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The Masoala Peninsula as become one of Madagascar's top conservation priorities for its extensive rainforest (by Madagascar standards) and high biodiversity of plant and animal life. In the late 1990s, the 410,000ha Masoala National Park was created. Today the Masoala can only be reached by boat.

Despite the high number of animal species, wildlife in the rainforest can be exceedingly difficult to spot. Nevertheless you may find the red-ruffed lemur, white-fronted brown lemur, aye-aye, greater hedgehog tenrec, fossa, fanaloka, falanouc, and a number of bird species. Look carefully for chameleons and relatively abundant Uroplatus geckos. There are also lots of insects.

Watch where you swim -- the Gulf of Antongil is notorious for sharks. During my first visit we saw several as we made our way across stormy seas.

Province: Antsiranana (Digo-Suarez)

Area: 230,000

Protected area status: National park

Year established: 1997

General location: Northeastern

Location and Access: The Masoala Peninsula lies east of Maroansetra, a 2-3 hour boatride from the town or a 5 day hike

Climate: Lowland tropical rainforest

Average temperature: 24C

Elevation: 0 to 1224

Precipitation: 300-400 cm

Description: The Masoala Peninsula is one of the most biodiverse places on earth. The tropical rainforests extend from the white sand beaches of the Bay of Antongil to the mountainous center 1224 meters above sea level. Within the park visitors can find ecosystems ranging from coral reefs to mid-altitude rainforests. It is estimated that the forests of the Antongil Bay watershed contain 50% of Madagascar's biodiversity, despite making up less than 2% of its land mass.

Birds: 90
Reptiles: 60
Frogs: 44
Mammals: 50
   Lemurs: 10
   Rodents: 9
   Insectivores: 10
   Bats: 14
   Carnivores: 7
Fish: 23
Butterflies: 135
Lemur species:


Species: 2435

Dominant ethnic group(s): Betsimisaraka

Official web page

Additional notes:
Marine wildlife:
  • 164 coral species
  • 49 mollusk species
  • 4 species of sea turtles
  • 27 sea cucumber species
  • 97 species of bony fish
  • 2 species of whales
  • 2 species of dolphins
  • 1 species of dugong.
Masoala National park includes the 520 ha Special Reserve of Nosy Mangabe and more than 20 "multiple use zones" that allow local people to fish, collect food, harvest medicinal plants, and cut wood for construction under the supervision of park officials to ensure a that their activities do not exceed sustainable levels.

A total of 520,000 ha has some form of protection on the Masoala peninsula, a large area is considered a "zone of action" and is theoretically protected from certain activities.

Despite its protected status, Masoala park still suffers from encroachment from villages, illegal logging (especially ebony and rosewood), and hunting and poaching of lemurs and carnivores. Around 85,000 people live around the park which suffers a 1% deforestation rate according to Masoala - The Eye of the Forest A New Strategy for Rainforest Conservation in Madagascar

The forests of Masoala suffered significant damage during Cyclone Hudah which struck on April 2, 2000. According to NASA, Hudah was one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the Indian Ocean with winds over 230 km/hr and gusts exceeding 380 km/hr. Masoala - The Eye of the Forest A New Strategy for Rainforest Conservation in Madagascar reports that red ruffed lemur population fell 50% in some areas and trees on windward slopes were stripped bare of their leaves. However, cyclones such as Hudah may play an important role in forest dynamics on the Masoala. Studies by the Missouri Botanical Gardens suggest that hardwoods - rosewood and ebony -- may survive cyclones better than other species while some tree species on the peninsula may have reproductive strategies that actually depend on periodic cyclones to trigger mast fruiting events (following Hudah, researchers observed a mass flowering in Masoala's rainforest).

Masoala has 9 species of mangroves.

NASA satellite image of the Masoala region:

Image courtesy of the Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA-Johnson Space Center. 25 Mar. 2005. "Astronaut Photography of Earth.

Image courtesy of the Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA-Johnson Space Center. 25 Mar. 2005. "Astronaut Photography of Earth.

MAP/Satellite Picture


Pictures on this site were taken with a
Konica Minolta

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Beautifully illustrated with full color photographs throughout, Madagascar Wildlife is a celebration of the unique fauna of a remarkable island and the perfect accompaniment to Bradt's popular general travel guide, Madagascar.


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