Expert Reviews – Zombitse-Vohibasia NP
Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.
A tiny and easily accessible gem
Extending over less than 4km2, this tiny and little-visited national park is of great interest to birders and also notable for its ready accessibility from the main road to Toliara. It was created in 1997 to protect three small pockets of transitional moist-spiny forest renowned as the best place to see Appert's tetraka, a pretty greenbul-like bird restricted to this niche habitat. The flat and easy 2.5km Circuit de Mandresy reputedly offers a good chance of spotting Appert's tetraka (we dipped out, unfortunately) as well as giant coua, Madagascar cuckoo-roller and rufous vanga, while the most conspicuous of eight primate species are Verreaux's sifaka, ring-tailed lemur and red-fronted lemur. If you visit in January, look out for the stunning pink-flowered epiphytic orchid Grammangis spectabilis.
Anthony is a photographer and writer for travel magazines and Lonely Planet, including the guides to Kenya and Botswana & Namibia.
A forest oasis rich in birdlife
Surrounded on all sides by sweeping grasslands and cleared fields, Zombitse-Vohibasia is an oasis of protection for a surprising number of species. The park’s numbers are easy to state: 72 bird species and eight species of lemur call this forest home. But each one is a remarkable story of survival. Take this forest away, for example, and one bird species in particular, the Appert’s greenbul, would disappear from our planet. To see it flitting through the undergrowth on my most recent visit was one of my all-time birding highlights. And finding the tiny, nocturnal and endangered Hubbard’s sportive lemur sleeping by day in tree hollows was a major lemur highlight, even by the standards of this lemur-rich country. The RN7 cuts through the middle of the park, and guides wait by the roadside to take visitors along the short but rewarding network of walking trails that snake their way through this precious forest.