The huge island of Madagascar, thanks to its specific history, hosts a unique nature and biodiversity made up largely of endemic species. A fast-growing human population (17 tribes, compared to the population of 4 million in 1950, and approx. 29 million in 2022) is rapidly converting natural ecosystems into agricultural and, in places, degraded landscapes. Since 1953, the island’s forest cover has fallen by half (from about 30% to about 15%). The established system of protected areas is not spared from degradation of the natural environment. Protected areas are inadequately managed and their maintenance completely underfunded. Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world. Large numbers of protected areas, including national parks, are being cut down and burned.
One of the few positive exceptions is the Masoala National Park on the eponymous peninsula. It protects the island’s best-preserved rainforest complex, covering an area of 2400 square kilometres. Although there is also illegal logging, less than 1% of the park has been damaged in the last 20 years. The covid pandemic has limited the developing ecotourism and one of the sources of financial resources for local communities and the maintenance of the good state of nature and biodiversity. The recovery of ecotourism in 2022 is happening very slowly. The three present campsites (lodges) are still almost empty, and the number of tourists is small.
The Arol Ecolodge is one of the smaller ones and is simply equipped but provides good comfort for visitors. It is one of the most important in terms of supporting local communities and protecting the surrounding nature. The owner supports education by paying teachers in the local village, the park guides have exceptional knowledge of the local nature and ability to speak three world languages (i.e., Joseph). The nearby small reserve (30km2) Farakarima, near Maroasantra, is also one of the promising conservation and regional development projects.
The coastline is virtually unspoiled
Some trees in the rainforest reach enormous sizes
Rare and endemic Red-ruffed Vari