If you have time, there are many lesser known areas in Madagascar that are worth visiting.
The town of Morondava is an access point to the deciduous dry forests found in the western half of the country and is best known for the Avenue of Baobabs, a prominent group of endemic Grandidier’s baobabs (one of nine species of baobabs which exist in Madagascar), which line a short section of the road leading north towards Kirindy Forest. Kirindy itself is primarily of interest as being one of the best places in which to see fossa, particularly during the mating season from October to December. Other curiosities include the Madagascar giant jumping rat and Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur, the smallest primate in the world.
The Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, which is a World Heritage Site, covers an area of some 700 sq. km and has an extraordinary landscape. Forests of sharp limestone pinnacles rise from the earth, punctuated by lush vegetated canyons, lakes and mangroves swamps. The wildlife is abundant and here you can easily see white Decken’s sifaka, red-fronted brown lemur and if you are lucky the Sambirano lesser bamboo lemur. The park has two parts to it, Le Petit Tsingy and Le Grand Tsingy. Le Petit Tsingy has a walking circuit which takes a couple of hours passing through a maze of limestone and is generally combined with a boat trip on the beautiful Manambolo River. The expansive Grand Tsingy is truly impressive and also more challenging. The hiking circuit here takes you deep into the tsingy using a network of via ferratas and hanging bridges and can take between 4 and 5 hours. A certain level of fitness is required for this walk and it is not suitable for anyone suffering from vertigo or for the faint hearted.
Anyone thinking about a visit to the Tsingy should be prepared to commit time to it as you need at least three days to make it worthwhile and also be prepared for an arduous journey to get there. There is no easy access unless you charter a plane and the road journey from Morondava is both adventurous, can be uncomfortable and is long, taking approximately ten hours (breaking the journey in Kirindy is advisable).
The Pangalanes Canal is a network of natural and man-made waterways stretching along 640 kilometres of Madagascar’s east coast and is primarily used for the transportation of goods and for fishing. A boat cruise along the canal offers an insight into the daily lives of the locals but most visitors will head for the private reserve attached to the Le Palmarium. Not all of the lemur species here are indigenous to the area, for example the Coquerel’s sifaka, but nonetheless it is an excellent place to visit to get close up shots of a variety of species. It is also possible to visit a small private island where, after dark, there are excellent opportunities of seeing the elusive aye-aye.
Amber Mountain National Park is located in the north of the island, some 30 kms south of Diego Suarez. In contrast to its arid surroundings, Amber Mountain which climbs up to an altitude of approximately 1400 metres, is covered with montane rainforest and has a refreshingly cool climate. The park is a mixture of rainforest, waterfalls and volcanic lakes which can be explored on foot using a network of trails leading through the forests and generally leading to a waterfall or a crater lake. There are large numbers of animals resident in the park with 25 species of mammals including fossa and ringtail mongoose, 8 species of lemur, five of which are nocturnal, and an abundance of geckos, chameleons, frogs and butterflies. Birds are also plentiful with 75 recorded species, some of which are even locally endemic such as the Amber Mountain rock thrush.
Nosy Ankao has previously offered shelter to fishermen and been a hide out for pirates but today it is the exclusive address in Madagascar and home to the luxurious Miavana. Here you can encounter crowned lemurs as you take a walk through the forest or watch turtle hatchlings make their first journey to the water. The waters, which offer superb conditions for snorkelling and diving, are frequented by dolphins, manta rays, migrating whales and large shoals of colourful fish. For keen sport fishermen, the waters are rich with big game fish such as bluefin, sail fish, barracuda and giant trevally which can be caught on a catch and release basis.