MASOALA NATIONAL PARK
Masoala National Park, in northeast Madagascar, is the largest of the island’s protected areas. Most of the park is situated in Sava Region and a part in Analanjirofo. Created in 1997, the park protects 2,300 square kilometres of rainforest and 100 square kilometres of marine parks. The Masoala peninsula is exceptionally diverse due to its large size, and variety of habitats. Altogether, the park protects tropical rainforest, coastal forest, flooded forest, marsh, and mangrove. Three marine parks protect coral reefs and a dazzling array of marine life.
There are ten lemur species, including the red ruffed lemur, which is native to the peninsula. The island reserve of Nosy Mangabe is one of the best sites in Madagascar to try to glimpse the elusive nocturnal aye-aye. 
Masoala harbors many other species, such as the Madagascar day gecko, leaf-tailed gecko, chameleons of all sizes, spectacular birds such as the helmet vanga, and rare species such as the red owl and tomato frog. Masoala is also home to the day-flying sunset moth, Chrysiridia rhipheus. The Madagascar serpent-eagle was recently rediscovered here, and exists in healthy populations only in this part of north east Madagascar.
Three marine parks are included in the Masoala National Park: Tampolo in the West, Ambodilaitry in the South, and Ifaho in the East. These are among the most diverse marine environments in Madagascar and are superb destinations for kayaking and snorkeling.
Each year from July to early September, hundreds of humpback whales visit the Antongil Bay during their long migration. The warm protected waters of the bay provide an ideal breeding and calving ground for these marine mammals. 
This is an exceptionally wet area of Madagascar. The driest part of the year is from September to December. As the park is accessible only by a three-hour boat journey, the cyclone season (January to March) is best avoided.
In June 2007, Masoala was designated as a World Heritage Site as part of a cluster of parks that represent the biodiversity of the eastern rainforests of the country. The other national parks included are Marojejy, Bahamian, Ranomafana, Andringitra, and Andohahela.
During 2009 and 2010, the national park was invaded by thousands of illegal loggers searching for rosewood.
Biodiversity in Masoala National Park
That the Masoala peninsula is truly exceptional is not new: two percent of all of planet earth’s animal and plant species resides here. Some species like aye-aye, red-ruffed lemur, Madagascar red owl and the extremely rare serpent eagle are endemic to the peninsula and thus found nowhere else. Masoala harbors also many other novelties.
The park forests abound with chameleons, geckos, frogs as well as several species of butterflies and fish which are new to science. As if that weren’t enough, the forests are filled with rare, endemic species, tumble down to the edge of a pristine and unspoiled shore peppered.
There are unexplored golden beaches and the three marine parks that protect over 10,000 ha of coral reefs, marine plants and mangroves around the peninsula.
Presently, more than 3,001 fish species have been inventoried in the marine parks. Moreover, the Antongil Bay itself is used also as a sheltered place by humpback whales that gather here during breeding season.
During the months of the austral summer, Antongil’s waters literally froth with cetaceans. The region also supports one of the most diverse groups of palm species in the world.
Activities in Masoala National Park
The hiking and trekking opportunities for those on Madagascar tours here are immense. The main trails for visitors on Madagascar safari to Masoala National Park are at Nosy Mangabe, Tampolo/Ambodiforaha, Cap Est, and a several-day hike is possible across the peninsula on your Madagascar tour.
One of the best areas is the Alhoatrozana, trail, a stunning virgin rain forest located about midway down the western side of the peninsula.
On the Western coastal trail, Lohatrozona is a paradise for ornithologists. The marine reserve of Tanjona grows a wonderful mangrove forest. The marine reserves of Tampolo, Ambodirafia and Marofototra have superb corals and nice, clean beaches perfect for a swim.
Exploring the coastal trail, the path between Alhoatrozana and Antalavia weaves in and out of golden-sand beaches, rocky coves, and lush forest in which is probably the most beautiful site in Masoala.
Getting to Masoala National Park.
If you are staying in Antalaha, you can get from here either by bicycle or by taxi-brousse to Ambodirafia and Cap-Est. At the detached parcel of Andranoanala trails are easy, and you can easily observe water birds in the park’s pond and even crocodiles on the river.
If you want to venture south from here, a trail leads you through small fishing villages to the Masoala Cap. The white – and in some places reddish – sands of the gently sloping beach are crossed by mangroves and rivers.
The park can be accessed from the towns of Maroantsetra or Antalaha. From Maroantsetra, transport by motor boat can be arranged. From Antalaha, the park can be accessed by road to Cap Est using daily bush taxis or by mountain bike as far as the village of Masoala.
Accommodation in Masoala National Park.
It is possible to sleep in Tampolo at the Tampolo Lodge on the coast. The very basic bungalows cost about AR 30,000 for two. There is also a campingsite attached.
In Ambodiforaha, near Tampoco, there is Chez Arol which offers 6 bungalows at 22 € with private facilities, and 3 at 13 € (with common facilities). This place is really nice and offers many activities to explore Masoala National Park, though it is not located on the beach.
There is a new address destined for a more upmarket public is the Masoala Forest Lodge. To reach this isolated paradise you take a boat in Maroantsetra which drives you through the Bay d´Antongil until you reach the lodge.
This lodge has just seven palm thatched tents set on hard-wood platforms discreetly sited amidst the forest lining the beach. All tents are netted, furnished and have en-suite bathroom and hot water.
The wholesome three course meals of organic local products are server in the restaurant overlooking the beach.
Apart from relaxing and enjoying this private paradise, there are a wide range of activities offered: guided forest walks and sea kayaking tours, bird watching, snorkeling, whale watching, fishing or swimming.
The Masoala Forest Lodge is committed to a program of community benefit to assist local populations to maintain a sustainable lifestyle. Price per person starts from 196 € on full board and includes boat transfers, park guides and certain activities.
Several packages of generally five or seven days of duration are offered by these three lodges and generally include a visit of Nosy Mangabe, throught trails within the park.
Camping is also possible in Masoala. In Antalaviana, three hours from Tampolo, there is a wonderfully set campingsite. Other campingsites are located in Tanjona, Masoala and Marofototra.
He surrounding villages also offer the visitor a simple and very basic accommodations: Mahalevona, Fizono, Ampokafo, Ambanizana, Masoala, Ampananavoana, Vinanivao and Ambohitralanana.
Accommodations in Cap Est were literally swept from the globe after the cyclone Gafilo, which struck Madagascar’s east coast in March 2004.
Activities in Masoala National Park.
Several multi-day treks of differing grades of difficulty are also possible within the peninsula:
Maroantsetra – Antalaha on the inland trail is a 3 – 5 days, depending on conditions and pace. If you want to experience the rain forest on this trek, it is best to spend the night in Ambatoledama and explore the Ambatoledama corridor.
Otherwise, the 45-minute walk through the corridor will be your only chance to experience the protected forest of the park on this route.
Maroantsetra to Altamaha – Coastal Route is a 10 – 14 days’ trek. This challenging trip will take you on local trails from Maroantsetra, down the beautiful coast of the Masoala peninsula.
You will pass through the park in several locations, through villages, and along the coastline of the marine parks. You may elect to stay for several nights in Tampolo.
Other beautiful locations include Ambodilaitry, where there is a tent shelter, Cap Masoala, Vinanivao, Ratsianarana, and Cap Est.
For any Masoala visit remember that this is an exceptionally wet area of Madagascar. The best time to visit Madagascar and go to Masoala is the dry season from September to December.
If you come during the high season, be sure to book well in advance if you’re planning to come during this time of year: accommodation on the peninsula is still limited.
The park’s internet site is currently the best information source for preparing any visit to the park.
Masoala National Park protects the rich ecological diversity of the rainforest, coastal forests, and other tropical habitats along with the diversity of wildlife that includes over 15 species of lemurs as well as other reptilian and amphibian species that thrive is this ecosystem.
The park also protects the aye-aye which is a threatened species in the park. This intriguing species is most notable for their evening glowing eyes. Because of their status, night walks are no longer permitted in efforts to keep them from extinction in the park.
SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS.
The majority of people visiting Masoala National Park are looking for the rainforest experience and opportunities to experience the diverse wildlife. Bird-watching is a targeted activity with Madagascar being a coveted destination from visitors around the world. The different species of lemurs and chameleons add to the wilderness experience.