Marojejy National Park ***

Marojejy National Park is in northeastern Madagascar between the towns of Andapa and Sambava. It is the best place to see the silky sifaka (Propithecus candidus), one of the country’s most endangered species, and is also quite good for white-fronted brown lemur (Eulemur albifrons) and northern bamboo lemur (Hapalemur occidentalis). Eight other species are reported from the park, including an unidentifed species of mouse lemur (possibly Microcebus mittermeieri), hairy-eared dwarf lemur (Allocebus trichotis), greater dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus major), eastern fork-marked lemur (Phaner furcifer), Seal’s sportive lemur (Lepilemur seali), red-bellied lemur (Eulemur rubriventer), eastern woolly lemur (Avahi laniger), and aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis), but these are more difficult to find given the steep terrain. In any case, the real prize is the silky sifaka, and a visit of at least one night to Camp Marojejia (formerly known as Camp 2), and preferably two or three nights, is required to find this species. The latter may also be seen in the northwest portion of the park in the direction of Doany, but this site remains far off the traditional tourist circuit and requires expedition-level preparations. Even more remote locations for it are to be found in the Befingotra Forest of the Anjanaharibe-Sud Special Reserve, as well as in the Andaparaty Forest in Makira. Park headquarters, with its newly-built information center, is located about 66 km from Sambava, along the main Andapa-Sambava road. From the headquarters, one drives in as far as the village of Mandena if road and bridge conditions permit. From there, it is another 2.5 km to the picnic area just inside the park entrance itself and another 4.5 km to the first campsite, Camp Mantella, where northern bamboo lemurs (Hapalemur occidentalis) can often be seen. From there it is another 2 km to Camp Marojejia, which is the best location for finding the silky sifaka. This camp is situated in the transition from lowland to montane rain forest, and must surely be one of the most beautiful in Madagascar. A large, covered dining area is perched on a mountainside with views overlooking sheer rock outcrops and lush vegetation. Continuing up the main summit trail another 2 km you find Camp Simpona, the highest-altitude camp in the park at 1,250 m elevation. The hike to this third camp is very steep, but well worth the effort since silky sifakas are occasionally seen near the bungalows in this unique montane habitat, and the views are truly magnificent. An additional 2 km of steep walking is needed in order to reach the summit of the Marojejy massif which, at 2,132 m, is one of the country’s highest yet most accessible mountain peaks. Marojejy is perhaps the only national park in Madagascar featuring comfortable bungalows as well as kitchen and toilet facilities deep in primary rain forest. These accommodations are available at each of the three main camps, and can be rented at very low cost at park headquarters, where guides, cooks, and porters can also be hired. For visitors with their own tents, reduced rates are available for using the basic tent sites at each of the three main camps. Sadly, this park was subjected to illegal logging for rosewood in early to mid-2009, and was closed for a brief period. However, it reopened in May, 2009, and all facilities are intact and available for use. There is no reason not to visit this unique and spectacular park, which is one of Madagascar’s real gems.

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