Parc National Zombitse-Vohibasia

National Park in The Desert

One of Madagascar's least-known yet most accessible parks, Parc National Zombitse-Vohibasia is a surprise packet; most visitors just drive on by and don't realise what they're missing. The park's dense dry forest is how all of Madagascar's arid south must once have appeared, and the park's 36,300 hectares are all that remain – a forested island in what has become a denuded semi-desert landscape. The park's relict forest shelters an astounding 85 recorded bird species and eight lemur species.

Commonly sighted birds are the grand and Coquerel's coua, white-browed owl, black parrot and blue vanga. But the real prize is the Appert's greenbul – if this forest were to disappear, so to would this species as it survives nowhere else on the planet.

Lemurs are also an attraction here. Most of the species are nocturnal, but you're pretty likely to come across skittish bands of Verreaux's sifaka and the oh-so-cute (and endangered) Hubbard's sportive lemur. The latter is nocturnal but is commonly seen resting in tree hollows by day.

Plant highlights include strangler figs and the occasional baobab.

Pay your fees at the barely functioning park office, just set back from the RN7, and let a guide track down birds and lemurs on any one of the circuits that range from 15 minutes to two hours in length. Most likely the guides will choose the route for you, trying to track down as many species in the time you choose to spend along the easy forest trails. The optimum time for birdwatching is 6am to 9am.