Learning how to pronounce Ranomafana National Park’s name was well worth the effort because it’s all I’ve been talking about since exploring the riches of its 102,000+ acres of rainforest habitat. The beauty and biodiversity of the park make it a must-see on any route in Madagascar. It’s not often I come home with a checklist chock full of mammals, and most of them endemic as well — bonus points!
Hiking along the well-maintained trails of Ranomafana was an uphill pleasure! Along the way we made many stops with our expert guide, Theo, explaining what we saw and allowing us the time we needed to catch our breath. The scenery was beautiful as we crossed the Naroma River and made our way into the forest. The climbing hike was well worth it as we made our way up into the forest to observe the critically endangered Greater Bamboo Lemur. With fewer than 100 individuals believed to be in existence, it was a special experience to watch one lazing in the bamboo treetops, munching on the cyanide-laced bamboo. It is believed that only two remain in the park, a father and a daughter. This species is in decline due to habitat loss.
As we watched, our eyes turned up toward the towering bamboo, we were treated with a second visitor, the Gray Bamboo Lemur, which was smaller and is thought to have been originally described way back in 1795. Just two hours in, we had seen two species of lemurs; we were having a great time! We tore ourselves away, continued our hike and were surprised to run into a third species, a small troop of Red Bellied Lemurs, lounging in the treetops. They jumped expertly from tree to tree, eating leaves and generally ignoring our presence. It was amazing to see three of the forest's 12 species of lemurs in only a couple of hours. We continued our hike to a lookout point where our guide pointed out the main park entrance where we had started our hike — it was just a speck!
We all felt proud to have made the journey, and we made our way back down, taking in the beautiful forest and a few more critters along the way. Later that evening, we returned to the park for a nocturnal hike along the roadside. We were lucky to immediately spot a tiny, nocturnal Brown Mouse Lemur scurrying down a tree to nibble on something most likely left there to draw it from the treetops. The cameras were going crazy at this point! We gave the little guy a break and moved on. We were able to see four chameleons on our walk, one about the size of a thumb nail! What a magical island, this Madagascar!