The Masoala National Park is located in the North Eastern Part of Madagascar on the coastal peninsular. Masoala is a Malagasy word which can easily be translated to as the eye of the forest and it was named by the first inhabitants of the Park who are believed to have been living in the area since the 15th century. The dominant tribe around the Park is referred to as the Betsimisaraka although there are several other small ethnic groups that can be found in the area.
Masoala is considered to be one of the wettest place in Madagascar and for all those that are planning to visit the area should actually be able to carry necessary clothes that match the weather that is found in the area. For all those that are planning to go for trekking the best months to visit the Park are between September and December as these are considered the driest months of the Park and for the rest of the months the rains keep on coming and if you can bear with the rain and the bad roads, then you can visit any time of the month.
The Masoala is extremely diverse when it comes to plants and forests and it is the only place in the country where the forests literally grow into the ocean and their view is one you do not want to miss when you visit the area. The Park has twenty well trained tour guides who will help you when it comes to visiting the different areas in the Park and these will explain everything that you are going to see and what to do.
The Masoala National Park was established in 1997 and it is one of the big reserved areas in Madagascar. The Park, before it was made a protected area was encroached on by the several locals that live around as they cut down the trees to get firewood, land for farming and settlement and this led to many plant and animal species.
The Park is separated into three parts that is the Ambodilafa which is the southern part of the Park, the Tampolo in the west and the Ifaho in the Eastern part of the Park. All these parts are known as marine grounds and they offer the best views around the park. The Park was made a UNESCO heritage in 2007 due to its unique animal and plant species. The Park can easily be accessed through the different points in the city like the Antalaha by road or you can use the boat through Maroantsetra. Getting to the Park might not be easy but if you try to book everything early you might get the best of everything from the trip.
The Masoala National Park has a lot of activities that one can carry out when they visit and some of the activities include the following:
Masoala National Park had over 102 bird species and almost 60% of these are all endemic which enables all bird lovers to have fun while in the area. The different bird species that can be viewed include the pitta ground roller, the red breasted Coua, the Madagascar serpent eagle, the brown Mesite, the grey crowned greenbul, the Henst’s goshwawk, the Madagascar crested Ibis and many more others. The different birds live in different habitats and this is where you will find most of them but remember that birding in Masoala is done in the mornings for better lighting.
There are various lemur species that can be found in the peninsular of Masoala like the Aye-aye, the red ruffled lemur, the black ruffled lemur and these can be trekked. The lemur trekking is mostly done in the mornings because it is the best time to see them as compared to the afternoons where they are hard to spot. Besides the mentioned types of lemurs, the Masoala National Park has ten different species of lemur and all these can be tracked down easily with the help of a tour guide.
The park is known to have various plant species that you cannot find anywhere else. Masoala has over 600 different plant species and most of these are used by the locals to get medicine for when they fall sick. Most villages in Madagascar lack hospitals and those that are available cannot be afforded by most of the locals and that is why they use the local medicine for tree leaves, stems and roots to treat themselves of the various ailments. A tour guide will take you through the various tree species but they might not divulge into all the information about the different medicines because most of the Malagasy people like keeping some of their secrets to themselves.
There are various wildlife that can be viewed in the area and these include the various types of chameleons, the snakes, and amphibians like the toads, the different types of fish that can be found in the lakes around the Park, snails and a great view of the corals that were formed due to much erosion that took place many years ago.
Madagascar is known for not having no predators as compared to other African countries but there are two that are found on the Island and one of them is the rare Mongoose. The brown tailed Mongoose has only been sighted in the Masoala and it is the only other carnivore that can be found in the Madagascar although it is less known due to its near extinction. They are extremely hard to spot and that is why you need to look closely in order to see one.
The best way to visit these villages and get to know the different locals is by walking through as this will give you a chance to talk one on one with some of them. Through the conservation of the Park many children have got the chance to actually acquire education and other services that were not there before and this has been done as some of the things that are done by the government so that the economy around the Park improves.
Your will be able to see the various schools that were constructed, get to taste the good local food that is prepared by the different locals, meet and get to know more about their unique culture that is practiced, buy some souvenirs from the locals, get to know how the local beads and the clothes and many more. Their stories that are always nice to listen especially in the evenings after a long day. And when you are planning your visit to the villages, you need to make sure that their leader is aware of your visit and you will need to go with a tour guide who will help with the translation and getting around.
Trekking is one of the best activities that can be carried out when one visits the Masoala and there are several routes that one can use in the park when trekking and some of them are tedious but worth the try. The trek routes that can be used include the following:
The coastal route is one of the two that are used for trekking in the park. It is a bit hard to use the route due to its hard course and it takes over ten to fourteen days to complete. The route will take you through the park, through the coast to the different villages that are found in the area. On this route you can rest a bit in the different camps that are set in the wild.
The inland trail takes three to four days and it is the shortest of all the treks in the Park. The route takes you through the corridor of Ambatolendama where you will be able to view the wider part of the park and see the various wildlife and plant life that is in the Park.
Remember that both trails are not easy to take on and therefore you need to be prepared by taking the different gears needed for trekking like hiking shoes, a walking stick and a potter who will help you carry your luggage as they will be hard to carry while trekking.
When you visit the Masoala Park, you get to pay a small fee that is used by the people managing the park to set different projects that help the community, the locals and also improve on the Park’s outlook and help care for the animals. There are a lot of potters that will help you with your luggage as you tour the Park and you will need to carry some money for the tips. The children normally pay only 25000AR while the adults pay only 45000 AR whereas the potters are paid 12000AR for your luggage.