The far north, accessed via Diego Suarez, is home to some stunning national parks.
Antsiranana, formerly known as Diego Suarez, is Madagascar’s fifth largest town. Traditionally rated second in beauty after Rio de Janeiro, its imposing bay is encircled by hills. However, its conical ‘Pain de Sucre’ (sugar loaf) mountain lies in the middle of the bay! The town is colourful and compact with some great restaurants. Usually Diego Suarez acts as the starting point for a visit to the Amber Mountains and Ankarana. The surrounding countryside is quiet and picturesque with numerous baobab trees.
The Amber Mountain National Park lies about 45 minutes to the south. This montane rainforest has a comfortable climate (cool and fresh). So it makes a good contrast with dry and hot Antsiranana! This beautiful park offers great walking and birding with a number of celebrated waterfalls.
The dry, deciduous Ankarana Special Reserve lies 100 km south of Antsiranana (Diego Suarez). This offers a really spectacular and bizarre area of natural beauty. It’s famous for the marvellously impressive limestone tsingy: razor sharp pinnacles which have been sculpted by erosion. Explore the park on foot to look for lemurs, chameleons and of course to view the tsingy.
Underneath the Tsingy are miles of caves and rivers. Indeed, some of the largest caves have collapsed to form isolated pockets of river-fed forest with their own perfectly protected flora and fauna.
You can easily combine these northern delights with a visit to Nosy Be. Travel south from Ankarana through picturesque hillly countryside with vanilla and coffee plantations to the coastal fishing village of Ankify. From here you can take a 40 minute boat ride to the island of Nosy Be.
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