Mahajanga province in the north-west of Madagascar is divided into four regions - Betsiboka, Boeny, Melaky and Sofia. The principle cities in the Betsiboka region are Kandreho, Maevatanana and Tsaratanana. The Boeny region contains the capital Mahajanga and the districts of Ambatoboeny, Marovoay, Mitsinjo, and Soalala.
The Melaky region is sub-divided into the districts of Ambatomainty, Antsalova, Besalampy, Maintirano and Morafenobe. The Sofia region features the districts of Analalava, Antsohihy, Bealanana, Befandriana-Nord, Boriziny, Mampikony, and Mandritsara.
This region is generally drier as the trade winds have usually lost their humidity by the time they reach here. Rice, cotton, tobacco and manioc were the important agricultural products and sea cucumbers were important commercial products produced here. Despite commercial activities, a large proportion of the population live in poverty.
A large area of the province is covered by rainforests and is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, including several lemur species that are endemic to the region. Assassin spiders were found in the province's Baie de Baly National Park. Another important national park is the Ankarafantsika National Park. The national parks attract a large number of tourists and provide an important economic advantage to the province. Tourists also visit the province’s capital, Mahajanga for its beautiful beaches and attractive waterfront.
Mahajanga is a city and an administrative district on the North-West coast of Madagascar, and the capital of the Boeny Region. The city is served by an international airport with regional flights to the Comoros and Mayotte. Mahajanga is located on the Betsiboka River, which then leads to Bombetoka Bay. The city is the second most important seaport after Toamasina. The marine terminal accommodates containerships and small general cargo freighters, while deeper-draft ships anchor off the terminal and transfer cargo to and from barges, which move it to and from the terminal. The most valuable and chief containerised export is frozen shrimp.
Mahajanga is one of the most colourful and ethnically diverse places in Madagascar, with large Comoran and Indian populations as well as a sizable Muslim population and, historical connections with Africa. Mahajanga is also the seat of a Roman Catholic Diocese. Mahajanga is a favourite tourist destination for Malagasy tourists as well as international travellers. Mahajanga features beautiful beaches and one of the prettier waterfronts of Madagascar's seaside cities, with a palm-lined seaside promenade, as well as shady arcades and walls draped with striking bougainvillea, plus eight months of hot, virtually rain-free weather. The city is also serves as the gateway to one of western Madagascar's most diverse regions, from stunning caves and rock formations to sacred lakes and bird-rich wetlands.
Betsiboka is a region to the west of Madagascar that is one of the least densely populated in the country. The Kasijy Reserve is located here, 20 kilometres north-west of the town of Bemonto but access is problematic due to the poor condition of the roads. The reserve covers an area of 19,800 hectares, 14,931 hectares of which are savannah and 4,394 hectares are tropical rainforest. Swamps and open water are also found on the reserve. The site is bordered by three rivers: the Andranomaitso River to the north; the Mahavavy River in the east; and the Mahiarere River to the south. The climate can be harsh with a dry season from April to November when the rivers run dry, and the reserve is closed to visitors in the wet season which runs from December to April. Annual rainfall is 1,679, and temperatures can reach 38 °C (100 °F). Almost half of all the species of plants and animals found so far within the reserve are endemic to Madagascar. So far, 15 species of mammals, six species of amphibian, 22 species of reptiles and 67 species of birds have been recorded on the reserve.
Ankarafantsika National Park
The Ankarafantsika National Park is located in the Boeny Region of Madagascar, and its closest city is Mahajanga 115 kilometres north of the park. The park is situated between the Betsiboka River to the west and the Mahajamba River to the east, and it occupies an area of about 135,000 hectares and contains patches of thick dry tropical forest intermingled with less dense areas. There are also areas of savannah, scrub and sandy eroded rock, and some land is farmed by the indigenous Sakalava people. The park features a number of lakes and is criss-crossed by tracks and paths. There are guides on hand to assist visitors and lodging facilities are available. Ankarafantsika has a mostly tropical climate.
As the park is mostly woodland, there are over 800 species of tree present, many of them endemic to Madagascar, and are typical of dry tropical forests. The native fauna of Madagascar are well represented and include ten species of amphibian and 44 reptile species. Rare species include the Madagascan big-headed turtle, the rhinoceros chameleon and the dwarf chameleon. Mammals include eight species of lemur, two of which are mouse lemurs, the world's smallest primates, The greater big-footed mouse is also found in the park and is not known to be found anywhere else. One hundred and twenty nine species of birds have been registered as living in the park, over half of them endemic to Madagascar.
Baie de Baly National Park
Close to the towns of Soalala and Ambohipaky is the Baie de Baly National Park or Baly Bay National Park, in the Beony region, around 150 kilometres from the next major city of Mahajanga. The park’s southern border is formed by the Kapiloza River and the Andranomavo River runs through the park. In the north it is bordered by the Mozambique Channel and in the east by the Bay of Marambitsy. The Tsingy de Namoroka National Park also borders this park.
The vegetation of the park consists of dry forests, scrub-shrub or bamboo shrub, mangroves, lakes and swamps mixed with savanna. The Baie de Baly National Park is the only known natural habitat of the critically endangered Angonoka tortoise, also known as the ploughshare. Other rare animals found in this park are the Madagascar sideneck turtle, the dugong, a marine mammal, and the Madagascar fish eagle. The park is also home to thirteen species of mammals, six of which are primates, 37 types of reptile, eight amphibian species and 122 species of birds. An endemic bamboo is also found in the park along with an endemic poisonous tree, composed of a very hard wood that cannot be used for cooking as its fumes contain a poison.
Maningoza Special Reserve
The Maningoza Special Reserve is found to the east of the town of Antsalova in the Melaky region in western Madagascar. The wildlife reserve of 9,826 hectares was created in 1956 to protect the many endemic plants and animals of the region and it is also composed of some of the last remaining areas of dry deciduous forest on the island. The reserve can be reached by boat on the Manambolo River although it is only accessible to tourists during the dry season. The monsoon season is between November and April. The forest grows on iron-rich soil which has formed due to the chemical weathering of minerals and the people living in the surrounding villages use the land for grazing zebu, and for growing cassava, maize and rice.
The largest habitat within the reserve is 5,611 hectares of subtropical moist forest which is some of the last remaining in the country. There are 52 recorded species of birds in the reserve, which includes 25 endemics, but there are a number that are of conservation concern. There are also 15 species of mammal on the reserve, five of which are lemurs.
The Bemarivo Reserve is a wildlife reserve in the north-west of Madagascar, located on a coastal plateau in the Melaky region of Melaky, about 12 kilometres from the town of Besalampy, and 5 kilometres from the Mozambique Channel coast. The reserve was created in 1956 and covers an area of 12,080 hectares, it is known for its fauna particularly its endemic birds.
The reserve enjoys a warm climate with an average daily temperature of 25 °C with the rainy season lasting from November to February. The Bemarivo River is a tributary of the Sofia River and flows permanently through the reserve during the dry season. The main vegetation is dense, dry deciduous forest. Bemarivo has an impressive number of endemic birds with over 23 recorded. Overall there are 73 species of birds, 20 species of reptiles and 15 species of mammals, including six species of lemurs, known to live on the reserve. The birds that are attracted to the wetlands include the Madagascan fish eagle, which is critically endangered, and Bernier's teal, which is listed as endangered. Slash-and-burn agriculture is the main conservation threat to the reserve along with fires.
Bealanana is a town in the district of Bealanana, a part of Sofia Region, in western Madagascar. The town is served by a local airport and is the closest to the Tsaratanana Reserve is located 57 kilometres to the north. The park is located at a high altitude and is closed to the public but provides a significant amount of water to the area, due to its many rivers that include the Bemarivo river, the Sambirano river and the Ramena or Mahavavy River. The reserve also features two waterfalls, thermal baths and the Maromokotro peak which is the highest mountain of Madagascar at 2,876 metres.
Mampikony is a city in the Sofia region in north-western Madagascar. It is located 84 kilometres from Ambondromamy on the Route Nationale 6. The majority of the population are farmers, with the most important crops being rice, onions and cassava.