Anja Community Reserve:
The reserve is named after the Anja Miray Association, its nickname is “Anja Park”. Because of its rocky character, the reserve is also known as “Rocky Park”.
About 13 km south of Ambalavao is the Anja Community Reserve in the Haute-Matsiatra region. It can be easily reached by car via the RN7, it is only half an hour away from the small town and is always worth a day’s visit. From Antananarivo it takes about nine hours by car (about 480 km). It is a good idea to stop for a night in Antsirabe or Ambositra on the way.
Information about the reserve:
The Anja Miray Association was founded in 1999 in response to the progressive destruction of Madagascar’s nature. By then, more than half of the region’s original forest had already fallen victim to extensive slash-and-burn. The lack of forestation led to enormous erosion and water shortage in the population. In 1996, a group of young people near Ambalavao decided to take their fate into their own hands and work sustainably with their own nature. With the help of the Malagasy government and financial support from various foreign organisations (including WWF and EAZA), they ensured that cultivated landscapes were only used on certain areas, that forests were replanted and that the population was informed about ecotourism. The area of the Anja Community Reserve itself is only 0.3 km². The rocky landscape consists mainly of granite, and lies at the foot of the “three sisters” (telo mirahavavy), an almost 500 m high rock formation. The many gorges and caves were already used centuries ago by the Betsileo people as a refuge, until the 1930s also for graves of high personalities.
In addition to ecotourism, the Anja Community Reserve is building primary schools and health centres in the surrounding villages, providing malaria prevention for the population, training for women and supporting orphans with school fees. In the meantime, a fund has also been established that can be used for unforeseen events such as the reconstruction of houses after bush fires. A Eukalpytus nursery is to prevent people from having to resort to native woody plants for firewood. The reserve itself is managed by guards and is subject to strict rules of use.
Around 2500 people can nowadays be fed from the income of the various projects. Thus, it is currently one of the few model projects that sustainably protect the nature of Madagascar from within the population itself. In 2012, it also won the Equator Prize, a United Nations Environment and Sustainability Award endowed with $5,000.
Two routes of two to six hours can be walked with local guides in the reserve – for the larger round you should have some fun climbing (but don’t worry, everything works fine without climbing equipment). The entrance fee is 15.000 to 25.000 Ariary (about 5-8 €) per person depending on the chosen route, the corresponding guide is available from 45.000 Ariary (15 €) for the shorter tour.
The climate is quite pleasant during the day with temperatures around 25°C, although there is often a cool wind here. At night, however, it can get colder, especially during the dry season: Ambalavao is considered Madagascar’s coldest place with usual temperatures below 10°C at night.
Ambalavao is located directly on the RN7, Madagascar’s busiest tourist route. In addition to herbal and zebu markets worth seeing, the city offers various hotels, guesthouses and also simpler accommodations. Restaurants and small barbecues on the streets provide the food. From Ambalavao you can take a taxi or Tuk Tuk to the reserve. There are no accommodations directly in the reserve.
Flora & Fauna:
The intricate area of the Anja Community Reserve is relatively small, but today it is home to the well-known ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta), six species of snakes, various chameleons (including Furcifer campani, the carpet chameleon Furcifer lateralis and the small leaf chameleon Brookesia brunoi, which only occurs here), numerous birds and other animals worthy of protection. One of the rarest inhabitants of the Anja Community Reserve, the Striped Tenrec, is difficult and rare to observe. The ring-tailed lemurs in the park are used to people and come very close to the visitors, which has made the area a small attraction, especially for travellers.
Anja Miray Community Reserve
Website (unfortunately without current prices !)