Ambalavao is the last Highlands town of any size which visitors travelling down the popular RN7 route from Fianarantsoa to Isalo, will see. The area is dominated by impressive and enormous granite domes or 'Inselbergs', some of which harbour interesting communities of plants, often including extremely localised species. 

If you're doing the RN7 in reverse, then Ambalavao will be the first Highlands town you visit after crossing the desolate 'badlands' of the semi-arid central-southern interior between Ihosy and the 'gateway' to the Highlands.

Just 10 minutes’ drive (17km) from Ambalavao, the 30- hectare Anja Community Reserve/Conservation Site is set in habitat dominated by the aforementioned, granitic rock formations, with woodland; two small caves and a nearby lake.  There are two trails in the reserve: one takes a couple of hours and the longer circuit to a hilltop, takes roughly half a day to complete.  

In recent years, Anja has become the country’s most visited community-run protected area, thanks to its high concentration of Ringtail lemur, the endearing national mammal.  The area is home to an interesting selection of reptiles includes three species of Chameleon. Notable among these is the huge Outsalet’s chameleon. Other ‘herps’ in evidence include Barbour’s day gecko and Madagascar girdled lizard.

The reserve is managed by the Anja Miray Association, which operates a spectrum of projects including habitat restoration through tree nurseries. Health and education programmes, as well as fish farming initiatives, have been successfully implemented. Residents also earn income through tour guiding. Currently, it is estimated that about 2,500 people earn a livelihood thanks to this very small protected area.



Derek Schuurman

Travel Specialist

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