Located in the Boeny region, in the northwest of the Big Island, Ankarafantsika National Park is bounded on the east by the Mahajamba River and on the west by the Betsiboka River. The park is crossed by National Road 4 and covers an area of 136,000 hectares. Ankarafantsika was once called Ampijoroa Forest Station. It is famous for its lake, birds and turtles.
Ankarafantsika is derived from the word "Garafantsy", meaning "thorny mountain" or "cunning and frightening man". These forests were home to a legendary patriot named Ravelobe who became a bandit and spread terror. Garafantsy reminds us of that period when the locality was a source of fear for travellers. The park's main attraction is the great Ravelobe sacred Lake, which extends over nearly twenty-seven hectares. The story goes that the famous bandit and his whole family committed suicide there. The Sakalava people believe that the Nile crocodiles, which inhabit this body of water, are the descendants of Ravelobe and are therefore considered sacred. The lake is also home to many water birds such as herons, fish-eagle, ibis and ducks; and to Rere, freshwater turtles.
In addition to the Ravelobe Lake, Ankarafantsika has other sacred sites for the Sakalava people such as the Doany which are royal tombs. These places are used for traditional ceremonies (such as the Joro, a sacred invocation ritual, prayers) and for zebu sacrifices.
Ankarafantsika National Park: magnificent and extraordinary landscapes The site houses a mosaic of ecosystems: a dense dry forest, a savannah and the multicoloured Ankarokaroka canyon. The latter is formed by large "lavaka" shaped by erosion. The canyon offers a spectacular view of the surrounding forests. More than 800 plant species have been inventoried: a baobab species endemic to the park (Adansonia madagascariensis var. boinensis), hard and precious woods such as palisander, herbaceous plants, euphorbiaceae, medicinal plants, and woody plants. The flora of Ankarafantsika has the particularity of flourishing on a sandy massif.
Ankarafantsika National Park: rare birds and wildlife observation This park is a birdwatching site par excellence, one of the few places in the world that has such a wide variety of birds, such as the Madagascar Eagle, the Malagasy Dyal, the Madagascar Bulbul, the Newton Falcon, the Vanga… The park has a total of 129 bird species, 75 of which are endemic. It also shelters chameleons, iguanas, snakes, tenrecs, eight diurnal and nocturnal lemur species including the Sifaka de Coquerel (the park's emblem) and the microcebus ravelobensis, one of the smallest microcebes. It is of course endemic to the area.