Ankarafantsika is home to eight lemur species, many easily seen, including Coquerel’s sifaka and the recently discovered golden-brown mouse lemur. You’re also likely to see brown lemurs and four nocturnal species: sportive, woolly, grey mouse and fat-tailed dwarf lemurs. More elusive is the rare mongoose lemur, which is observed almost exclusively here.
Ankarafantsika is one of Madagascar’s finest birdwatching venues, with 129 species recorded, including the critically endangered Madagascar fish eagle and the raucous sickle-bill vanga. There are also more than 70 species of reptiles, including small iguanas, a rare species of leaf-tailed gecko and the rhinoceros chameleon (the male sports a large, curious-looking, bulb-like proboscis).
The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (www.durrell.org) has been operating a very successful captive-breeding program for the critically endangered ploughshare tortoise in Parc National Ankarafantsika for 25 years. Because poaching is a problem, you’ll only be able to watch the tortoises through a chain-link fence.
Hiking is the name of the game here. There are eight short circuits in the park, some of which can be combined into a half-day hike. Circuits in the western half of the park go through dense forests on a sandy plateau and are great for lemur spotting (sifakas and brown lemurs in particular) and birdwatching. There's also a breathtaking canyon that is well worth the hike in baking heat across the grassland plateau.
The northern half of the park is all about the lake and the baobabs. The birdwatching is excellent here (and completely different from the south) and there are more reptiles, including crocodiles. If you have time, try to see both sides.