Ankarana National Park was created in 1956 and lies about 90 km south of Antsiranana covering an area of 182,5 km². This Madagascar National Park is a spectacularly eroded limestone fortress of sharp ridges. There are patches of dense tropical jungle, deciduous forest, deep caves and canyons. the canyons are believed to be the biggest underground network of Africa and rushing rivers.
Ankarana National Park receives an annual rainfall of almost 2000 mm. The underlying rocks undergo a heavy erosion producing an amazing karst topography. This is Ankarana National Park most known result the fantastically eroded limestone spires, known as “tsingy”.
Ankarana National Park is in fact one of the most visited specially among hikers. This park offers incredible trails, unique and terrific landscapes and a lot of animals!
Biosphere in Ankarana National Park
Fauna in Ankarana National Park
Ankarana National Park contains one of the highest density of primates of any forest in the world. Its dense forests support one of the largest and least disturbed populations of crowned lemurs.
We also have Sanford's brown lemur, perrier's black lemur, northern sportive lemur and dwarf lemurs. Other in Ankarana National Park are ringtailed mongoose, fossa, tenrecs and Madagascar striped civet are also a common sight.
Almost 100 bird species are found in Ankarana National Park. There are 50 reptiles including some endemic and threatened snakes and geckos.
Ankarana National Park has 10 species of frogs. Inside the spectacular and huge labyrinth of caves 14 bat species. We have local endemic blind shrimps and the world's only known cave-living crocodiles are waiting for your when on Madagascar tour here. At night swarms of bats and flying foxes swoop in the darkness.
Flora in Ankarana National Park
More than 350 plant species grow in Ankarana National Park. The luxuriant forests around the gorge are always green and are the richest ones in number of species. Some significant species are the "vazaha tree", pandanus, ficuses ad the endemic baobab Adansonia madagascarensis.
The Antakarana is the main ethnic group who lives around Ankarana National Park. They subsist on growing vegetables, chicken and cattle and apiculture. Although they still practice slash and burn agriculture, the biggest threat for Ankarana is the rapidly increasing sapphire mining and the illegal cut of precious woods.
How to get to the Ankarana National Park
Ankarana National Park is located along the high way and it can easily be accessed by car and flights. The flight from Antsiranana to Ankarana takes over four hours and there are local flights that can take you to the Ankarana National Park at cost.
The road transportation that leads to the park is a bit bumpy and not pleasant like any other road in Madagascar. They have not been worked on even with the increase in tourists visiting Ankarana National Park.
However, the bumpy ride will be worth it when you get to Ankarana National Park. You get to see the magnificent rocks that are found in the area and the wildlife that you will not see anywhere else in the world.
Northern Madagascar’s landscape is dotted with limestone spires and gorges. Ankarana National Park is situated on a limestone plateau that abruptly ends at the sheer cliff “Wall of Ankarana” in the west.
It gives Ankarana an other-worldly atmosphere that the “tsingy”, a spiky limestone forest, merely reinforces. Ankarana National Park is a popular stop for Madagascar tour safaris and a two-hour drive from Diego Suarez.
When to visit Ankarana National Park
The best time to visit Madagascar and go on safari to Ankarana National Park is during the dry season. This will normally happens from the month of April to October.
This season is considered the best because then the roads will not be too slippery. You will be able to view the different wildlife better during the dry season. You should note that it is always extremely hot during the afternoons and therefore the best tie to go around the Park is in the mornings and evenings.
You can also visit Ankarana National Park during the wet season although it will not be conducive due to the slippery roads. The rainy season normally happens between the months of December to March.
If you are to visit Ankarana National Park during the rainy season, you need to pack some warm clothes. This is because it will be extremely cold due to the heavy rains although it can get extremely hot too during these months.
Places of Interest in Ankarana National Park
Small Tsingy Ankarana
Ankarana National Park is a spectacularly eroded limestone fortress of sharp ridges, patches of dense tropical jungle, deciduous forest, deep caves, canyons and rushing rivers. With an annual rainfall of almost 2000 mm, the underlying rocks undergo a heavy erosion producing an amazing karst topography.
Ankarana National Park is especially a favorite among hikers. It offers incredible trails, unique and terrific landscapes and a lot of animals! After a 15-minute drive from the reception of the park your walk in Ankarana National Park starts.
After a relatively short walk through the deciduous forest with regular stops to see occasional lemurs and reptiles, you start to climb slowly. You reach a few peaks of the razor-sharp rocks and get an impressive view of the surroundings. After this you descend on a landscaped staircase to a cave where a beautiful variety of bats lives.
Big Tsingy Ankarana
You can do the ‘small’ and the ‘big’ hike over 2 days. When starting your Big Tsingy Ankarana hike you will again start going through the deciduous forest. This time it takes a bit longer (about an hour) until you reach the edge of the forest.
Do take in as much as possible during this part of the walk because you can spot many birds, lemurs, reptiles and mongoose. This forest area has an easy flat track but the trail to the suspension bridge is a bit more rough as you hike over a track on the tsingy.
After an hour you will reach the edge of the forest and you will see a 'sea' of Tsingy rocks, a breathtaking view. Look out for lemurs jumping across ravines in the tsingy area since this is a preferred habitat area to them, even though it does not look like a comfortable living space at all with the sharp rocks.
Go via a makeshift path you continue your walk over the razor-sharp rocks and via different walkways you reach a viewpoint. Here you can enjoy a beautiful view and a picnic.
Optionally you can also visit a cave in the afternoon where thousands of bats live. There are steep stairs down into the gorge. Make sure you take a flashlight as the caves are very dark.
Between Diego Suarez and Ankarana National Park there is a special gap called the Tsingy Rouge. This is a well-hidden creation of nature. This relatively small area can be reached by a very bad road, about one hour driving from the main road.
These Tsingy's are different from the most famous (sharp pointed) Tsingy areas in Madagascar. This is because the ‘Red Tsingy’ are not formed by stone but by clay soil. Years of erosion have formed this beautiful reddish-brown stalactite landscape.
These fragile rock formations actually vary in color from vanilla to almost dark red. This is due to the fact that the clay soil of Madagascar is full of minerals and mainly a lot of iron oxide (laterite).
These clay formations somewhat change colors throughout the day depending on the light. The sandstone massif has only existed for about 50 years and is the result of deforestation.
It is a unique landscape to see, especially in the bright contrast with the green trees and a clear blue sky. Because erosion continues, it is expected that other sections of the pink sandstone will also be exposed. It's a matter of time.
You can freely roam around for about 1 hour to take in the scenery and of course to capture some good shots.