The World’s Most Interesting Car Park – Ankarafantsika NP, Madagascar

How many people come to an eco-tourism blog and expect to have a car park recommended as a birding hotspot?  Now what if I told you that you could see not only several endemic species of birds but several species of lemur?  Yes please, drive on in to the Ankarafantsika NP’s car park!

Let’s start with the birds.  These photos were taken over two days, some in the morning, some around lunch time and some in the evening, just whenever we weren’t in the actual park.

White-headed Vanga


Sickle-billed Vanga


Broad-billed Rollers

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Crested Drongo

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Sickle-billed Vanga

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Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher




Malagasy Coucal


Madagascar Turtle-dove

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Grey-headed Lovebirds

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A Madagascar Hoopoe checks out his appearance, maybe he has a hot date?

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Satisfied he is looking his best, he’s off and running.


Broad-billed Rollers




Meanwhile, has the Hoopoe been stood up?


A Crested Drongo looks on


A Magpie-robin on a post


The Grey-headed Lovebirds are there throughout the day.


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Helmeted Guineafowl


Across the street, an amorous and shameless pair of Vasa Parrots.

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Another Crested Drongo


Finally the Hoopoe’s date shows up – fashionably late!


The Sickle-billed Vanga can’t help but be a sticky beak!


And the Hoopoe is alone again, but at least he looks great!

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In tomorrow’s post, we meet the lemurs!

Visiting Ankarafantsika National Park, Madagascar

Ankarafantsika (also known as Ampijoroa) was hands down my favourite birding site in Madagascar.  The birding started even before entering the park as Grey-headed Lovebirds and various lemurs could be seen in the car park!  If you are keeping a life list, this is a great place to come to see many Madagascan species!

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This is the main building with a few exhibits and an observation deck upstairs.


The parking lot has several logs like this to sit on and watch birds even before you enter the park.  There are also BBQ/picnic areas.

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This is the office where you will buy your tickets and be assigned a guide if you are not in a pre-arranged tour group.  There are a few informational boards outside to help you plan your trip.

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The park also has very nice bungalows for rent.  They do tend to be booked up with birding tour groups so you should try to organize one in advance.  This is the only accommodation in/near the park.  The place we stayed, Blue Vanga Lodge was about 5km down the road in the village.

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The fees to enter the park are very straightforward.  We are “etranger” category so the fees range from 25,000 – 50,000 depending on how many days you need.


In addition to the entry fees, you must also hire a guide and do one of the circuits as pictured below.  Most people start with the Circuit Coquereli as an excellent introduction to the park.  We saw lots of birds and lemurs on this trek.  In this and all circuits, the price of the guide is determined by how many people you have.  1-4 people pay 25,000 Ariary for the guide, if there are 5-6 people the cost is 35,000 Ariary.

I really like this system.  Guides are mandatory which is a good idea as it is very important to supply local people with jobs and an incentive to protect their wildlife.  You can design your own program, just choose your circuits and pay in the office for both the park fees and the guide so everything is above board.  Make sure you ask for a guide who knows birds well, although in this location which attracts mostly birders I think all the guides know birds well.

For the two full days we were here, we did the Circuit Coquereli in the first morning and the Circuit Bateau – Lac Ravelobe in the afternoon.  The 2nd day, we did Circuit Retendrika in the morning and since I ran out of cash had to be content with birding the car park and roadside in the afternoon.  I will be blogging more in detail about each circuit.

Only cash is accepted here, no credit cards in either the ticket office or restaurant so be prepared!

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Here we have the prices of the bungalows and gites.  The gites are very primitive, have shared bathrooms and only recommended for experienced backpackers but the bungalows are very nice, the high-priced birding tours stay here.

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The restaurant is very nice and serves generous portions of food at very reasonable prices as you can see by the menu photos.  You can choose a set-price meal or order ala carte.  Cash only, no credit cards!


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The tables have nice views over the forest and are a pleasant place to while away an afternoon while waiting for the next birding walk.

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Just down the road is a small market with locals selling honey and a small shop with a few snacks.

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There is more information on their website.


Grey-headed Lovebird (Agapornis canus)

The Grey-headed Lovebird or Madagascar lovebird (Agapornis canus) is a small species of parrot of the lovebird genus. It is a mainly green parrot. The species is sexually dimorphic and only the adult male has grey on its upper body. They are native on the island of Madagascar and are the only lovebird species which are not native on the African continent. They are the smallest of the lovebird species.

In the first of these photos I took at Ankarafantsika NP, you can see a pair of lovebirds and the distinctive grey head on the male.

IMG_5735 IMG_5732 IMG_5730 IMG_5562 IMG_5543 IMG_5339Grey-headed Lovebirds’ range is all around Madagascar except for the interior.  The easiest place to see them is Ankarafantsika NP where they are all over the trees surrounding the car park.  You don’t even have to enter the park!  This turned out well as we couldn’t enter anyways until the office opened and we bought tickets and hired a guide.  The lovebirds are there all day, you can see them even during lunch time although they are much quieter then.

GHLB Range



World Parrot Trust