Lemur Safaris in Mantadia & Andasibe National Park
The eastern rainforests of Madagascar are a must-see on any Madagascar safari tour. The tropical montane rainforest of Madagascar is one of the densest in the world. Its floral diversity is particularly rich. A key attraction is the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. The park (which is actually two separate parks) is an easy 3-4 hours scenic drive from Antananarivo (Tana). Thus it is probably the most popular wildlife destination in Madagascar. The parks boasts 13 species of lemurs, chameleons and more than 100 bird species.
A big part of its attraction is the appeal of the Indri lemurs. The Indri Special Reserve (also known as the Perinet Special Reserve) within Andasibe protects the Indri, with some 60 family groups in the reserve. (but Indri are found in Mantadia
Ideally we recommend 2-3 nights for your Andasibe safari as then you can visit both the Indri/ Perinet Special Reserve to see the Indri and also the wilder Mantadia National park. Plus 2 nights also allows enough time to relax at your lodge or take a night walk (available in season). You can even kayak over to Lemur Island for a close-up encounter.
Andasibe National Park
Andasibe-Mantadia is separated into two parts. The most accessible part is the Indri Special Reserve. But its also still known as the Perinet Special Reserve which was its old colonial name. (It’s also known as Speciale d’Analamazaotra. The Malagasy like to give everything 2 or 3 names!)
The 810 ha ‘reserve within a reserve’ has several well-maintained forest paths, which are mostly gentle in terrain. Typically you visit the Perinet Special Reserve at dawn to see the Indri lemurs when they are most active. Walking through the rainforest, as its distinctive siren-like calls emanate from the mist-covered canopy is one of the most memorable experiences of your Andasibe safari.
The Indri looks more like a teddy bear or bizarre panda than a lemur. He stands about a meter high, with a stump for a tail, black-and-white markings and a beguilingly startled expression. You will see them relatively easily, even if you stay on the marked trails. But for longer sightings you must scramble after them through the forest, craning up as they execute balletic leaps from tree to tree. Their long back legs are immensely powerful; an indri can propel itself 10 meters (30ft)!
As well as the amazing Indri lemurs you may also see the Eastern grey bamboo lemur and red-fronted brown lemur. There are also impressive reptiles like Malagasy tree boa and two foot long Parson’s chameleon on show. You might even be fortunate enough to see the giraffe-necked Weevil, the golden Mantilla frog or the leaf-tailed gecko.
Pack a headtorch as you can join a night walk in the Mitsinjo forest reserve to see nocturnal wildlife. Look out for Tenrecs (spiny hedgehog like creatures) with your guide. At night another world emerges in the forest, making night walks especially interesting. It’s also much easier to spot the chameleons. Nocturnal lemurs include the Eastern woolly lemur, Goodman’s mouse lemur and the furry-eared dwarf lemur.
Mantadia Reserve or National Park
For a wilder lemur safari to see the golden sifaka lemurs, we recommend visiting the Mantadia National Park. This has pristine forest and more challenging terrain, with steeper trails. (These can be slippery in the wet summer months). So it’s best if you are reasonably fit. (However there are also some shorter, flatter trails on offer lasting around 2 hours.)
The forest is primary rainforest so there is a greater variety of wildlife here including the diademed sifaka, the black-and-white ruffed lemur, common brown lemur, red-bellied lemur and the grey bamboo lemur.
Birding in Mantadia
Birding in Mantadia is especially good with over 100 species including the likes of the rare brown mesite, pitta-like ground-roller, brown emutail and the velvet asity all to be seen. (Your chances of good birding increases on the longer trails.)
Handy Tip: The challenge in Madagascar is to reduce the number of nights in Tana. If you put Andasibe at the end of your trip, then you can travel back to the airport without the need to stay overnight in Tana as it is only a 3-4 hour drive.
For more on other rainforest areas in Madagascar, click on The Route South for the Ranomafana National Park and click on Ankarana & the North for more on Diego Suarez and the Montagne D’Ambre reserve (Amber Mountain) in the far north of Madagascar.