Activities at Anjajavy – and Farewell

Tuesday to Friday 18-21 June 2024 – We had three days to relax at Anjajavy before we had to return home. Following is a summary of it all, therefore this is a Long Post Alert.

As well as being a splendid place to relax e.g. after two weeks’ relentless tourism, crashing through forest and bouncing along dodgy roads, Le Lodge at Anjajavy offers a variety of Things To Do, some at no extra charge and some at, it must be said, prices which cause a sharp intake of breath; for example, a 1-hour night walk with a guide is €50 per person with an additional €50 for a limited group. In other words it would have cost €150 for Jane and me to do a guided night walk; for one hour, even taking into context the overall cost of the holiday travel, this is too steep. So we didn’t do that, but confined ourselves to things that were on offer at no extra charge. Typically, there were two of these each day, one starting at 0900, the other at 1600. There was also afternoon tea by the rather lovely pond in an area called The Oasis,

1990s Britpop in a single image

where, if we were lucky, we could see lemurs frolicking in the surrounding trees, and possibly other wildlife also.

Here’s a summary of what we got up to.

Sakalava Walk

Our relatively early arrival on Tuesday meant that we could participate in this afternoon activity, which was advertised as a chance to explore the different terrains in the Reserve, including a path which villagers working at Le Lodge would take to walk to work.  We were taken by car a short distance, walked a while and were picked up and driven back to the lodge.  Our guide was a young lad called Tom.

Tom led us along a well-defined trail, which led through a specially constructed gap in the fence

designed to be big enough for humans to squeeze through, but not Zebu; we had entered an area where traditionally Zebu would be herded for grazing, and through which local villagers would walk to get to work. Here, we got our first view of one of the species of lemurs to be found in the Reserve, the Coquerel’s Sifaka, which is a beautiful creature.

As is normal with these lemurs, this was a family group, and one of the females had a tiny baby, which it carried on its belly.  I may have got a shot of it – we’re frankly not quite sure if what you can see on her belly is actually the clinging baby or not. Your call.

I also got my first view of Tsingy; I had seen this mentioned in articles but wasn’t sure actually what it was. It is karstic stone into which groundwater has gouged fissures. Anjajavy has areas of Grey Tsingy

which is formed from limestone. There is also Red Tsingy in other areas of Madagascar, which is the same idea, but in sandstone and therefore a lot more fragile. More on Tsingy later.

We continued into an area with Mangrove trees in it.

You can just about make out the roots sprouting from the ground around it, which is a good indication of the type of tree. The big one is many, many years old, the smaller ones, as you might infer, being younger, but still some decades in age.

Our path led among these Mangroves; it became first muddy, and then

much wetter – full-blown swamp, in fact.  I was not particularly happy about this, as I had merely expected mud and puddles and so was wearing long trousers, walking shoes and socks. [Shorts and sandals in my case, ha ha – Ed] But there was little choice but to wade through the water, being rather careful about where we put our feet, to avoid stumbling and falling. Where there were mud banks, there were tiny mud skippers

who scattered if one stepped near them.

You can pick up a fallen Mangrove seedpod, which has the remains of the flower on its tip, and take the flower off.

If the remnant shows a little  spike such as you see above, it is ready to grow, and can be planted just by putting it directly into the mud.

Within two weeks, it will start to sprout leaves and will grow satisfactorily into another Mangrove tree if left alone for long enough.  We could see a few that had been planted by other tourists

and also some that had, we were told, been systematically planted as project sponsored by the Lodge to repopulate the area.

The repopulation project is important to the overall health of the Reserve. Mangroves are important for the environment: they support biodiversity through providing critical habitat for a variety of species; they act as a defense against soil erosion; they sequester carbon by storing it in their biomass; and they have cultural significance among the local people – one area, which was once a rich source of fish, they call fady, sacred or taboo, where silence should be observed.

The Crab Path – To The Batcave!

On the Wednesday morning, we set out from the lodge on a path signposted as the Crab Path. Anjajavy has two varieties of crab, a land crab and one called the Hairy-legged Crab, which is the one we hoped to be able to see.  Both sorts dig and live in holes, so it was not a given. We did see other wildlife, of course.

Bees had made their nest in this limestone formation

Chabert Vanga

Flycatcher, taking time off from catching flies

We also saw a Coquerel’s Sifaka near the path.

He didn’t look all that happy, and there’s a chunk missing from his left ear. Tom, who again was guiding us, told us that he had been ejected from a family group after losing a fight to be the alpha male, so he would be solitary unless a) the alpha male who defeated him died, or b) he could creep back into his old, or perhaps another, group by using very servile body language and behaviour. It sounds a sad story, but it is, after all, Nature taking its course.

There were several large crab holes: one of them contained a crab which we could make out bits of by shining a torch down it; beside another, a crab had been digging, and so there was a large pile of black, oozing mud by its hole; and one was actually out and about.

This was a substantial crab, possibly as much as a foot across, and it looked dead sinister when it started towards us – but it was only retreating to its hole.

As well as crabs, the walk offered the opportunity to see subfossil examples of giant lemurs (now extinct for 500 years through human activity, apparently).  To do this we had to get into a cave, which required us to get Geared Up

Your intrepid blogger donning hard hat and harness

and to clamber down a 5-metre ladder.

Your intrepid Editor nearing the bottom of the ladder

The cave itself was not huge, but nonetheless quite spectacular

and we had to make our way carefully a little further down

in order to see the bones of this creature.  There were two sets of remnant bones (called subfossils because they’re not old enough to be grown-up, proper, fossils). The first one we saw is the smaller of the two.

To help orient you, I’ve circled its skull, which you’re viewing as from above. There are also leg bones to be seen lower and to the right.

The first set is actually under (salt) water

The other subfossil was of a larger beast; the main things you can see here are its skull and a couple of leg bones.

The second set of subfossil bones

At their largest, these creatures would have been gorilla-sized; these two probably fell into a hole whilst fighting, which just goes to show that violence really doesn’t pay.

As we climbed out, it became clear that this was, indeed, a Bat-cave!

The Tsingy Yard

Later on on the Wednesday, we were ferried a short distance by car, where we had a walk along a path through a particularly striking set of Tsingys, at times looking almost like an art exhibition.

“Tsingy” is Malagasy for “Stone that cannot be walked on barefoot”. You can see why.

The Baobab Walk

Some 15 minutes drive from the lodge is an avenue of Baobabs.

Like Tsingy, Baobabs come in Grey and Red, and there are many Red baobabs among the Anjajavy crop.

They come in all shapes and sizes

and, sadly, are threatened by increasingly high levels of seawater at high tide; salt water kills them.  So the team at the Reserve are trying to plant new ones, on higher ground.

However, it’s not just as simple as taking seeds and planting them. Baobab seeds are more likely to germinate if they have been through the digestive tract of a creature. When the Giant Tortoises were roaming the area, they acted as a vector for Baobabs, being one of the few creatures which could crack open a Baobab fruit and eat the flesh (and, of course, the seeds).

The other significant sight on this walk was something that Jane spotted;

tracks of a fossa, Madagascar’s largest carnivore – weasel-ish, something like a cross between a cat and a dog – which we’d dearly love to see in the flesh, but probably won’t, as they’re very shy and reclusive. Unless you’re a lemur, in which case you are dinner.

The Salt-Wells Walk

The limestone karst formations which erupt above ground as tsingys also, of course, continue underground. The passage of water through the stone creates channels which evidently reach the sea; the water covering the bones in the bat-cave was salt water and that cave is a good 250m from the nearest shore. This walk led to two salt water wells, equally far from the sea, which fill and drain according to the tides. The first was a bit of a scramble to reach…

Our path then led along the beach for a short distance

before turning inland again to reach the second salt water well.

In the same area are several caves which have been used in the past as resting places for the dead, according to local custom. This one was evidently of a fisherman, since a boat, as well as amulets and figures of spirit guardians, mark the place. The wall of small stones is a relatively recent addition as villagers were uncomfortable with the bones being on display (presumably to tourist such as ourselves).

Afternoon Tea

Served at 1700 daily beside the lily pond at The Oasis,

this was an opportunity to relish the relative cool of the late afternoon, and a chance to see lemurs as they came by on their afternoon patrols. Engagingly, Le Lodge operates on an artificial time zone, one hour ahead of the rest of Madagascar. This carries the benefit of extending the daylight time to make the afternoon tea a delightful time as the day cools.

Common Brown Lemurs and Coquerel’s Sifakas routinely came by towards 6pm and we could admire their agility as they clambered and leapt through the trees surrounding us.

These creatures are so beautiful and so eminently watchable that it’s difficult not to keep trying to get just that one extra great photo.  The Oasis lawn during teatime was dotted with people watching and photographing these lovely lemurs, who, although not fed by humans, are quite habituated to them.

Other guests

Among the Anjajavy photos, there are pictures of some of the other guests whose company we enjoyed at the lodge. Above, you can see one of them, Douglas, who was accompanied by his wife, Robin and their friend Val. They were on our flight up from Tana, as were a younger couple, Jenny and Sam, who had been on an itinerary around the north of the island and who, it turned out, were driven to Andasibe and back by Aine, the chap who had greeted us on our arrival to Madagascar; it was they who told us how to spell his name. Also joining the Lodge a couple of days after we arrived were Shirley and Ian, completing a gemütlich group of kindred spirits (the spirits in question being mainly rum and gin).

There were two other guests, an American couple, but they completely ignored us all, which seemed strange, but, hey….

Other animals

We’ve seen 20 species of lemur during our time here. Not that we’ve been counting or anything.  As well as them and the other animals you’ve seen so far, we have seen Banded Iguanas,

Drongos (yes, really) and Parrots (a very dull colour),

and the lesser-spotted bathroom frog,

a little chap who persisted in finding his way back to our bathroom no matter how often we tipped him into the bushes or how firmly we closed the doors and windows.

There was also the remarkable Coconut-Collecting Pool Guy. There are footholds carved into the trees, but still…


Saturday June 22 2024 – I write this as Jane and I sit in the familiar surroundings of Room 24 at the Relais des Plateaux hotel – the very room we first stayed in on arrival to Madagascar.

Frederic joined us on the drive to the airport from the Lodge and we were able to tell him how much we’d enjoyed our stay.  He then had to marshal the incoming guests – 16 of them!  It took two aeroplanes to deliver them.

The flight down was uneventful, and we were delighted to be met at Tana airport by Haja, who transferred us here to the Relais des Plateaux, and who will also take us back to the airport later for our flight back to the cold, wet weather that’s bound to await in Europe.

Oh, wait…

Our time at Le Lodge was supremely relaxing; a great end to a wonderful three weeks exploring a new country and an unfamiliar culture. Although our phones are full of photos and our brains are full of new experiences, we realise that we’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to understanding Madagascar; but what we have experienced has been intense, educational and fun.

After previous travels, I have often done a valedictory post to sum up our impressions of a place, but Madagascar is too complex and varied to even consider doing that.  I hope that these pages give a reasonably coherent impression of our 23 days as strangers in a strange land.  We’re very grateful to Kate at Whisper and Wild and to Tamana, the local agency, as well as all the teams at all the places we’ve stayed for creating an absorbing itinerary that took us faultlessly around fascinating and welcoming places across 1,000km of a remarkable and unique island.

Maybe we’ll be back!


10 thoughts on “Activities at Anjajavy – and Farewell

  1. Judy

    Fabulous as always Steve- you always manage to give us a great flavour of the country. Safe travels home.

  2. Kate Burridge

    Fabulous trip!! I knew nothing of Madagascar. Photos – excellent! And your lowering onto the ladder to see the spectacular fossil – wonderful!! Safe journey home.

  3. Martin Critchley

    Hi Steve. As we have come to expect from you. Great pictures and fabulous quality.

    As you say in your summary, you did not get to understand the island. Is it all tourism (Like Cuba)? Were you deliberately routed away from the seamier sides of peasants and poverty, that permeate most of Africa. To be discussed.

    Looking forward to seeing you both at Le Manour.

    Lots of Love Martin

    1. Steve Walker Post author

      Thanks, Martin. Looking forward to the discussion. In the meantime, BBC iPlayer is showing “Zoo Quest to Madagascar”, David Attenborough’s 1960s programmes on the island, which are proving to be interesting viewing


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