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Nature Unleashed: Madagascar Masoala Forest

Madagascar’s geological and ecological roots are African but this island’s wildlife has taken a distinctly different turn to its mother continent. It’s where nature’s imagination has been allowed to flourish and the result is an extraordinary set of plants and animals, nearly all of which occur nowhere else on Earth.

Tampolo River in Madagascar Masoala Forest

Searching for Madagascar’s unique wildlife in the Masoala Forest.

Madagascar’s primates – the Lemurs – are the most familiar of its mammals. Everyone recognises the Ring-tailed Lemur but there are over a hundred different species of them and the island is equally famous for its chameleons (two thirds of the world’s species are found there). Brimming with endemic bird species, it’s the land of the peculiar, skinny-fingered Aye-aye, the spiky-furred Tenrec and the carnivorous Fossa, seemingly a combination of a cat and a mongoose.

But you’ll probably be aware of the other side to Madagascar too: this is an island that has suffered a rapid loss of natural habitat, especially its rainforests, 90% of which have been felled. The result is that the only places to see Madagascar’s wildlife are its national parks, and in general, the bigger the park, the better the wildlife. And the largest national park on the island is Masoala National Park.

Activities in Madagascar Masoala Forest

Masoala is where lowland rainforest meets the Indian Ocean.

Lying on Madagascar’s north-eastern coast, Masoala is a World Heritage Site and protects the greatest area of lowland rainforest in the country as well as mangrove swamps and coral reefs. The name translates as ‘Eyes of the Forest’, a reference to the reflective eyes of the nocturnal Aye-aye but there are nine other species of lemur here, including the spectacular Red-ruffed Lemur which, along with the White-fronted Lemur, are unique to the local Masoala forests.

Red Ruffed and Aye-aye Lemurs

The Red-ruffed Lemur is fairly easy to see but you’ll need luck to spot an Aye-aye.

Humpback Whales visit the coast between July and September, sharing the sheltered coves with rare ‘sea-cows’ – Dugongs. Other charismatic species here include Leaf-tailed Geckos, brightly-coloured Panther Chameleons and Vangas, a highly diverse family of birds that illustrate the evolutionary journey of island wildlife: all the wildly different types of Vanga have diversified from a single species.

Hemet Vanga

The magnificent Helmet Vanga is one of the forest’s signature birds.

Lying quietly at the heart of it all is Masoala Forest Lodge, built to exacting environmental standards with the aim not just to preserve the natural landscape but benefit the local Betsimisaraka community too. The owner-run lodge has just seven suites, set on stilts and with views of both rainforest and a tropical ocean and there’s enough luxury to make it very comfortable (there are massage therapies on offer for example) but this is barefoot casual chic at its best.

Masoala Forest Lodge bungalow

Accommodation is comfortably simple with gorgeous ocean views.

Guided forest walks are among the activities here – the best way to see wildlife – but this is the sort of place that you can also go snorkelling along coral reefs or paddle a kayak to a deserted beach for lunch. The only motorised aspect of the lodge are their motor boats which are used for longer ocean adventures and whale watching.

Snorkeling and Nosy Mangabe

Snorkel the ocean & hike the jungle on the same day at Masoala.

Madagascar has a typical tropical climate – warm and humid: there could be rain on any day of the year but it’s driest between August and November and wettest from January to March. However, in terms of your comfort in a tropical destination, the Madagascar tropics are quite different to other regions: the Masoala rainforest is surprisingly free of dangerous and poisonous creatures and the Indian Ocean is warm and safe for swimming.

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Reviews

Professional, patient, efficient and responsive. Met all our travel needs and requirements spot on

Communication was excellent – I asked A LOT of questions and did a ton of research myself and Walter was extremely patient with me and very responsive. he was straight forward and extremely professional. Tour itself was excellent – an incredible experience and one never to be forgotten. Everything was spot on.

Neena
Very helpful good suggestions for holiday ideas always available for questions good organising

Excellent service and they supplied good suggestions for our holiday they also organised all internal flights and arranged check in for us so we had no worries while on holiday. We have had a most memorable holiday staying at wonderful places thanks to Sabrina and Safari Online. Would recommend Safari Online to organise your holiday.

Lorraine (UK)
Best trip I have ever been on. Highly recommend.

Would highly recommend. Safari online asked questions when booking and were efficient and knew exactly what we were looking for in terms of accommodation and animals were wanted to see. Gave advice on a few little extras with no pressure, which we did and am very grateful which make trip even more exciting. Would definitely recommend booking with them.

Professional, quick and top of the edge service!!!

From the very first contact we’re very happy about the respond time and quality of information from safari-online.com. Based on the received first tailor-made quote, which is a weblink with all the details about the flights, photos of the lodges etc. we knew that this is “our” partner for this trip. Our expectations were excelled!!!

Lukas (Germany)
Karina was absolutely instrumental to our safari success.

Our experience with Safari Online was excellent. After becoming very frustrated trying to search for a safari destination on our own, we turned to Karina for help and she was a lifesaver.  We had an amazing safari adventure at the lodge–the experience of a lifetime–and are so grateful for her help. We literally couldn’t have done it without her!

Chris (USA)
Walter has always been an excellent communicator and has supported us fully

We have been to Africa for 24 of the last 27 years so know a bit about what is involved. Walter has arranged the details for the last couple of years, and has done a superb job. He is always quick to respond and comes up with answers immediately……..no evasive tactics, always head-on!

Roger (UK)
Safari Online made our fantastic family holiday dream come true!!

Safari Online have been nothing but professional and incredible from the time we made our first enquiry to the last day of our stunning holiday. Nothing was too much trouble for Walter. We are now starting to plan our next family Safari for 2019. Guess who we will be booking with??? Safari Online we hope you are ready!!!!!

Penni (AU)
It was a safari of a lifetime and exceeded all of our expectations!

Our mom grew up in Central and South Africa so we had visited the continent many times. My sister and I wanted to take our teens and husbands to Africa to experience the magic. We had a limited budget but big and specific expectations and by some miracle Walter was able to manage both.

Heather (USA)
An incredibly well organised tour with no hassles whatsoever.

Safari Online understood our needs and was able to present us with sensible options to choose from. It was evident that this tour operator has knowledgable and experienced agents who can arrange a seemless tour. We were provided with a professional online itinary which was comprehensive and easy to use, knew exactely what to expect, and encountered no stumble blocks along the way.

Gwen (AU)
Safari Online were extremely efficient and absolutely charming to work with.

Our 28-day itinerary took us to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. A magnificent and unforgettable adventure. Everything ran smoothly and efficiently from the flights, transfers, rides, connections, etc. Absolutely wonderful! Can’t thank them enough!

Ann and Mario (Canada)