The Ranomafana National Park is our first visit to the numerous rainforests of Madagascar. Located along the main RN7 road, the Ranomafana is home to several species of rare fauna and flora, including the golden bamboo lemur.
I spent over a month traveling through this Madagascar and I made sure to write as much detail as possible in this post to make it your ultimate Madagascar travel guide!
Getting to the Ranomafana National Park
Leaving Morondava, we journey back the exact same way we came back to Antsirabe. The landscapes are still as unique and ever fascinating as the first time so I made sure to take some more pictures. The long drive through terrible pot-hole filled roads ends around 5pm as we arrive at Antsirabe for the second time at the same accommodation, the Couleur Café.
The next morning, we leave early to reach our next destination, Ranomafana National Park, a popular rainforest destination known for its golden bamboo lemurs. This would be our first rainforest where we could finally see all the lemurs our hearts desired. We take the RN7, the main tourist highway of Madagascar.
The most common tourist itinerary is to land in the capital of Tana, and drive down this highway to Tulear along the coast, passing through numerous national parks. I figured as this was Madagascar’s shining representation of its country to tourists, the roads would be a bit better. Nope, I was mistaken. The same 1.5 lane pothole filled roads are still the norm! All part of the experience however.
As we drive south towards Ranomafana, we pass through more of the perfectly terraced hills that make Madagascar so unique. Passing through a few small towns, we pause at Ambositra to grab some fruit. Fruit in this country is insanely cheap (I got two kilo of oranges for about $1.50).
After four hours driving, we turn off the RN7 towards the Ranomafana Park. The scenery immediately changes to dense trees forest. Driving through, this place reminds me of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where I trekked for gorillas half year prior. Unlike the Bwindi which was completely protected, so no villages or people living in it, this park is home to many villages.
Le Grenat Hotel
One of the cheaper hotel options on our itinerary, this place is in the village of Ranomafana. The rooms are 75,000 Ariary a night, with a restaurant serving delicious food. Surprisingly, this place was full when we stayed, one of the rare instances where we were joined with many other tourists, albeit we seemed like one of a handful that were under the age of 50. Food was very good.
Hiking Ranomafana Park
Ranomafana national Park is chalk full of epic hikes. Prepare to do a lot of walking when coming to this park as there is so much fauna and flora to see. There are numerous hike options ranging from one or two hours to one or two days. You will need a guide at all times like most other places in Madagascar but the prices are cheap.
A night walk is one of few activities available here where a guide will look for animals only active at night. Our driver arranged us an English speaking guide to take us through the forest at night. I thought we’d actually be walking through the forest at night but alas, it is not so exciting.
We merely stood on the main road, and our guide would look for animals close to that main road. Luckily, our guide knew his craft, and ended up finding us numerous nocturnal lemurs, geckos, and a large, colorful chameleon. We paid him 40,000 between the both of us and for less than $15, this activity is worth it.
The Main Ranomafana Hike
Alright, time to finally find those lemurs. The next day is reserved for a full day’s hike through the Ranomafana. Like the Tsingy stone forest, we drive to a meeting site where we pay for our entrance, and the cost of the guide. There are numerous circuits ranging in difficulty for this place, and we elect to the do the most expensive, longest, and most physically demanding (of course) paying about 130,000 for the two of us (50$).
We start walking around 8am and the forest is as dense as it looks from the outside. Giant bamboo trees surround us and it’s so dense here, that we can barely feel the heat of the sun warming up. Within 20 minutes, we immediately see one of the main reasons for coming to Madagascar, lemurs! A few other tourists join us as we look upon the golden bamboo lemurs in the trees high above us.
Golden Bamboo Lemurs
These are one of the rarest breed of lemurs and we’re lucky to see them so easily (apparently). I absolutely love watching lemurs. They are so graceful when they move around, and jump around trees so effortlessly.
I try taking a few pictures of these guys but I seriously need a lesson in photography as it’s a futile task trying to focus on the lemurs with such thick foliage blocking my view. Sometimes, it’s better just to look up and stare at them without worrying about taking pictures. I did this for a bit, and was rewarded by one of the lemurs peeing on me. It’s lucky according to the locals!
We hang out here for at least half hour, trying to get better vantage points for viewing and taking pictures. Eventually, our guide tells us he is on to something, and for us to follow. We leave the horde of tourists still snapping up pictures of the golden bamboo lemurs. The guide is really on to something, as he darts through the forest and I can barely keep up. It’s not in vain however, the guide finds us a group of lemurs walking on foot right in front of us!
Wow. I had to focus to see the golden bamboo lemurs but these guys were no more than a few meters from us! They were on the move so we followed them through the forest, absorbing all the viewing opportunities they gave us. Now these were a bit easier to take pictures of!
As curious as we were of them, the lemurs would look straight at us with their intense, big eyed stares. They didn’t seem too bothered by us. Even as I got very close to one, they would just look at me and casually hop off into the distance. Awesome first lemur experience!
A pity this happened so early in our hike as the rest of the day was anticlimactic. The guide found us some geckos, birds, and another lemur or two before we just started feeling like we were walking through the rainforest trying to make it to the end.
Looking back on it, I think it is better to ignore the last part of our hike. The rest of the hike was mostly uneventful and in total, we hiked about six hours.
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I am visiting Madagascar for the first time. Would you be so kind to let me know how to travel from Antananarivo Airport to Ranomafana National Park safest way? I reach Antanarivo around 3PM. After reading some blogs, night travel isnt advisable, hence i would not dare to do it.
What would be a good place (safe) to stay in Antananarivo for the night? Where can I exchange money? And how to reach Ranomafana quickest and safest? Can I contact the national park to book my stay and explore it?
Later I would be going to Isalo National Park, explore it. Then I need to get back to Antananarivo ?
Would really appreciate the help. Thanks.
Hi Parik, you should read my post about how to travel Madagascar. Most of your questions will be answered there. I rented a driver with a car as I was doing a big trip through the country but otherwise, the best way to get there is by taxi brousse if you don’t want to rent a car.
Your blog is really interesting, thanks! 🙂
Hope you can help me:
We are travelling to Madagascar in September- travelling for one week, and diving in Nosy-be for another week. We already have a plan and want to rent a 4×4 car and a driver.
Do you think we need to book in advance or we can arrive To Tana and rent a car and driver for the day after?
Can you recommend some car rental agencies (with drivers)? (all I see online are tour agencies)
Thanks a lot!
Hi Jacky, sounds like an amazing itinerary, especially diving in nosy be! You can definitely find a driver and car in tana. I booked mine before hand because he picked us up from the airport and we went straight to antsirabe (skipping tana) immediately. I used gmt+3 to book my driver and itinerary and I would highly recommend my driver!
We are travelling to Madagascar in September. After reading your vacation reviews I am in need of some advice. We have scheduled the first part of our trip which will be on Ile St. Marie. On Sept 17 we should return to Toamasina and take a car to Antsirabe in order to visit the Ranomafana National Park. I have booked a night from Sept 17 to Sept 18 at the H1 Antsirabe as the Couleur Cafe was no longer available. In your review you mentioned that you stayed one night in the Ranomafana Park. Where should I book?
Also how should I arrange a service for a car with driver for the timeframe Sept 17-Sept 24? We would also like to visit the Isalo National Park. I understood Morondava& Avenue of the Baobabs are far far away and we don’t have enough time.
Please let me know how you would proceed. Thanks
Hi Mihaela! I stayed at Le Grenat in Ranomafana for a few nights. I’m not sure if you’ll be able to get there in one day from Toamasina as the roads are pretty bad (I could be wrong though if you started very early in the day). There are loads of places to stay in Ranomafana but Le Grenat was cheap and did the job.
As for a driver, I definitely think that is the best option. The only other option in Mada is to take Taxi Brousse which is quite uncomfortable but worse, unreliable. If you have a week, that’s enough to take a trip to Morondava for the baobabs and Tsingy. I guess you’ll just have to choose which part of the country you’d rather see!