This 2100-sq-km national park contains one of the best primary rainforests in the country. It is famous for its vegetation, which includes rare hardwoods, bamboos, and dozens of species of fern, palm and orchid. Ten lemur species are found here, along with several tenrec and mongoose species, 14 bat species, 60 reptile species and about 85 bird species. It also encompasses three protected marine areas. The reserve is only accessible by boat, or on foot if you are hiking.
The park's headquarters are in Maroantsetra, where you can get permits and guides. There is also a park office in Antalaha on the east coast.
There are excellent opportunities here for hiking, sea kayaking, snorkelling and swimming. The entire peninsula is exceptionally wet, however, particularly during June and July, when river levels are highest. October to December is somewhat drier and best for hiking. July to September is whale season, when humpback whales come to the bay to give birth and mate: they can be seen right from the coast and on boat transfers from Maroantsetra.
This is a hiker’s paradise. If you are staying in the lodges around Ambodifohara, there are many short trails that you can take. There are also three main long-distance trails for serious hikers: guiding fees for these routes are set, even if you decide to do it in fewer days. Park permits are not included; note that some stretches of the routes are not actually in the park itself so you won't need a permit for every day. The MNP office will advise you.
Maroantsetra to Antalaha passes through rice paddies and gentler terrain. It is the easiest but also the least interesting. A guide for five days is Ar800,000. For forest lovers, the Maroantsetra to Cap Est route (up to eight days) is more interesting, particularly the spectacular Cascade (waterfall) Bevontsira, but also more challenging, with tough terrain, river crossings, mountains and (shudder) leeches. A guide is Ar1.2 million. Finally, you can walk the entire rim of the peninsula, from Maroantsetra to Antalaha via Cap Masoala and Cap Est. This journey takes up to 15 days. A guide is just over Ar2 million.You'll need to bring all your food and camping equipment with you. Contact local operators to organise a package including cook, porters and camping equipment.