was pretty fun after all.

After the visit to Mandraka Park we went to have our lunch in a local establishment. I must admit that I’m a little sick of eating rice every single day, even when the broth and meat with it is very tasty; sometimes I wonder how I’ll manage for another 4 months.

Anyway, we then went to the reptile park called Peyrieras Reptile Reserve on the way to Moramanga. Here we were presented with the opportunity to see and hold some chameleons and snakes. It was a pretty fun experience and we had a nice guide.

Driving on, I just want to make note of an observation: drivers tend to use their horn a lot as a form of communicating on these roads. A honk can mean many things, ranging from “I want to pass you” to “just making sure you see the car behind you” (for cyclists and people on foot) to “thanks” to “I’m passing around this corner on the mountain road”. Mostly it seems used as a means of polite communication.

On the way into Moramanga we drove off on a side road to visit the cemetery with the mass graves from the uprising of the Malgasy people in 1947 in their fight for independence from the French colonial government.


The cemetery with the marked mass graves from the revolt for independence in 1947, near Moramanga.

In the evening, after having left our stuff in a hotel in Moramanga and having dinner, we went on a ‘night safari’ outside the Analamazaotra Reserve, with a guide from the Mitsinjo Community Reserve. Just equipped with a flashlight and the modest light from the starry sky above. The rainforest is brimming with noise during the evening and little insects blinked in the darkness here and there. We saw a huge toad, chameleons, a huge snail, orchids, moths, a Pygmy Kingfisher and also spotted a fast mouse lemur. It was a very interesting experience to be in ‘the jungle’ in the darkness.

We spent the night in the small hotel in Moramanga, not a very nice one by any means. I was sharing a room with my colleague’s cousin, which crossed some of my boundaries; they would, however, not budge, claiming it wasn’t safe for me to stay in my own room here. The lock was a bit dodgy so maybe they were right. And in any case, I survived this one too without any scars.


Up Close to Lemurs
(Sunday 16th March, 2014)


Chameleon at the entrance to the Analamazaotra Reserve, Andasibe.

e had to get up very early today to get to the Analamazaotra Reserve in the morning. It was very misty and grey as we arrived there but it did clear up during the day. The interpretation centre before entering the park itself was quite moving, actually. There were elaborate graphics and texts telling how much the country has been deforested over the years and how it continues on, and how invasive species (particularly plants and trees) brought in are outnumbering endemic species. Overall, the decay of the natural state of Madagascar is outrageous and I felt very touched, angry and disturbed by learning the rate of it.

We went hiking in the rainforest with our designated guide (you have to bring a licensed guide to national parks here in Madagascar), searching for lemurs. I like the reserve, the path ways are quite discrete and unobtrusive. I am a little concerned that you step on a lot of smaller lives the way you are sometimes taken off the paths by your guide as they find out about the whereabouts of the lemurs.

However, we saw Indri Indris (and heard their strange singing, both from afar and from up close). Beautiful animals, and hearing the almost whale-like sound from them is really quite eerie as it echoes across the forest. We also found Diadem Sifakas, which have a sort of orange tinge to them. They were on the ground so we got pretty close to them – the animals in Analamazaotra Reserve are quite used to humans, as there are a lot of tourists coming through here. Then we also managed to see Common Brown Lemurs up in the crowns of the trees. Furthermore we spotted a nocturnal lemur as it was sleeping the day away in a hollow tree log, a Sportive Lemur.

After our hike in the reserve we went to Lemur Island (also known as Vakona Private Reserve), a piece of land owned by the Vakona Forest Lodge towards the boundary of Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. Here the lemurs are so accustomed to humans (because they are being fed) that they will jump on your shoulders. We saw 3 different type of lemurs there: Common Brown Lemur, Black-and-White-Ruffed Lemur and the Bamboo Lemur. The Black-and-White-Ruffed Lemur is very pretty indeed, although it was a Common Brown Lemur which seemed to fall in love with me. It gave my face a good licking and I needed a good cleaning up using the hotel waterfall afterwards.


I did not write a journal during this trip with my parents, so this is a description written in hindsight and from (more distant) memory.

A Family Trip to Andasibe
(Friday 28th March, 2014)


One of many pretty views from the side of the road between Antananarivo and Andasibe.

ecause of the visit of my parents back from Denmark and their staying in Antananarivo, I decided to bring them to the rainforest of Andasibe – it is the closest (and easiest) national park to go to if you’re in Antananarivo and are not travelling around Madagascar for more than a week. I had arranged for a driver guide to take us there, around and back.

We drove off from Karthala where we all stay, and went through the mountains on much the same itinerary as I went with my colleague before. We, too, made a stop at Peyrieras Reptile Reserve where we also saw the chameleons, snakes, moths – however, we opted for the longer walk up the hill where the reserve also houses a small flock of Coquerel’s Sifaka in the forest. We met these and had a nice time being quite close to them.

After our visit to the reptile park our driver guide took us to a local restaurant on the road side where we had lunch. Another rice with meat and broth lunch, but we all had an enjoyable time. Driving onwards in the pretty landscape, we eventually made it to our hotel right on the outskirts of the Analamazaotra Reserve. A cosy hotel with cottages called Feon’ny Ala. As we spent the late afternoon and early evening there, we saw a Common Brown Lemur come down to a tree right outside our cottage to forage. It did feel very close to nature.


The cottages of the hotel on the border of Analamazaotra Reserve.

In the evening we also went on a ‘night safari’ as I had a few weekends prior to. It was another good experience where you got to catch a glimpse of the rainforest at night time; we also saw a pygmy kingfisher, some snails, moths and briefly spotted some nocturnal lemurs in the distance.


Hiking in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park
(Saturday 29th March, 2014)


A view over the Andasibe-Mantadia prime rainforest.

his day we got up early and had our breakfast on a covered outdoor patio, overlooking the river on the border to Analamazaotra Reserve, to the sound of the singing Indri Indris. It was a strangely beautiful and serene experience.

The day was set off to go for a longer hike in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. Whereas Analamazaotra Reserve is easily accessible and has a lot of visitors and is also no longer a prime forest, Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is a huge prime rainforest area that is a little more complicated to access and has significantly less visitors. The drive there took place on very poor, bumpy gravel roads (need a 4 wheel drive) and it took quite a while despite the distance not being overwhelming. You are also required to bring a local guide with you to visit this park, which has different hiking circuits available within it.


An Indri Indri in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park.

We opted for a shorter hike in one place to see if we could spot some lemurs and to get to a view point, then drove on to a longer hike that would take us to the Sacred Waterfalls of the national park. Although I want to note that the lemurs here have a lot of dense forest to roam and a lot less human visitors, and therefore are not very accustomed to people – meaning you are not, essentially, guaranteed to spot any, as you pretty much are in Analamazaotra Reserve. During our time there, we went to a peak where we saw the dense prime rainforest stretch below us. Driving there we were also very lucky to see a couple of Red-Bellied Lemurs crossing the road on a branch above it.

Otherwise we felt quite lucky, as we spotted Black-and-White-Ruffed Lemurs, Diadem Sifakas, both heard and saw Indri Indris, and also various endemic insects and smaller animals, as well as plants and flowers. It was an extraordinary experience to walk around in the humid, damp rainforest, which felt like much more of a true wilderness than the reserve close by. There were no artificial sounds, only the symphony of nature. The paths were not always easy to walk on and we had to cross the river on some rocks here and there.

At the Sacred Waterfall, which is not a huge, magnificent waterfall, but rather a smaller, very serene one, we had a break to eat the lunch we had brought with us. It was very nice to have a short break in the heart of the prime forest.


The Sacred Waterfalls within the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, and also our lunch spot.

Despite the more trouble going here than the Analamazaotra Reserve, I can definitely recommend visiting Andasibe-Mantadia. The walks are amazing and being lucky to spot any wildlife feels much more satisfying than walking among a lot of other tourists and visitors. The feeling of being almost alone in nature is just satisfying beyond words.

The rest of the day was spent in the small village near to the reserve, and also in the local shops outside our hotel. We also enjoyed a nice dinner on the open patio of our hotel.


Lemurs and Wood Charcoal
(Sunday 30th March, 2014)


A flower from Analamazaotra Reserve.

efore heading back towards Antananarivo, we dedicated this day to a visit to Analamazaotra Reserve, Lemur Island and Vakona Private Reserve (crocodile pond and museum included) by Vakona Forest Lodge.

Therefore, we got up very early, before the Indri Indris, so that we could get to the reserve before they started singing. We made it there, took a different hike than the one I had previously been on, saw Bamboo Lemurs, Common Brown Lemurs, Diadem Sifakas and of course also both saw and heard the wonderful Indri Indris. There were also a bunch of pretty flowers to admire and it was a good experience, although quite different to the one from Andasibe-Mantadia National Park.

Then we drove a bit further into the forest to get to Vakona Forest Lodge. At first we took a canoe out to Lemur Island, where once again the lemurs jumped on us in order to get to the bananas that we were given to feed them. This time we barely saw the Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur(s) but the Bamboo Lemurs were a lot less shy. They are very cute animals, although one of them decided to poop on my shirt, which wasn’t such a welcome surprise.

Afterwards we went for a walk in the Vakona Private Reserve, which also hosted an area with water and lots of crocodiles, frogs and frog eggs, snakes and a small museum with an example of a local house and some tools used by locals. It was a pretty decent walk around the premises.

On our way back we drove past, again, the villages on the side of the road where wood charcoal is sold. On the side of the roads you see the mountains which used to be green, now with only the sad, charred remains of trees left. Unfortunately, illegal logging, burning and slash-and-burn-agriculture is making a serious indent on Madagascar’s forests, which have been drastically reduced already. It is predicted that the forests on Madagascar will be completely gone within 20 years if current developments do not take a turn for the better, which seems unlikely because of the political situation. Visiting Madagascar as a unique, natural haven certainly has an expiration date and I am quite happy that I have gotten to see part of it before it is too late. It just also makes me incredibly sad to witness.

We also made a short stop at the cemetary/memorial site a short distance from Moramanga, so that my parents could visit this site. It is an important heritage site to the Malagasy people, as it is a symbol of the uprising against the French colonial rule, while also marking the fight for independence to rule themselves. It was a bloody uprising and the graves on the cemetery are mass graves.


The cemetery for the Malagasy uprising against the French, 1947.


Last updated 3rd February, 2019.

The top picture is from a hike in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park – a small stream of water within the prime rainforest.