Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve – The one of the best sites
Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve – a region of dry forest habitats in southern Madagascar – offers unique flora and fauna, and provides training and research opportunities. In collaboration with several American universities the Reserve is at the same time a research and a training center. It is absolutely striking. Bezà Mahafaly contains the most amazing hidden treasures: playful lemurs, a spiny forest, Nile crocodiles, slithering snakes and much more. It is the only National Protected Area in Madagascar that includes the unique and dramatic gradient from riverine to spiny forest. Wildlife is abundant at Bezà, with many species endemic to the island and some found only in the south.
Bezà Mahafaly is one of the best sites to see lemurs in the wild. They are well acclimated to people and readily approached. Lemurs are a particular attraction and there are five species of lemurs in the reserve. Lemurs that can be seen in Bezà Mahafaly are the same as those in Berenty Private Reserve, three lemur species (Propithecus verreauxi, Lemur catta, Cheirogaleus medius) leap showily through the forest by day, and eyes gleaming in a flashlight’s beam signal the presence of two species active at night (Lepilemur leucopus and Microcebus griseorufus). Although the habitat in Bezà-Mahafaly is similar to that of Berenty, Bezà-Mahafaly is the only known site where one is sure to see the recently-described Petter’s sportive lemur (Lepilemur petteri). What is more, the region as a whole is much more remote and worth the adventure of getting there.
Close to a hundred species of birds are present year-round or seasonally, including the spectacular giant coua (Coua gigas) and six species from the endemic family Vangidae, Madagascar sparrowhawk, Lafresnaye’s vanga or Archbold’s newtonia.
In addition, the forest is home to 4 species of tenrec, 3 species of carnivores, 6 species of bats, 17 species of saurians (geckonids, iguanids, gerrausaurids and cameleons), 2 species of tortoises and 14 species of snakes and, when the river is in flood, the occasional crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus). A flourishing population of radiated tortoises (Astrochelys radiata), radiated tortoises occur at high density in the eastern part of the Reserve and are easy to spot, particularly in the wet season when they are most active.
The rich array of butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera), beetles (Coleoptera), and ants, wasps and bees (Hymenoptera) have been systematically inventoried, and voucher specimens of many of these invertebrates are archived in the Field Station Museum’s collections.
Carnivores are harder to see, but tracks and occasional sightings mark the travels of the endemic, puma-like fosa (Cryptoprocta ferox). The rare, termite eating, large-eared tenrec Geogale aurita is found in the dry spiny forest of Bezà Mahafaly and is one of four tenrec species at Bezà.
Many of these species are harder to see, but with the assistance of our guides and a combination of persistence and good luck, you may also encounter some of these remarkable animals.
The Bezà Mahafaly Reserve is divided into two non-contiguous habitats – a dry forest and a riverine forest, and there are some clear, good maintained and easy trails in both of them. Each part of the Bezà Mahafaly Reserve has its own endemic plants and animals unique to this area of Madagascar. If you are looking for unique animals and something different then the Bezà Mahafaly is definitely the place to go.
Just west of Sakamena River, which flows along the reserve’s boundary, located is a section encompasses great stands of spiny forest, the hallmark of southern Madagascar which not found nowhere else in the world. The dry forest consists of mixed vegetation dry deciduous and transition forest where xerophyllous plants are abundant. The trail (4 to 5 hours) leads you through a beautiful forest with huge palms and spiny plants, where a lot of birds and reptiles have their home. Plants display a wide range of adaptations to arid conditions: seasonal loss or year-round absence of leaves (Terminalia spp., Commiphora spp.; Euphorbia tirucalli), succulent leaves (Kalanchoe spp.), spines (Alluaudia procera), and tubers (Dioscorea spp.).
Along the banks of the Sakamena River, the Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve protects lush forest rooted in soils moistened by its waters. Tamarind trees (Tamarindus indica) are the dominant species here, and with several endemic species (e.g. Albizzia polyphylla, Acacia rovumae) they form a closed canopy – and a plentiful source of food for many animals.
Whichever forest you decide to visit, if not both, you are sure to see the most amazing Madagascar sights with the most interesting array of animal & plant life! Altogether, the Reserve harbors over 450 plant species from 79 families. Voucher specimens for a majority of plant species are housed at the Field Station Herbarium. The Reserve has an impeccable Botanical Garden where you can get familiar to the flora growing inside the Reserve and a small Aloe garden with species from all over southern Madagascar.
Bezà Mahafaly is of interest to visitors not only for its rich fauna and flora, but also for its unique regional culture and handicrafts. The Reserve has its own interesting ethnological Museum, which gives you a glimpse into the life of the Mahafaly communities.
Visit this Madagascar National Park on your holiday for a truly amazing experience. Your visit to the reserve on your Madagascar holidays will help support this project resulting in an exciting and rewarding time! You should count on spending a day getting in and another day getting out. There is a nice camping site (Kily Camp) inside the reserve with shared facilities, showers and a kitchen. This is by far the best option for a complete visit to the Reserve: our do not have to go back to Betioky on the same day and you can enjoy a night walk.
“Miaro ny ala, mitsinjo ny hoavintsika: protecting the forest is thinking of our future”.
Watch more photos about Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve here.