ANDASIBE-MANTADIA NATIONAL PARK – MADAGASCAR

Indri in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

Andasibe-Mantadia National Park – Travel blog. Everything you need to know, what to expect and where to find Madagascar’s largest lemur, the Indri.

Andasibe-Mantadia National Park was the place we were most looking forward to visiting in all of Madagascar. Every time we heard someone at our Hostel in Antananarivo telling someone they had been to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, it was followed with “and…..did you see in the Indri?” to which everyone seemed to reply “yes” with big smiles on their faces. As well as the famous Indri, we knew there was so much more amazing wildlife there too and we couldn’t wait to see it all. We had definitely saved the best till last, however, we were a few days ahead of schedule and got there a couple of days earlier than planned.

Our journey to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

In theory, our travel day to get from Antsirabe to Andasibe looked pretty straightforward. Eagerly arriving at Antsirabe bus station early for the first leg of the trip (Antsirabe-Antananarivo.) We were packed into the bus nice and tight, but relatively comfortably by Madagascan taxi-brousse standards.

madagascar scenery

It took 3.5 hours to reach Tana, but this bus station was miles away from where we were hoping. Of course, there were numerous taxi drivers around, so we jumped in one and asked to be taken to the Cotisse bus station, in the north of the city. This was so we could book our return bus tickets to Ankarafantsika National Park for the few days we had left after visiting Andasibe-Mantadia National Park.

We reached the Cotisse bus station and booked our tickets to Ankarafantsika National Park. We then asked where the nearest station was with buses going to Andasibe. As Cotisse had no buses heading in that direction, one of the staff popped out to speak to some local taxi-brousses. Thankfully, he came back and said that a ‘National’ taxi-brousse leaving just outside was heading directly to Andasibe on route to Tamative (Toamasina).

We had been expecting to pay Ar9000 for the 4 hour journey, including a bus change in Moromanga. When we were quoted Ar20,000 p/p we were a little surprised. It transpired we were basically being charged the full price of a ticket to Tamative, even though we were only going part of the way. After a little negotiation, we agreed on Ar15,000 p/p for what they confirmed would be a direct ride to Andasibe, and would depart when full.

After 3 very long hours of waiting, the bus was finally full and we were on our way, albeit much later than we’d hoped as it was after 3 pm. It took a solid hour of driving through hectic streets and markets in 35°+ heat to get out of Tana. Our major concern for safety reasons was both travelling and arriving in the dark. We were both doubting our journey would actually be direct to Andasibe, expecting to be dropped-off at Moramanga, where we would need to connect to Andasibe.

Driving through Antananarivo - Madagascar

A couple of hours into the journey, it was nice to finally see some forest. The surrounding landscape was green and lush, just how and we imagined most of Madagascar once looked. Before we knew it, we had arrived at the turnoff for Andasibe and the bus pulled over to let us off. As usual, we got some waves and smiles from the locals as we left. Being dark, we quickly walked to Feon’ny Ala Hotel. This had been recommended to us by some friends we had made earlier on in our travels. Only 450m metres up the road, the quick walk was both easy and safe.

We hadn’t booked accommodation so were again relieved that they had a bungalow available. Our bungalow was stunning, the nicest place we had stayed all trip and we even had a colourful roommate.

Feon’ny Ala Day Gecko

The restaurant served tasty and reasonably priced food too. So after a long day, where eventually everything had worked out, we had a nice dinner and a couple of beers ahead of our planned early start the following day.

We needn’t have set an alarm for the morning as the hotel lived up to its name! In Malagasy “Feon’ny Ala” means “song of the forest”. It was incredible waking up to the call of the Indri’s in the forest just metres away. Our window opened up with stunning misty views of the trees, which made getting out of bed even easier.

Morning view over Andasibe-Mantadia National Park from Feon’ny Ala

The Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is comprised of Analamazaotra Reserve (Reserve Speciale d’Analamazaotra) and Mantadia National Park (Parc National de Mantadia). Analamazaotra Reserve and the close by Parc Mitsinjo and V.O.I.M.M.A Community Reserve are walking distance from Andasibe village. But, accessing Mantadia National Park requires a vehicle, as no public transport services that area. With that in mind we had prioritised those we could visit on foot.

Analamazaotra Reserve (Reserve Speciale d’Analamazaotra)

Visiting Analamazaotra Reserve is usually the first park on everyone’s list, with its major drawcard being the Indri. And, that was where we started too. Arriving at the park at 6.30 am, 30 minutes after it opened, we were surprised to find it almost deserted. After paying the entrance of Ar45,000 p/p and selecting a 4 hour guided walk for Ar60,000, we were allocated our guide and off we went.

It didn’t take long for our guide to find an Indri family (an adult pair and their offspring.) The guide was happy to leave us alone with the three of them for about 15 minutes. He went off to scout out other nearby wildlife. It was surreal just standing watching the Indri go about their business. Eventually they made their way higher into the trees and off into the distance.

But only minutes later we had found another group who were even closer. They didn’t seem to care at all that the paparazzi had turned up!! Haha. We must have stayed there for about 30 minutes and for the first 25 minutes, we had them all to ourselves.

Indri in Analamazaotra Reserve (ANdasibe-Mantadia National Park)

After half an hour, they began making their eerie calls which we were able to capture in a short video (see below), just as they leapt off into the distance. A truly memorable experience. Sorry about the shaky video, we were too excited!

Play with the sound on! You’ll have to forgive the shaky hands, we’re were too excited!
Indri, Reserve Speciale d’Analamazaotra (Andasibe National Park)

Our guide then led us off in search of one of the prettiest lemurs, the Diademed Sifaka. These sifakas happily coexist in the same habitat as the Indri as they have dissimilar diets. As we walked along the trail our guide excitedly pointed across to a large group of Diademeds coming our way. We took our position and waited as they came closer and closer.

Diademed Sifaka, Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

One beautiful sifaka positioned itself only a few metres from us, practically posing for the camera. We learnt that in the early 2000’s three groups of this species were relocated here from other areas of dwindling and defragmented forests elsewhere. Like the Indri these Sifaka are critically endangered and it was another unforgettable experience seeing them.

Diademed Sifaka in Analamazaotra Reserve (ANdasibe-Mantadia National Park)

Again, we couldn’t believe that we were able to enjoy this whole early morning spectacle completely alone. Where was everybody? And then we found them!! We followed the sifakas through the forest and rejoined the main trail. It was just after 9 am and as with the other parks, the tour groups had started to roll in. Super pleased to have had our quality time with the sifakas, we happily left the groups tailing them. In search of some different lemurs our guide had received a call from one of the spotters in the park. He had found some Eastern Woolly Lemurs hiding by the base of a tree.

Eastern Woolly Lemurs, Analamazaotra Reserve (Andasibe-Mantadia National Park)

They looked so cute with their big eyes staring up at us through the vegetation. Sadly, we couldn’t stay long as there was a large group approaching. We didn’t want to overwhelm them!

Eastern Woolly Lemurs, Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

Next, we found some Common Brown Lemur feeding in the nearby trees. With several sub-species the Common Brown’s appearance was very similar to its cousin, the Red-Front Lemur that we had seen in both Kirindy Forest and on the Tsiribihina River.

common brown lemur in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

Then, amazingly whilst walking at pace, our guide spotted a tiny Stump-tailed Chameleon, perfectly camouflaged amongst the leaf debris on the ground. It never ceases to amaze us what some guides manage to see, hear and smell! This little chameleon was minuscule.

Stump-tailed Chameleon, Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

After an incredibly successful morning in the park, we discussed our options for the following day with our guide. Having had more success in Analamazaotra Reserve than we had hoped for, we were keen to see what else was on offer. Wanting to try to see some Black and White Ruffed Lemur again and we asked our guide about the logistics of getting to Parc National de Mantadia the following day. He’d said earlier that was the best place to see them. A price of Ar10,000 p/p was agreed for the guide and another driver to take us there on motorbikes at 7 am the next morning. With a set entrance price of Ar45,000 per person and a 3-4 hr guiding fee of Ar80,000, it seemed a pretty reasonable price.

For the remainder of the day we wandered around the hotel grounds and along the Andasibes main road, searching for wildlife. It was everywhere. In the hotel grounds, all sorts of birds like the Madagascar Cuckoo Roller, and Crested Drongos just to name a few. Along the roadside we saw Common Brown Lemurs and a Tree Boa. We even came across a bizarre looking type of Weevil and later found out it was called Lixus Barbiger.

Lixus Barbiger in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

When the alarm went off early the next morning, we were full of what turned out to be short-lived excitement. A text message from our guide informed us his motorbike wouldn’t start, so we couldn’t get to Mantadia. We were devastated! It was too late to try and arrange alternative motorbikes and our guide clearly wasn’t bothered as he offered us no alternative options. After checking with reception what a car and driver would cost (far too much for us) we were resigned to the fact we couldn’t get there and retreated to our cabin to formulate a new plan.

Feon’ny Ala

We had planned to go to the V.O.I.M.M.A Community Reserve the following morning, but as our plans to go to Mantadia had fallen through, we decided to head to V.O.I.M.M.A instead. On the way, we came across yet more Common Brown Lemur.

Common Brown Lemur, Andasibe

The Tree Boa hadn’t moved far either. Basking in the sunlight in almost exactly the same place we found it the day before. Whilst taking photos a guide started talking to us. He had good English and was very knowledgeable, so when he offered to be our guide for V.O.I.M.M.A, we accepted. It turned out he’d had the opposite experience to us that morning. He’d had been stood up by a group he was supposed to guide at Analamazaotra.

madagascar tree boa, Andasibe

V.O.I.M.M.A Community Reserve

V.O.I.M.M.A is a community-run reserve not too dissimilar to Anja Community Reserve. This local community reserve (often referred to as ‘The Community Park’) really impressed us. Not only does this type of sustainable eco-tourism provide direct employment whilst conserving the land and wildlife, but it gives the locals control. As well as that, part of the money generated is put back into the community, rather than going to the government.

We chose a 2 hour walk for Ar30,000p/p, which included the guide fees, and off we went. Due to our sudden change in plans, we got to the reserve much later than planned. However it was awesome to see both Indri and Diademed Sifaka again. They were less active and higher up in the trees resting, though.

Diademed Sifaka, V.O.I.M.M.A Community Reserve

The small reserve had several walking trails and a nice river running through it. As well as lots of birds we saw numerous reptiles, amphibians and insects. With 50% of generated funds going back to the community as well as all this wildlife V.O.I.M.M.A surpassed our expectations.

Day Gecko, V.O.I.M.M.A Community Reserve

Our guide then took us across the road to the Parc des Orchidées. As our visit fell in the October to December period, the orchids were in full bloom. His keen eyes quickly found us a small juvenile Short-nosed Chameleon scampering around foliage.

Short-nosed chameleon

Living up to its reputation as one of the best places to find Chameleons he quickly followed this up by finding a Parson’s Chameleon. Vying with the Oustalets’s Chameleon (which we saw in Anja Community Reserve) for the title of biggest species of Chameleon in Madagascar, it was big and beautiful.

Parsons Chameleon in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

And then, to finish the walk off in style, he found us the endemic Giraffe Neck Weevils. We had been lucky enough to see them in Ranomafana National Park. But it was great to find more here, and these ones had the red elytra covering the wings, unlike the ones we’d seen there. Spending their entire lives in or close to the Dichaetanthera Cordifolia and Arborea trees, the guides know exactly where to find them.

Giraffe Weevil, Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

The bizarre looking long necked males are not only similar to the namesake Giraffe in appearance, but in behaviour too. During the mating season the male weevils also crash their necks into rival males in battles to knock their competitor from the leaf and win the female.

Giraffe-necked weevil - Andasibe-Mantadia National Park - Madagascar

The Night Walk

We arranged a night hike for that evening. But, typically it hammered down with rain in the afternoon right up until and beyond our agreed meeting time. Having no way of contacting the guide, we weren’t sure what to do and were resigned to a washout. But just after the worst of the rain stopped he showed up at the hotel and off we went. Sadly, the weather conditions didn’t make it as enjoyable as we’d hoped. In between the worst of the showers, we did see a Goodman’s Mouse Lemur and a couple of Hairy-Eared Dwarf Lemurs (well, at least their eyes in the distance).

Goodman’s Mouse Lemur on Andasibe night walk

It wasn’t just nocturnal lemurs either. He found all sorts of insects, frogs and a cool Gecko. Commonly known as the Mossy Leaf-Tailed Gecko and you can see why, its camouflage with the surrounding tree bark and lichens was uncanny.

Mossy Leaf-Tailed Gecko on an Andasibe night walk

The following morning, we left early with a couple of other backpackers we had met at the Hotel – Matty and Jessica. So, for the first time on our trip, we weren’t the only westerners in the taxi-brousse! It was a straight forward journey to Antananarivo; 1.25hrs to Moramanga Ar2000, change to a taxi-brousse bound for Tana 3 hours Ar7000.

That night we stayed back at the backpacker orientated Madagascar Underground Hostel. Matty and Jessica introduced us to a great restaurant only a 5-minute walk from the hostel. Sakamanga had a great range of French cuisine and Malagasy specialities along with cold THB beer on tap, a winning combination!

We were up early for the last part of our Madagascan backpacking adventure, as we headed up to Ankarafantsika National Park.

Getting to/from Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

Antananarivo – Andasibe

Andasibe is easily accessible from Antananarivo. Take a taxi-brousse to Moromanga 2 hrs Ar7,000, then connect to a taxi-brousse to Andasibe 1.5hrs Ar2,000. Alternatively, jump in a taxi-brousse heading to Tamative (Toamasina) and asked to be dropped off by the road to Andasibe, 4 hrs. You will most likely be charged the full fare to Tamative approx Ar20,000. It’s 5 km from the main road to the village of Andasibe or 450m walk to Hotel Feon’ny Ala.

Andasibe Antananarivo

Walk down to the main road and flag a taxi-brousse coming from Tamative (Toamasina going to Moromanga for 1.5hrs – Ar2,000p/p.) Here you change to another taxi-brousse to Antananarivo 2hrs Ar7,000.

In and around Andasibe

Most parks are walking distance. But you will need your own transportation if you wish to visit Mantadia National Park.

Accommodation

Hotel Feon’ny Ala was without doubt the best place we stayed in Madagascar! Very reasonably priced, lovely restaurant and great location. Aptly named Feon’ny Ala (‘song of the forest’) waking to the sound of Indri every morning is something we will never forget.

  • Private TWN/DBL Bungalow en-suite at Hotel Feon’ny Ala – Ar80,000
  • Private TWN/DBL room with en-suite at Hotel Feon’ny Ala – Ar40,000

It’s about a 20 minute walk along the road from the hotel to Analamazaotra Reserve and you’ll likely stop multiple times with all the wildlife en-route!

Best time to visit Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

Madagascar is a massive island and its climate varies from east to west and from north to south. But as general rule May to October are the drier months, with December to March, the wettest period in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park.

Things really start getting busy from June with the peak months being the European school holidays of July and August. If you can avoid those two months you will have a quieter experience in parks and accommodation will be far less busy! The shoulder seasons of April-May and September to October are ideal times travel. Due to its accessibility to Tana, this park gets very busy! So the shoulder seasons and even, the slightly wetter November period can often be much quieter and more enjoyable months to visit.

For wildlife, October through December are great for lemurs, as babies are born at this time. Birds, also breed in this period. Lizards and snakes tend to come out of hibernation from September through to December.

How much time do you need at Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

The longer the better! The Andasibe-Mantadia National Park and surrounding area warrants a few days.

We were very lucky with our sightings in Analamazaotra Reserve. We had expected to need more than one day in this park, but having seen so many Indri, Diademed Sifaka and the two Eastern Woolly Lemur, we were pretty satisfied. One day was just enough for us, though we would recommend factoring two in your planning.

As for Mantadia National Park, we didn’t make it, due to the frustrations above, but having spoken to others who have visited its definitely worth at least a day there.

With V.O.I.M.M.A, a morning of exploring here is well worth it. A great place Indri and Chameleons. For night walks Parc Mitsinjo has a great reputation. And of course you can do as we did, which is the cheaper option of exploring on or just off the main road with/without a guide.

In summary we would recommend at least 3 full days, but really 4-5 would be ideal. As this trip was towards the end of 18months of travel our budget was a little restricted and rushed, as we had time constraints. When we come back, which we certainly will do, we would love to at least 5 days to see all of the area in and around Andasibe-Mantadia National Park.

Prices as of November 2018

  • Analamazaotra Reserve entrance – Ar45,000p/p
  • Mantadia National Park entrance – Ar45,000p/p
  • V.O.I.M.M.A Community Reserve entrance – Ar30,000p/p
  • Guiding Fees
    • Analamazaotra – Ar60,000 for 4 hrs (private group) paid to the guide
    • Mantadia – Ar80,000 for 3-4 hrs (private group)
    • V.O.I.M.M.A – Guiding fee included in the entrance price

Essential information & tips

  • Don’t be confused by all the names. Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is comprised of of Analamazaotra Reserve (Reserve Speciale d’Analamazaotra) and Mantadia National Park (Parc National de Mantadia). As well as that, Analamazaotra is also referred to as Périnet Special Reserve and even sometimes Andasibe Park, due to it proximity to Andasibe village. Then there’s the nearby, but completely separate Parc Mitsinjo and V.O.I.M.M.A Reserve.
  • Get to the parks early!! For two reasons:
    • The lemurs are more active early in the morning before retreating higher to rest later in the morning.
    • Groups (both 4WDs and tour groups) tend to arrive around 9 am, so by getting in at 6 am, you will beat the crowds and have a much, much nicer experience.
  • Wear sturdy shoes. The walking trails aren’t difficult, but sometimes you may end up off the track.
  • Take water with you, especially if you end up getting to the parks later in the day when it’s hotter.
  • We were told seeing Indri’s in V.O.I.M.M.A is virtually ‘guaranteed’. They only have a few family groups in that section of the park and the Indri’s live in territories, so your odds of seeing them are incredibly high. We were also told that seeing Indri’s in Analamazaotra are almost guaranteed.
  • There was a lot of wildlife along the road to Andasibe village and a lot in and around Hotel Feon’ny Ala which is set right in the forest. SO factor in time to explore these areas cost free.
  • V.O.I.M.M.A was good for spotting chameleons, bugs etc.
  • It can get pretty hot and also quite cool. Best to see what season you are travelling in and have both hot and cold weather gear.
  • Pack a raincoat – just in case!
  • The Madagascar Wildlife – Bradt Guides book was so informative and helpful for identification purposes.
  • Download Maps.me to your phone so that you have offline maps. We love pinning our journeys as we travel. Not only that we were able to track our journey and jump off prior to the bus station on the road running parallel to our accommodation, thus saving a longer walk with all our bags.

Our Highlights

  • EVERYTHING!
    • Our top highlight couldn’t be anything else but seeing and hearing the Indri’s.
    • The Diademed Sifaka and the nocturnal Eastern Woollies were incredibly beautiful too.

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