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Ranomafana National Park ***
Ranomafana is located in southeastern Madagascar, and is one of the premier lemur-watching sites in the country. It also has one of Madagascar’s most sophisticated research stations. It is particularly important for bamboo lemurs, of which three types can be seen within the park’s boundaries. In fact one form, the golden bamboo lemur (Hapalemur aureus) was first discovered there in 1986. The greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus), one of the world’s most endangered primates, is also present but down to vey low numbers. The smaller, recently-described Ranomafana bamboo lemur (Hapalemur griseus ranomafanensis) is more abundant and is most likely to be observed at dusk in stands of common bamboo. Finding all three forms is possible, but requires perseverance, the use of local guides, and at least a couple of days in the forest. Many other lemur species are found in Ranomafana as well. Groups of red-bellied lemurs (Eulemur rubiventer), for instance, have been habituated along the main trail network and are easy to find, in contrast to most other sites where this species is usually quite rare. This is especially true when Chinese guava is in fruit (April–June), at which time they can be seen around Belle Vue along with red-fronted brown lemurs (Eulemur rufifrons). This is also one of the best places to find Milne-Edwards’ sifaka (Propithecus edwardsi), which can be seen at several locations within the park including the Vohiparara region. The southern black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata editorum) occurs in Ranomafana as well but finding this species usually requires a few hours of hiking from the Talakately Research Station to reach the more distant forests where they live. Night walks at Ranomafana, meanwhile, offer good opportunities to view several nocturnal lemurs, including rufous mouse lemur (Microcebus rufus), greater dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus major), Peyriéras’ woolly lemur (Avahi peyrierasi), and small-toothed sportive lemur (Lepilemur microdon), which is most likely to be observed in the park’s Vohiparara region. Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) are also present, but as always difficult to find. Ranomafana is also a very popular destination for birdwatchers, who come especially to see the brown mesite (Mesitornis unicolor) and Pollen’s vanga (Xenopirostris polleni). There are now a number of hotels available in the Ranomafana area, the two best being the Centrest Sejour and the Domaine Nature Lodge, which are near the park entrance. In the village of Ranomafana itself there are several other more modest accommodations such as the Setam Lodge. Guides are mandatory, and necessary if one wants to find all lemur species present in the park. They are highly skilled and will contribute significantly towards making your visit a success. Ranomafana National Park can be reached from Antananarivo by car in about seven hours. It can also be reached by car from Fianarantsoa, which is accessible by a weekly commercial flight from the capital. From there, the 50-km drive to Ranomafana takes about an hour. The main highway is fine, and the RN25 is now paved all the way to the park.