Only a few hours drive east of the capital Antananarivo, the village of Andasibe (pop.12, 000) is surrounded by forest and spreads out on both sides of the river of the same name. It grew from the surrounding logging and graphite mining industries, as well as the train line, which was established by the French in the early 1900s. Andasibe makes an ideal base from which to explore Analamazaotra - a nature reserve that is located within the confines of Mantadia National Park.
Analamazaotra is Madagascar’s most accessible rainforest reserve and is famous for its lemurs particularly the indri, the largest of the species. Over 60 families reside in the park, and their distinctive ‘howling’ can be heard from up to 3kms away. (The basic function of these displays is to demark territory). They are at their most active at dawn, but during the rest of the day can be seen lazing in the trees all along the majestic trails in Analamazaotra. If lucky, you may also spy the glamorously named black and white ruffed lemur - an endangered species - rare orchids, super sized spiders and mesmerizing chameleons.
After revelling in Analamazaotra’s natural beauty, visit the forest station of the Association Mitsinjo. This world-renowned research centre studies Analamazaotra’s biodiversity and works towards its conservation. The rainforest is under threat, principally from the degradation of it outlying areas. Imported species such as pine and Australian eucalyptus are mainly to blame, as are ‘thrash and burn’ farming methods basically the practice of torching swaths of forests to convert them to rice fields. Mitsinjo runs various breeding programs, reforesting projects and guided walks.