In Madagascar’s eastern province Toamasina virgin rainforests can be found with unique endemic plants, trees, flowers, and animals, of which many are not yet described by scientists. The rainforests here have been inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List on June 27, 2007 (www.whc.unesco.org/en/list/1257). The rate of endemism in these rainforests is very high, reaching 80-90% in all groups; i.e. mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, but also plants, trees, mushrooms, etcetera. A growing number of protected areas guarantee the safeguarding of the most important and still undamaged parts. Moreover two main parks (Mantadia and Zahamena) have in recent years been connected by an impressive corridor, to give the Indri-indri, Madagascar’s biggest lemur, more space to breed.
Situated along the East coast, the province has a long coastline with friendly villages to visit and to enjoy the wealth of the Indian Ocean. Swimming and diving is possible in some areas, mainly where coral reefs offer protection against a fascinating but potentially dangerous animal: the shark; more specifically big white sharks, but also against the even more dangerous undercurrents.
As the province is the storehouse of many different kinds of fruits, spices and palms, agrotourism is another possibility. Endless stretches of majestical litchi trees to admire, the scent of cloves drying, drinking coconut milk from a freshly chopped coconut, or learning about the fabrication of soap from palm oil, are all experiences waiting for the interested visitor.
Toamasina National Parks
It is hard to say which national park in Toamasina province is the most important. All have their treasures and specialities, but MASOALA certainly belongs to Madagascar’s most significant nature reserves. Situated on the peninsula that forms the Bay Antongil, its highest point is 1300 meters above sea level and from there it goes all the way down to the Indian Ocean. The biodiversity is beyond belief: 50% of Madagascar’s plant varieties grow here and it houses 50% of the mammal, amphibian and reptile species. Here you will not bump into many other visitors as it is not the most accessible of parks.
The most easily reached and popular national reserve is also situated in Toamasina province: ANDASIBE, the countries’ oldest National Park and only a four hour drive from the capital. Here thirteen different kinds of lemurs can be found, including the Indri-indri, a species that does not survive in captivity because of its complicated diet. They are used to humans visiting the park and thus easy to spot. It is mainly secondary forest, but the adjacent MANTADIA National Park is virgin lowland and mid-altitude rainforest. Another park worth visiting is MANANARA NORD. It is partly a marine park with one of the best coral reefs in Madagascar, with hundreds of different kinds of fish. On land, bird lovers can spot 77 different kinds of birds. If they are lucky. But lemurs are also present and no less than 17 different kind of rodents. Finally there are several Special Reserves and National Reserves, often difficult to reach and not always open to the Public, like Mangerivola, Ambatovaky, Betampona, Nosy Mangabe in the Antogil Bay; and the private parks Mitsinjo, across the road from Andasibe.