THE RING-TAILED LEMURS OF ANJA COMMUNITY RESERVE – MADAGASCAR

Anja Community Reserve Ring-Tailed Lemur

The Ring-Tailed Lemurs of Anja Community Reserve – Travel Blog. What to expect and how to visit these iconic lemurs in their scenic surroundings.

Anja Community Reserve (Reserve d’Anja) was one of the success stories we had heard about prior to arriving in Madagascar. “As both a nature reserve and a growing Malagasy town, Anja is an example of how humans and nature can co-exist and flourish” was how Anja was described on their website. We were keen to see this and the abundant Ring-Tailed Lemurs we had read and heard so much about. Particularly Imbi, who was unable to visit them in Isalo National Park and was desperate to see, Madagascar’s most emblematic lemur species.

Travelling up from Ranohira, a few hours south of Anja after our visit to Isalo National Park, we planned on using Ambalavao as our base to explore Anja. A seemingly quick and easy 4 hour journey.

After a promising start (being ushered straight into the bus right on 6 am), we proceeded to do laps around Ranohira for the next hour, as they tried to fill seats. After an hour of this, it took a further two hours to reach Ihosy, from where we needed to change to one bound for Ambalavao and beyond. Herded onto yet another almost completely empty taxi-brouse, it came as no surprise that we had to wait another hour plus, before this was deemed full enough and we finally set off. In total, this laborious two-leg journey up to Anja took over six hours!

Eventually, we saw signs for Anja Community Reserve, signalling the end of our tedious transit and we eagerly jumped off. As we’d hoped, the park staff were more than happy to store our bags while we explored the park with our allocated English speaking guide.

There were a number of circuits to choose from, ranging from 30mins – 6hrs. Arriving later than planned because of our arduous taxi-brousse experiences, we had no time for the 6 hour ‘Large Circuit Loop.’ So, we opted for ‘Small Circuit Loop’, a 1-2 hour walk through the forest and up to a viewpoint.

Dominating Anja are its three imposing peaks known as the ‘three sisters’ (Telo Mirahavavy.) At the foot of these towering granite formations there’s a small dry forest and it was here we were headed in search of the lemurs. It didn’t take long to find them and their distinctive black and white ringed tails.

Being the driest time of the year there were some man-made water holes dug into the fields between the park entrance and the forest area, from which numerous Ring-Tailed Lemurs were drinking before returning to the forest.

After a few photos there, we moved onto the forest area and again found many social groups just going about their daily business. As it was November many of the mothers had babies. These are generally born in October, making the months of October and November particularly rewarding times to visit. They were so adorable.

Ring-tailed Lemur and baby, Anja Reserve

It wasn’t just the hundreds of Ring-Tailed Lemurs. Our guide found Barbour’s Day Geckos and, despite its camouflage, an Oustalets Chameleon. Also known as the Malagasy Giant Chameleon, it’s one of Madagascars largest chameleons.

Oustalets Chameleon

Then, some amazing Flatid Leaf Bugs. In this instance, we saw the adult bugs. They look just like pink flowers which offers them great camouflage and protection from predators. Their wingless young had a very different appearance, but equally unique way of avoiding the predators. Check out our blog on Ankarafantsika National Park  to see what their young look like and read about their cool little escape trick.

Flatid leaf bugs at Anja Community Reserve

We were then led up to the viewpoint which offered beautiful views over the surrounding area. Typically just as we got there under the dark grey clouds, the rain started to fall. Luckily for us, it wasn’t too heavy.

Anja Community Reserve viewpoint

The slight rain did mean their weren’t too many of the Ring-Tailed Lemurs basking on the usually sun-drenched boulders, which the park’s famous for. However, a couple of hardy Lemurs were making the most of the rocks stored heat regardless of the drizzle.

Ring-tailed Lemurs on the granite boulders of Anja Community Reserve

Despite a little rain, we had a wonderful time in Anja Community Reserve. And, bizarrely we didn’t see another tourist while we were there, in what is one of Madagascar’s busiest community-run parks. We guess arriving later in the day wasn’t such a bad idea after all!

It only took a couple of minutes to flag down a taxi-brousse heading to Ambalavao. At only Ar1000p/p for the 12 km journey it was our cheapest journey by far. Using our offline maps, we were able to track the journey and jump off prior to the bus station on the road running parallel to our accommodation – Residence du Betsileo. This lovely old property was a great price and a nice place for our night in Ambalavao. Known for its excellent French cuisine we were tempted to splash out. But in the end, we opted for a lovely cheaper feed in a nearby restaurant. A leopard never changes its spots!

It was another early start for our two day journey to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. And, we could not wait to get there!

About Anja Community Reserve

Anja’s a great example of successful community-run ecotourism and the money going to the right places and the right people. Don’t be put off by what some guidebooks describe as ‘hefty’ guiding fees. The small totally community-run initiative was created in 1999 when the local community took matters of conservation into their own hands as continued deforestation, due mainly to slash and burn, led to severe habitat loss for the local wildlife and resources. One of those species particularly affected was the Ring-Tailed Lemur, whose numbers were rapidly decreasing.

By taking control of the land and creating a protected area for its wild inhabitants the community was able to not only preserve their wild resources but, help it to prosper. This success facilitated an eco-tourism venture which generated income and jobs for the local community and the park now has a thriving population of Ring-tailed lemurs, with numbers in excess 400.

Getting to/from and around

From Ranohira (Isalo National Park) to Ambalavao (for Anja Community Reserve)

There are taxi-brousse running from Toliara which do the long route up to Antananarivo. Any bus passing through Ranohira towards Ambalavao would likely have been full and as there was no bus station in Ranohira. So we had to pre-booked a taxi-brousse ‘regional’ with one of the many touts in Ranohira. We made a small deposit the day before (Ar10,000 – likely the touts commission) and then paid the remainder directly to the driver when we were picked up, a further Ar15,000p/p. The total journey took six hours including an hour driving around to fill up the taxi-brousse and a one hour wait when we changed taxi-brousse in Ihosy.

From Anja Community Reserve to/from Ambalavao

Ambalavo is only 12km north of Anja on the RN7. Jump in any taxi-brousse heading north towards Anja (Ar1000) to get to Ambalavao. And any taxi-brousse heading south of Ambalavo to get to Anja (Ar1000)

From Ambalavo to Antsirabe

We had elected to stay in Antsirabe for our 1 night stopover on the multi-leg journey from Ambalavao to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. This started with a 2 hour Ar4000p/p journey to Fianarantsoa (Fianar) which we flagged down early in the morning. After waiting an hour or so in the chaotic Fianarantsoa bus station we boarded a taxi-brousse for what was the most uncomfortable journey we had during our month in Madagascar. They had literally squeezed another entire row of seats on the bus. There was physically no leg room! This torturous 6 hour journey cost Ar15,000p/p. Thankfully we got off in Antsirabe, but it continues on for 3 to 4 to Antananarivo (Tana.)

Accommodation

Ambalavao

Our night in Ambalavao was at La Résidence du Betsileo. This charming old property was a great price. We booked direct with them residencedubetsileo@gmail.com and paid Ar40,000 for a double room. Breakfast was Ar7,000 or Ar12,000 for a continental.

Antsirabe

We stayed at Hotel Le Retrait. We’d stayed here as part of journey down to the Tsiribihina River. It was simple, but clean and well priced at Ar25,000-30,000 for a double ensuite. There’ s a very nice restaurant very close by which we highly recommend called Conterno. Great breakfast and awesome asian food for lunch and dinner. A hidden gem!

Best time to visit

Madagascar is a massive island and its climate varies from east to west and from north to south. But as general rule April to October are the drier months, with December to end of February, the wetter months here.

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 here. It accessibility means this reserve can become very busy in peak season.

For the wildlife, September through to October are great for lemurs, as babies are born at this time. Generally visiting in early morning and late afternoon is when the ring-tailed lemurs tend to be most active.

How much time do you need

A day is certainly long enough. The length of your circuit will dictate the length of your stay here. A lot of tour company’s and travellers with drivers just make quick stops as the they pass through.

Prices as of November 2018

  • Park entrance fee – Ar10,000p/p
  • Guiding Fees
    • 30 minutes – Ar24,000 p/p
    • 45 minutes – Ar36,000 p/p
    • 60 minutes –Ar48,000 p/p
    • 90 minutes – Ar60,000 p/p
    • For longer circuits, including the 6+ hour circuit, prices increase.

Essential information & tips

  • Anja’s location right on the RN7 makes it an easy park to get to. It also makes for the perfect day trip or a quick en-route stop to/or from Ambalavao. Reception staff were happy to store our packs while we did our walk.
  • Due to its accessibility, Anja can get busy, so pick your time of visit accordingly. By that we mean: if you go in high season July-August and arrive at 9-10am expect large tour groups.
  • A traveller described to us that when there are a lot of people around, it made their experience feel a little zoo-like. We didn’t see any other tourists on our visit so can’t concur, but something to consider.
  • Don’t feed the Lemurs. Although quite habituated, thankfully Anja has very strict rules about NOT feeding them.
  • Wear sturdy walking shoes, especially if you are doing the longer circuit.
  • Take a hat, sunscreen and water, especially if doing a longer circuit.
  • Biodegradable wet wipes or antibacterial hand wash. Good way to clean the hands before a packed lunch
  • There’s a small cafe on sight, as well as accommodation if you want to stay the night.
  • 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 Highlight

  • Seeing Ring-tailed Lemurs up close and personal.

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