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Andasibe

AKA: Andasibe-Mantadia / Analamazoatra / Perinet

Home of the indri indri lemur, Andasibe is a deservedly popular spot for tourists. Helped by being only a few hours from Tana and offering access to forest for nearly all abilities and tastes, few will be unable to stop dead in their tracks the first time they hear the calls of an indri family echoing for miles.

The structure of the boundaries and various organisations in the area is a little more involved than it can first appear (which I go into in 'The Lay of the Land') but the main area of interest to most visitors is the Analamazaotra Reserve section of forest which is conveniently one of the first sections passed by on the way to accommodation, should you not be staying next to it. If the size of the park reception is any indication of a park's importance, the National Parks authority think incredibly well of Andasibe.

The Lay of the Land

Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is the official title given to the area of forest run under the national park's programme. It's comprised of two separate sections of drastically different sized forest and the smaller of the two receives the majority of visitors.

This smaller area, Analamazaotra Reserve, is the lead attraction in Andasibe-Mantadia in terms of numbers. Its lesser size gives it an advantage for spotting Indri and Diademed Sifakas and it's secondary forest throughout, providing a balance between those who don't want a garden path leading them and those who don't want to traverse thick jungle conditions or significant inclines. Though it's small, it's hard to appreciate where it ends once inside and, so, easy to feel fully immersed in a rainforest.

Mantadia is north of Andasibe village and needs transport to reach its entrance, though most accommodation can organise this if arriving without transport of your own. It has a large amount of primary forest and is considerably more challenging to hike than Analamazaotra Reserve. This is probably self-explanatory as to why it appeals to some far more and to others far less. A lot of wildlife can be harder to spot here but, on the other hand, it can provide glimpses of certain wildlife easier than other areas for those that tend to shy away from human visits. Mantadia offers them a more secluded home.

Analamazaotra Forest Station circuits receipt.

Once familiar with the two sections of Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, say hello to all of the satellite organisations who run reserves nearby, independently of the national parks programme. To the west of Analamazaotra Reserve and divided by the road leading to Andasibe village is the Analamazaotra Forest Station—run by the NGO, Association Mitsinjo. Wedged between them and Analamazaotra Reserve is a tiny area of forest, again, run entirely by the local community called VOIMMA and gaining popularity with tour groups (particularly certain nationalities, apparently) due to its easy to navigate stone paths and likelihood of spotting the star attractions of the area in a short amount of time. A horrible proposition to some, bliss to others.

Back out on the main [RN2], head east for about ten minutes and you'll reach another independent park, Maromizaha, which provides primary forest at higher altitudes as an alternative to Mantadia. There are more areas and more organisations outside of these again.

The practise of establishing community-led and managed park protection programmes has thrived in Andasibe after the success of organisations like Association Mitsinjo. As with the VOIMMA reserve, most are part of a hierarchy using the acronym V.O.I. (vondron’olona ifotony) which roughly translates as ‘grassroots group’. The motivation behind the V.O.I. movement is to allocate more of the roles and experience to the community in areas that tourists are travelling to see.

Getting Around

Andasibe is one of the easier big attractions in Madagascar to get to by taxi-brousse in terms of road conditions and journey time. If you want to experience more of the culture and haven't travelled by taxi-brousse yet, now may be a good time to do so. You can either pay a standard cost and transfer at Moramanga, or travel directly to the Abdasibe junction by means of the taxi-brousse destined for Tamatave, paying more for potentially losing the owner a customer who would have paid a full Tamatave fare.

The road from Tana to Andasibe was once notorious for drunk, speeding taxi-brousse and truck drivers taking narrow mountainous hairpin corners too hard, particularly around the stunning valleys of the forest corridor between Manjakandriana and Ambodiamontana. The increase in commercial haulage trucks from Tamatave to Tana slowly winding their way through the mountains has killed off a lot of reckless speeding as well as any hope you had of making the journey in the two hours the driver promised. There's a sombre mural painted on a large wall reminding all drivers of the perils of ignoring safety and I haven't experienced anything concerning on these roads in a while.

Because the road here is in relatively good condition and popular with tourists, you will see an increase in drivers and car operators offering regular taxis out here at the same cost as a 4x4, or more.

If you need to get from the Andasibe junction on the [RN2] to Andasibe village you can hop on one of the many passing taxi-brousse for the short five or ten minute duration at about [MGA1000]. Likewise, if you come out of VOIMMA needing to get to accommodation beside Analazmazaotra, but don't fancy the thirty minute walk, you can wait at the entrance to Andasibe train station instead until one arrives. It may be a tight fit, if there's room for you at all, so be prepared for anything.

crossing paddy fields on the RN2.
Groups crossing the narrow paths between paddy fields of rice by the RN2 near Anjiro—one of the many villages between Tana and Andasibe.

Accommodation

Feon'ny Ala

Friendly staff in basic but charming bungalows on a lucrative site surrounding the forest, close to the entrance

Analamazaotra Reserve, Andasibe

+261 20 568 3202 none[MGA75000]

I'm not sure if the owners sold their souls to secure a hillside of bungalows fronting onto the hillside of Analamazaotra Reserve, like a giant amphitheatre of wildlife, but it's going to be hard for any competitors to steal away guests at this price range. Only accommodation like Vakona can hold its own with more upmarket decor and facilities but even visitors there are sacrificing waking up to what Feon'ny Ala guests have each morning (The translation of its name, ‘voice of the forest’, is appropriate—in a good way).

Feon'ny Ala provides about fifty traditional bungalows with ravenala roofs and mud walls tailored to the squeamish demands of tourists with an interior lining of wood and canvas kept spotless. En-suite hot showers and toilets are provided in each but, most importantly, a well prepared bed guarantees some good nights of sleep. Andasibe noticeably drops in temperature at night, even in peak Summer, and the beds cater for this wonderfully. For the same reason, there's no need for a/c or fans at night and the rooms can be well ventilated during the day with curtains to retain some privacy.

There's a lot of food on offer and it's reasonably priced but basically a slightly more lavish version of hotely food. I enjoyed it and never went hungry out on the huge terrace that faces the forest and hangs over its boundary stream.

A curiously angled pool table and game of fussball are provided downstairs as well as some outdoor exercise equipment that you tend to find along coastal walks in cities, hidden away under some trees. A surprising find, to say the least.

Staff were all very friendly and accommodating of any requests. The only issues we had were the presence of some guides hanging around trying to get you to take them on. Either you do, without knowing anything about them, or you feel guilty every time you walk by them if you're the type who runs from tough love. It can be a bit off-putting to not be left in peace at a hotel but the office for guides in the area being positioned opposite Feon'ny Ala doesn't help in reducing these encounters.

nonononoyes[?]

Analamazaotra Reserve

Analamazaotra Reserve? If you skipped past ‘The Lay of the Land’ just know this small section of park is the Andasibe most people will be referring to when casually described and is one section of Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. In the past it has been referred to as Perinet Reserve.

The cost of entering is the admission fee, per person, added to a guide fee that's divided between a group of up to four people (5 - 8 requires paying a second guide fee, etc). Admission fees cover an entire day so second circuits are just the cost of an additional guide fee. Duration times are averages to complete as advised by the park. You're under no pressure to leave other than being considerate of your guide expecting to get back.

If any additional assistance is needed, a porter can accompany you for [MGA6000] a day. The park reception is open from 6am to 4pm seven days a week and a guide is obligatory. There is no night walk that I'm aware of but Association Mitsinjo, right across the road, takes care of that with an excellent night walk inside their section of the forest, Analamazaotra Forest Station.

Diademed sifakas playing in the tree tops of Analamazaotra Reserve.
A pair of diademed sifakas playing in the tree tops of Analamazaotra Reserve.

Park Admission Fees

CategoryAgeRate
TouristAdult[MGA45000]
TouristChild[MGA25000]
ResidentAdult[MGA2000]
ResidentChild[MGA1000]

Guide Fees

CircuitDurationDistanceRate
Indri 12 hours[?][MGA40000]
Indri 23 hours[?][MGA50000]
Aventure4 hours[?][MGA60000]
Anivokely2 hours[?][MGA20000]

Mantadia National Park

Admission fees and rules are per Analamazaotra Reserve. As they're technically, together, a single national park (Andasibe-Mantadia National Park) the admission fee for one covers admission for the other on the same day. In this scenario you will only need to pay the guide fee for the chosen circuit.

Guide Fees

CircuitDurationDistanceRate
Chute2 hours[?][MGA40000]
Rianasoa2 hours[?][MGA40000]
Eulophia3 hours[?][MGA30000]
Belakato3 hours[?][MGA30000]
Tsakoka3 hours[?][MGA70000]
Trekking8 hours[?][MGA80000]
More than 4 hours4+ hoursvaries[MGA80000]

Analamazaotra Forest Station

Operated by the NGO, Association Mitsinjo, since 2003, Analamazaotra Forest Station (also referred to as Parc Mitsinjo) is a highly regarded tract of forest shared with Analamazaotra Reserve but for the road to Andasibe village creating a divide and boundary between both. This being an independently managed forest—separate from the National Parks Programme—it has its own set of rules for access and price. For one, it provides accessible night walks inside the park which national parks no longer do unless camping. It also has a combined entrance and guide fee, charged per person per circuit. There is no child rate but those under six years get free admission.

Combined Entrance & Guide Fees

CircuitDurationDistanceRate
Babakotokely1 - 2 hours[?][MGA30000]
Louvelli2 - 3 hours[?][MGA40000]
Vahimantsina3 - 4 hours[?][MGA55000]
Sahamamy4 - 5 hours[?][MGA65000]
Tanafisaka / Night Walk1.5 hours[?][MGA20000]
Frogs Terrarium Exhibit1 hour[?][MGA30000]
Torotorofotsy Hike4 - 5 hours[?][MGA65000]
Andasibe Village Visit1 hour[?][MGA15000]
Sacred Tree Visit1.5 hours[?][MGA15000]
Reforestation Visit1 - 2 hours[?][MGA35000]

Maromizaha

Run independently by GERP (Groupe d’Étude et de Recherche sur les Primates), Maromizaha is one of the newest visitable areas of forest in Andasibe and its entrance is about [3.5km] east of the Andasibe turn-off on the [RN2]. It offers an appealing alternative to Mantadia by providing accessible primary forest much closer to Analamazaotra Reserve for anybody staying near its entrance.

Our visit was only two weeks after a cyclone had hit and car access was blocked by landslides. This resulted in our hike beginning right by the [RN2] entrance as we climbed over the fallen mud and tree branches, rather than trundling up to the car park in a 4x4.

Depending on mood, energy, and timing, unexpected extensions of circuits can be a mixed blessing but Maromizaha's entrance trail graciously demonstrated why its name translates as ‘many views’ on our ascent up to the circuit starting point. This was the meaning our guide gave us but I've heard longer interpretations suggesting the ‘views’ translation may be in the context of opinions, rather than scenery, though my dictionary suggests the guide's interpretation was correct. Nonetheless, I stand by my comment on the stunning vistas you will have the pleasure of absorbing from a high vantage point. The park agrees and provides a bench at one of the prettiest, from which we were able to see indri far below us as dappled specks of black and white idling in the tree tops.

Our accommodation offered us transport here at a very reasonable price. As we prearranged the hike, I cannot comment on how feasible tours are when arriving unannounced but the small office next to the [RN2] turn-off looks to be occupied at all times; or at least an office capable of getting attention at and finding someone appropriate to handle your entry requirements.

Prearranging a visit is straightforward if you ask around in front of the Andasibe-Mantadia reception where guides congregate. Many work in more than one reserve and there should be somebody who can facilitate the request with enough advance warning.