Ankarana Special Reserve in the north of Madagascar is one of the best reasons to visit this relatively far-flung region
It’s a good half day’s drive on potholed roads from Diego Suarez, but the bone-shaking ride is well worth it for the surprises that lie in store in this remarkable park.
Wildlife in this reserve is plentiful from numerous species of lemur to chameleons, bats and (small boys in particular pay attention here) some fairly impressive spider action.
The defining characteristic of Ankarana, however is the limestone rock on which the park sits and the erosion of this limestone to produce extraordinary pointed and fluted shapes (known locally as Tsingis) is the reason many people visit the area.
These sharp and brittle structures are also to a degree responsible for the preservation of the ecosystem as the rocks, riven with deep fissures make access in many places all but impossible.
The limestone is also responsible for one of the other astonishing features of Ankarana and one which remains hidden in large part from all but the most intrepid explorers. The erosion visible on the surface extends far beneath the park and Ankarana sits on an extensive network of underground channels and rivers, connected to massive caves. On the eastern side of the park there is relatively easy access to an impressive sinkhole (dry in the dry season, raging torrent in the rains) as well as a number of large bat-filled caves that look as though they were designed in hollywood.
The Ankarana Reserve is an important refuge for significant populations of the crowned lemur, and Sanford's brown lemur, but plenty of other species live here including the northern sportive lemur, brown mouse lemur, fat-tailed dwarf, fork-marked lemur, eastern woolly, Perrier's sifaka aye-aye and the western lesser bamboo.