Additional Notes or Correction
Please include any dates the information is relevant to.
Your address will not be displayed, shared with third parties or added to lists. It is for the rare occasion of clarifying information submitted.
Ranomafana, the entire area, is beautiful. Even the drive down to it from Antsirabe is something you won't be able to take your eyes off as you get acquainted with the slender two-storey dung-brick houses dotted throughout the mountains. You'll also enjoy witnessing the steep, paved roads getting thorough usage from kids hurtling down with their loads of wood on makeshift carts held on slender wheels—sure beats walking. There are many places called Ranomafana in Madagascar (it translates as 'hot water') but any reference to the large mountain rainforests or national park is likely referring to this one.
The park is served by the [RN25], a well maintained paved road that diverts off the [RN7] before Fianara. It's one of the few places in Madagascar that has seen the arrival of tourist buses change the landscape semi-significantly but, from my understanding, any cons have been heavily outweighed by the pros for the residents of the area. The wildlife and forest has unquestionably benefited.
The village is situated after the entrance to the park but, before reaching it, landscaped guest lodges vie for attention all along the north side of the road that curves through the forest valley. On the south side, across the river valley, looms the forest that most tourists will become familiar with (though the park boundaries also extend much further north). Nestled below the road is Centre ValBio, a centre for visiting researchers and students which, fittingly, looks like something from Jurassic Park.
You can taxi-brousse it here but it will require first going to Fianarantsoa and getting a second brousse. If you choose a 4x4 based in Antsirabe or Ambositra you can pay for only a day's rental as the driver can make it home before it gets too late (just make sure you depart early).
By the park entrance itself there are only one or two places to stay, the vast majority being mostly [2km - 5] further down the road near the actual village of Ranomafana. They all have stunning views of the rainforest valley and the distance is of little concern if you have transport. Otherwise you may want to consider looking at the closer options. We got the impression from the ticket desk that not many people stay without a car at their disposal but it's definitely feasible if you stay by the park entrance or are willing to walk the extra distance to get from the village; or chance on squeezing onto a passing local taxi-brousse should you time it right.
The park sees a lot of tourists for Madagascar and, as is the fashion, the accommodation and food is priced accordingly. There's a gap in the market for something priced in the middle of the large cost divide between the main hotels and the smaller dorms right by the park entrance. The hotel options start at approximately [MGA130000] per room per night, whereas the dorms are [MGA12000] per bed. Some Ranomafana lodges fluctuate their rates seasonally and that same room for [MGA130000] in one lodge from December to March rises to [MGA200000] between August and November.
Budget dorms and camping ground next to the park reception.
Next to Ranomafana National Park Reception, RN35
+261 34 432 2179none[MGA12000]
Rianala Gîte is a small collection of dorm rooms priced per bed with shared facilities, and offers a choice of decent, basic food. We had some concerns about security of our belongings when sharing the room (due to the lack of facilities to store them securely) but were put at ease. We even had a secret knock to indicate it was the owners wishing to enter the room. Unexpectedly polite (and reassuring).
If you've ever wanted to stay in a log-cabin hostel that provides a terrace to overlook a rainforest, welcome to Rianala Gîte. The couple who own it are very gracious hosts and will go out of their way to ensure you enjoy your stay. They've been doing this for nearly two decades, so who better to pick their brains about the area? Beds are basic but comfortable and camping is available if you prefer constructing your own bed. The reception and entrance to the national park is right behind you so it's an easy start in the mornings.
Pleasant, contemporary guest chalets built across a terraced garden looking out onto the forest. An airy restaurant provides equally pleasing views.
Ranomafana Accommodation Area, RN35
+261 20 222 9807www.setam-lodge.mg[MGA130000 - 200000]
Setam is hard to miss as the road corners and reveals the expanse of chalets spread across its steep garden. For anybody cursing the extra steps required to get to your higher chalet, it earns you uninterrupted views across the valley.
After staying in the nearby dorms for a few days the large, soft bed and en-suite hot-showers were heavenly at the end of a long day of hiking. The place also looked sumptuous. In the cold light of the morning it's a little more subdued and basic but well-kept. Setam skips on most hotel facilities and aims for comfort and letting the views and park provide the frills. As it's a hotel that sees a quick turnaround of tour groups, it's a little less personal than some others but that's not to suggest any staff were anything other than friendly and accommodating.
Food—from a short menu—was nice, if a little small and at the typical higher price of national park neighbours coming in at about [MGA40000] for lunch or dinner. Breakfast ranges from [MGA10000 - 17000]. We particularly enjoyed their version of koba for dessert.
The owners also run a tour company and provide a range of packaged tours of Madagascar. See their website for more details.
As of August 2018, a small number of circuits in the park are temporarily closed due to recent bandit incidences in the outskirts. Management has emphasised that none of these occurred within the park but wants to ensure visitors feel safe and has taken the unfortunate step to ensure a visit without worries. They have also asked law enforcement to patrol the park to clarify its status as well as provide a deterrent to any escalation.
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.
Use of any of the camping areas along Ranomafana's trails (found along Sahamalaotra, Soarano, Ambodiamontana and Vatoharanana) costs an additional [MGA5000] a day. The park's reception is open seven days a week from 8am to 4pm.
Park Admission Fees
Circuits with Guide Fees
|Amboditanimena||2 - 4 hours||[7km]||[MGA30000]|
|Sahamalaotra||2 - 4 hours||[7km]||[MGA30000]|
|Talatakely||2 - 3 hours||[8km]||[MGA40000]|
|Vatoharanana 1||8 hours||[12km]||[MGA75000]|
|Vatoharanana 2||8 hours||[14km]||[MGA75000]|
|Soarano-Valohoaka||3 - 4 days||[11km]||[MGA90000]|
|Amboditanimena / Talatakely / Sahamalaotra||[?]||[?]||[MGA90000]|
|Night Walk||1 hour||[1km]||[?]|
Note that the night walk, as with other national parks, is no longer inside the park for health and safety reasons. Ranomafana's takes place along the road where a large collection of wildlife—particularly herps—can be seen at the forest's edge. Although the same conditions are close to the reception you're required to walk or drive [1km] west of there to a collective meeting point of all the tourists, as if waiting for something.
Which you are. A few mouse lemurs have become habituated to know that a banana will be smeared on a particular tree around the same time most evenings and brave the paparazzi to claim their prize. While I'm not a fan of contriving a situation for an animal that's easily seen without the need to train it, it excited plenty of others (such as one woman who just kept repeating, “Jumping around! Jumping around!” to nobody in particular as the tiny primates leapt across branches). Maybe it's not such a bad thing? Afterwards you can walk along the roadside with a guide to see plenty of chameleons, a few mouse lemurs there by their own determination, and whatever else emerges that evening.
If walking further into areas of primary forest, expect to encounter leeches. Guides will know the areas more suited to them so anyone put off at the thought can still see a lot of the park while avoiding a meet and greet. Those on the fence should just go for it as anything off-putting about them is mostly the thought.