In the middle of Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo, there is a small green oasis in the north of the town. It is known under its name Tsarasaotra (translated „a good place to live“) or simply „Ile aux oiseaux“ which means birds’ island. The area of 0,25 km² size includes lake Alarobia and a second smaller lake and some shore sides. The park is a refuge for many birds that can be easily watched and photographed here – among them 14 endangered species that only occur in Madagascar.
The Madagascar pond heron (Ardeola idae) finds a home in the reeds as well as the critically endangered Meller’s duck (Anas melleri), the rarely seen Madagascan grebe (Tachybaptus pelzelnii) or the nimble Madagascar kingfisher (Corythornis vintsioides). But also more common bird species such as the cattle egret, squacco heron, night heron, black heron and reef heron, red-biled teal, white-faced whistling duck, knob-billed duck or the endemic Drongo (Dicrurus forficatus) use this place for fishing, laying eggs and care for the brood – or just to relax.
At the moment, the park is privately owned. Originally, prime minister Rainilarivony, husband of the last Queen of the Merina, Ranavalona III., bought the area in 1890. He created the park and built a small palace. The latter is still there, but sadly deteriorating visibly. As Rainilarivony – forced by the French colonial power – escaped into exile in 1896, his son sold the park to Emile Ranarivelo. Today, the park is managed by German Sonia Ranarivelo. A path is leading visitors around the lake. One side is limited by a frequented road, some mansions and horse pastures.
Since 2005, lake Alarobia has been belonging to the smallest so-called Ramsar sites (Nr. 1464) and still is the only privately owned Ramsar site worldwide. The convention on wetlands had been initiated by WWF and was signed in 1971 in Ramsar, Iraq. Madagascar signed the contract in 1999. In protected Ramsar sites, hunting is prohibited and the signing parties commit themselves to safe the survival of natural fauna and flora.
Tsarasaotra park is open on workdays from 6 to 18 o’clock, at weekends on request. Entry fee is 15.000 Ariary per person (approximately 5 €). If you have some hours left and are interested in birds, we can recommend you to visit this place. You can reach the park via your own car or simply by taxi. It is located between RN4 and Route des Hydrocarbures only four kilometeres away from the city center of Tana. But please pay attention to the fact that you have to buy the ticket at the office of Boogie Pilgrim (some kilometeres away from the lake) first.
Where to buy tickets: Boogie Pilgrim office, Centre commercial Tana water front, Antananarivo
Where is the lake: Lake Alarobia, Colonel Ratsimandrava Parkway, Antananarivo