Manombo Special Reserve, still unknown but attractive
The unusual tranquility and beautiful scenery with many hiking opportunities in the Manombo Special Reserve where numerous endemic lemurs live (the white-collared brown lemur and the black-and-white ruffed lemur), invite you to stay longer to explore the forest. You will also see a multitude of birds, reptiles, and batrachians which live together in a rich endemic vegetation. This site is a little corner of paradise almost intact. In order to add a little spice to your relaxation in nature and to meet crocodiles of the Reserve aboard a canoe, you need sail down the very interesting rivers Takoandra and Manatsimba to the beautiful Rianambo waterfall. You will walk to the natural swimming-pool where you will have a chance to take a bath on the lonely beach of Takoandra and where you will be able to make a small camp for your day's rest.
Manombo Special Reserve is located 130 km south of Manakara and just 30km south of Farafangana, on the eastern part of Madagascar and was created in 1962. It covers a total area of 53 km² of lowland rainforest and marshlands partially turned into rice paddies, and a 5km long beach with littoral forest and huge dunes. The Reserve is divided into two differentiated areas by the National road R12 connecting Manakara, Farafangana and Vangaindrano. Manombo Special Reserve protects typical but as usual threatened ecosystems of the Southeast of Madagascar, including some local endemic plants and frogs. It also has the biggest number of snail species of the whole island. 90 % of the flora and fauna found in Manombo is endemic to Madagascar!
What of wildlife you will see: Although infrequently visited, it is the easiest place to spot the Critically Endangered southern black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata editorum). The forests of Manombo offer a habitat to 9 different lemur species, among them the Endangered white-collared brown lemur (Eulemur cinereiceps), which is extremely hard to see. Aside from the two species already mentioned, which are among the real prizes of a lemur-watching expedition to Madagascar, one can also see several others at Manombo. These include an undescribed species of mouse lemur (Microcebus) and two newly-described species that are only found in this region; the Manombo sportive lemur (Lepilemur jamesorum) and the Manombo woolly lemur (Avahi ramanantsoavanai). Greater dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus major) and southern bamboo lemur (Hapalemur meridionalis) are also present, and you can see signs of aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) as well.
Other - mammals found here are the very rare web-footed or aquatic tenrec (the only semi-aquatic mammal of Madagascar), eastern falanouc, ring-tailed mongoose, red forest rat or the fossa.
58 bird species have been observed within Manombo, such as the Madagascar pond-heron or the cuckoo roller.
This lowland humid forest, typical of the eastern region, shelters also 10 reptile species, such as Madagascar crocodiles, some endemic green-blue geckos and; 12 amphibians, among them several rare frogs such as Bernhard's mantella (an extremely rare poisonous frog which only occurs here) and some freshwater endemic fishes discovered in 1994.
Apart from this, there are 52 different land snail species in the reserve, many of them local endemic.
In October humpback whales pass near by the coast and hundreds of sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach at night.
The flora of Manombo Special Reserve is specially varied and, the same as the fauna, with a high rate of endemism. Even some entire families growing here are endemic, such as the Sarcolaenaceaes, the Asteropeiaceaes, the Physenaceaes, and the Sphaerosepalaceaes. Some significant species are the Fatsinakoho (Humbertia madagascariensis), a huge tree that only grows in this area and more than 50 different palm trees. From June to August, visitors can enjoy the spectacle of the orchids blooming.
The main ethnical groups living next to Manombo Reserve are the Betsileo, the Vakinankaratra, the Antemoro, the Antesaka, the Antefasy and the Zafisoro. They live from fishing, cattle, agriculture and handcraft (special traditional baskets made of palm leaves). As they are dependant of the natural resources to survive, these human activities together with illegal tree falling, bush fires and poaching are the main threat to the vulnerable forest of Manombo.
The climate is humid with frequent showers and warm temperatures all the year around. Visitors should avoid coming to Manombo during the cyclone season from December to February, since this coast is regularly hit by them.
There are currently no circuits available for self-study of the Reserve, but you can contact NDAO-i-Travel. Our guides will show you the different ecosystems, flora and fauna of the Reserve. We can camp inside the reserve with very basic facilities (with our camping equipment), or stay at Farafangana, where there are two simple but clean hotels, and restaurants.
There are then several access routes to the forest, either on foot or on dirt tracks requiring a four-wheel-drive vehicle. A visit requires permission from Madagascar National Parks, and arrangements can be made through NDAO-i-Travel.
Use of a guide is essential, as it is not easy to find the best sites for these animals, because the Manombo Special Reserve covers some 5000 ha, of which perhaps 3000 ha is still forest, while the adjoining Classified Forest covers some 10000 ha, of which about 7000 ha is forest. It is hoped that the latter will soon be declared as a reserve as well.
One more interesting place to visit - The Agnalahaza Forest (formerly the Mahabo Forest Reserve) is close to Manombo, and is located 40 km along the main highway south of Farafangana, then 5–7 km in on a dirt track. It covers 1500 ha and is covered in littoral forest, an increasingly rare formation in Madagascar, including some 600 ha of wooded swamp and stands of traveler’s palm (Ravenala madagasariensis). The Missouri Botanical Garden carries out research there, and has already discovered 10 new plant species. Several groups of the white-collared brown lemur (Eulemur cinereiceps) occur in this forest, but Lepilemur, Varecia and Daubentonia appear to be absent.
Watch more photos about Manombo Special Reserve here.