From the access town of Sambava, Madagascar’s ‘vanilla capital’ on the north-east coast, an hour’s drive inland towards the Andapa basin takes you to Manantenina from where you drive about 10 minutes on a bumpy road to the trailhead/vehicle park. This is followed by an interesting, brisk 7km walk (pictured, by Daniel Austin), to Camp 1 in the rugged and rainforest-clad Marojejy National Park. The first 3km takes you through open terrain with cultivated plots and secondary growth, followed by 4km in closed rainforest terrain. In this section there are some short steep slopes. It can be hot during dry weather. The section in the rainforest is generally on an uphill gradient with some steep parts; rainforest mostly closed canopy. You are accompanied by porters; they take 15kg luggage each; some take up supplies. If done at a slow pace the walk from the trail-head/vehicle park to Camp 1 takes 5- 6 hours.
Walking downhill back to the car park/ trailhead point: From Camp 2 back to the vehicle (about 9km in total) is just under 6 hours at a slow but steady pace. (2 hour descent from Camp 2 to Camp 1 and about 4 hours from Camp 1 back to the trailhead).
Wildlife and habitat:
Marojejy contains lowland, mid altitude and high altitude rainforest, as well as the island’s most intact remaining mountaintop moorlands. The national park is part of the World Heritage Site of Atsinanana, which UNESCO has placed on its endangered list. This cluster of rainforests contains the highest biodiversity of any of the island’s protected areas.
The floral and faunal diversity in the park is bewildering, with the star attraction on the lemur front being the critically endangered Silky sifaka, one of the world’s rarest primates. Other lemurs present include Red-bellied lemur and Eastern lesser bamboo lemur. The park’s iconic bird is the Helmet vanga, with its massive blue beak. Birders also stand a chance of seeing all four the rainforest-dwelling species of ground-roller and asity. Herps abound including various species of Uroplatus (leaf-tailed) gecko and frogs such as the Climbing mantella.
The best months to visit are late April and May (autumn) and September to early December (spring).
Bear in mind that aside from having a reasonable level of fitness and the very basic facilities, trips to this park must be planned carefully and well in advance. Baggage should be organised so as to leave some at the park HQ office storage facility or at your hotel in Sambava: porters can be hired to take luggage up to the camps; the limit per person is 15kg.
Facilities in the park consist of three small, basic camps at different elevations.
There is no electric generator at Marojejy. All supplies are brought in from Andapa or Sambava. (Be sure to charge up any equipment in Sambava before undertaking the journey to Marojejy).
Camp 1 has 6 basic bungalows (mountain huts), and Camp 2 has four. (It is an approx 2 - 4hr walk from Camp 1 up to Camp 2 which is 350m higher up in elevation; time taken to cover this 2km depends on pace taken, weather conditions and fitness levels; grading is challenging, there are steep slopes).
Bungalows are basic and have 3 or 4 beds in each. Bedding is provided.
Please be aware that there is currently only one (cold) shower and one loo at each of the camps. As an alternative to the basic huts (and, if a group requires more than, say 4 huts due to single room occupancy requirements), we arrange fully equipped camping: tents - which some prefer - are comfortable and everything is prepared for guests.
Update: during the 2017 cyclone season two of the huts in Camp 1 sustained damage. (Four are OK). So where need be, we arrange fully- equipped camping. Repairs were completed in September 2017.