Tag Archives: Lemurs

Analamazaotra and Andasibe Nature Reserves

Saturday 8 June 2024 – We had a really content-rich day today, as you’ll see from the length of this post (I suggest you get yourself a cuppa or a glass of something cold and settle down to it if you want to get through it in one sitting). As usual, it started with an 0530 alarm call and an 0730 departure.  We had only two destinations, but did four walks during the day.  In the case of three of them, I was struck by the similarity of wildlife walks and Wagner operas.  It was Rossini who said, “Wagner has some wonderful moments, but some dreadful quarter hours”. Similarly, walking around in Madagascar contains some wonderful moments, but also hours of tedious crashing through undergrowth, overgrowth, mud and tree roots. Sometimes in the rain.  I got quite tired and grumpy at one stage, since we’d only managed about 10 hours’ sleep over two nights; but nonetheless we came out with some good photos and some lovely experiences.

I haven’t talked much about the weather we’ve experienced so far, apart from moaning about mentioning the rain. Actually, we’ve been quite lucky in that it hasn’t often rained on us so as to ruin our enjoyment. The temperatures have been on the cool side – about 12°C in the mornings, a few degrees warmer during the days.  Today ended up in wonderful sunshine and temperatures in the low twenties Celsius, but as we left our hotel room, the start of the day was misty and cool.

Walk No. 1 was in a local National Park, the Analamazaotra Reserve.  Kenny told us that this was secondary rainforest (i.e. there’s been a degree of replanting over the years), that it was smaller than the primary forest we’d visited in Mantadia and more visited; also it was Saturday, so it was likely to be quite popular.  This view was supported by the activity in the hotel car park.

There were several tourist minivans awaiting groups from the hotel, and we knew that one such group was a bunch of Americans; we wondered if they were headed for the same place as us (see later).

Like most of the reserves we’ve visited, Analamazaotra offers toilets at the entrance.  There’s little doubt which is the way to the gents, that’s for sure.

We met Abraham, as before, and set off into the reserve.

The double line of blocks is something we’ve come across several times.  It’s not necessarily unbroken, but is a common way of laying the trails.  Abraham, of course, led us off the trails a few times, so there was quite a lot of crashing through undergrowth.  It wasn’t raining, but it obviously had been, as we were mercilessly dripped on by the forest trees.

It was half an hour before we came across anything noteworthy, and that was a quite substantial termites nest.

Someone had poked a hole in the top, and the termites were busy mending it.

At around the same place there was a wonderfully-shaped spider’s web,

but it was a further 30 minutes before we came across any major wildlife.  However, it was a splendid encounter, with a family group of Diademed Sifakas, At  first, they were a bit elusive;

but eventually we got good visibility of them, feeding in a really athletic fashion.

They were lovely to watch, so I took lots of pictures. Obviously.

The popularity of the reserve was demonstrated by the number of other people who had congregated to watch and photograph the action.

I have no right to be snarky about this, but I quite resented all these other people trying to get in on my action. At one stage, the entire group of about a dozen Americans from our hotel tramped past us in their search for things to see. The place was really quite crowded.

A few minutes after we left the Sifakas, we heard Indris shouting at each other, much closer than we had the day before, so I recorded a bit more of the sound, as it’s really (a) distinctive and (b) loud – apparently the Indri call is among the loudest animal calls known.

We did get to see the Indris, but they were very high up and I didn’t get any striking images or video, just a few snaps.

We pressed on again, and eventually Abraham led us off another path, which took us by a fish farm, something one doesn’t normally expect to find in a forest.

It’s partly a research facility, partly commercial, but the farming seems to be done in a responsible way, starting fish in the smaller enclosures you see above, and moving them between enclosures as they grow, then into successively larger enclosures before extraction.

A few metres on from this view of the fish farm, we got the second charming encounter of the day; two Eastern Grey Bamboo lemurs, stuffing their cute little faces with loquats.

The path then led to the Green Lake.

Yup. It’s green.  Not a lot to add to that, though, I have to say. And it was the last thing we saw on the walk, which was five kilometres spread over four hours, hence (looking at how many encounters we had) my comment about the similarity with Wagner’s music.

On the way back for lunch at the hotel, we stopped at Andasibe village and walked through it.  It’s very picturesque and colourful any day of the week, but this was market day!

Obviously, I took a load of photos of this very vibrant, colourful and noisy place. I have put them up on Flickr, if you’d like to take a look. Walking through the village also gave us an insight into what people of colour must feel in the UK; everyone was smiling, friendly and welcoming – but we were the only white faces in the village. I felt like an intruder, even though I wasn’t being looked at that way.

It was now lunchtime, the sun had come out and it was a glorious day.

During the afternoon, we returned to the VOIMMA (community-run) reserve at Andasibe, as Jane wanted to see some chameleons during the day time when we’d see their best colours. Thus started another Wagnerian walk.

After about half an hour, we saw a Parson’s Chameleon, which is the largest of the Madagascan chameleons.

Chameleons move very slowly.

We saw very little for the next 40 minutes or so. But then what happened was rather lovely – a group of common brown lemurs came to play with us.

I had never expected to get this close to lemurs, but these were clearly habituated to humans.  They didn’t even appear to mind when the arsehole of a Frenchman who was also at the scene started using them for selfies and had to be warned off actually touching them.  The vacuousness of some people utterly bewilders me.

We saw no wildlife of any pith or moment for the rest of the walk, but our path took by the river, across which was a Sacred Place.

This is reserved for spiritual occasions. The colours, red and white, represented the colours of the king’s first and second wives in those times when the island had a monarch (deposed by the French in 1897). It seems to be used to mark special occasions, sometimes accompanied by an animal sacrifice.

After an all-too-brief rest back at the hotel, we embarked on the final walk of the day, a night walk around the Analamzaotra reserve.  This was clearly also a popular option for a Saturday night.  We started off along a road and there were dozens of people in front of us all heading along the same route.  The path led by a lake, and it was faintly amusing to see our American gang from the hotel walking along the opposite side,

We didn’t see much, to be honest.  A poor unfortunate Goodman’s mouse lemur got spotted

and caused another of those feeding frenzies which I find so uncomfortable.

Apart from that, all we saw was a small (but pretty) frog

and a couple of big-nosed chameleons.

A note, here.  Their noses might be big, but they themselves are tiny.

Thus ended a day which seemed to be largely filled with tramping round dripping rainforest, but which had actually had some really lovely moments.

Sorry to have droned on for so long about the day, and well done for reaching this point. We leave Andasibe tomorrow and take the five-hour drive back to Tana, albeit via a final wildlife walk, so I doubt there’ll be that much to write about. You’ll have to keep reading these pages to find out, won’t you?






Mantadia National Park

Friday 7 June 2024 – What with yesterday’s night walk and a latish dinner, having to get up at 0530 this morning wasn’t particularly welcome, but, then again, we’re travelling, and early starts seem to figure frequently when we do this.  We compensated for the early start with a sumptuous breakfast before meeting Kenny and Haja for our day in Mantadia National Park, which held out the prospect of seeing Indri and Sifaka lemurs.

I say “day”. We only spent about four hours actually walking around in the National Park looking for interesting things, but the entire process took nearly double that, because the drive to get to our starting point took a long time. The distance we had to cover wasn’t all that great – perhaps 17km – but the going was exceedingly tough.

It was a misty morning as we picked up Abraham

and we started out on our journey.  The road was never a good surface, but before long we were bumping along an extremely rough track

The track passed through a village

Note the chickens sheltering under this house

and led to a control gate, where Abraham showed our entry tickets.  From there, it was 13km to the place where we could leave the car and start walking – another hour and a quarter of this horribly bumpy progress. On the way, we passed a work party

who seemed to be replanting original tree species as well as (we hoped) maintaining the track. This track

has fallen into disuse largely as a consequence of the 2009 Madagascar “coup”. The president at the time, who had been in power since 2002, was ousted in a way that the international community condemned and so immediately withdrew financial support and investment, precipitating one of the worst economic crises in the island’s history. There is a suggestion that the French were behind the defenestration of the president, who had overseen a successful period in the island’s development, but seemed to be moving in directions counter to France’s interests.  As far as Mantadia National Park is concerned, the practical upshot was a withdrawal of the support necessary to maintain the access road in good condition; it used to be possible to drive coaches along it, but this is clearly not possible now.  It seems to me that this reduces the inflow of punters and therefore cash for maintaining the facility, so it is in something of a downward spiral.


The car was a bit muddy by the time we parked up.

Haja walked off a short way and came back quite excited about something he’d seen.  I think he rather hoped it would spook Jane but I told him no,

she was not afraid of snakes (this was another tree boa). Then Abraham led Jane, Kenny and me off into the forest, which is so-called primary rainforest, in other words largely untouched by human activity, with old trees and an undisturbed forest floor.

Well, not quite undisturbed; there were signs that things have been put in place to facilitate the ability to walk around.

We started a few minutes after 9am, and it wasn’t long before we saw our first lemur,

or, rather, lemurs – this was a group of three Eastern Woolly lemurs, one of whom we’d (hopefully briefly) woken up. As we walked further, we heard the distinctive sound of Indri staking their territorial claims.

Our path appeared, though, to be taking us away from the calls we could hear, and we wandered around for the better part of an hour without seeing any lemurs at all.  We did see a rather spectacular ants’ nest

and a fungus the like of which I’d never come across before,

but I felt that this was just temporising.  What did we want? Lemurs! When did we want them? Now! Fortunately, Abraham spotted one for us.

In fact there was a group of at least four Common Brown lemurs.

We wandered on, hoping to come across some more lemurs. Without much success, it has to be said, for another three quarters of an hour.  However, we did get a rare treat,

a Madagascan Pygmy Kingfisher; these birds are quite difficult to find.

Just a few minutes after that, we found our Indri!

In fact, there were a couple of Indri moving around in the trees,

including this female, a shot I’m really quite pleased to get.

There were two slightly amusing aspects to this encounter.  We had come across another group, two Dutch people with their guide, and as we were taking photos of this group of Indri, they were in the environs, taking photos too, having spotted the Indri themselves. There’s obviously a little competition between the guides, because Abraham said to me, quietly, “but we saw them first“.

The other comedy moment was the expression on the faces of the Indri, because each of the three guides were playing Indri calls on their phones, to try to attract the attention of the lemurs.  I suspect the Indri were thinking “what the bloody hell is going on here?”

It went quiet again after the excitement of seeing the Indri.  I fell to wondering what else we might expect, and remembered that Kenny had mentioned that there might be Sifakas around. It struck me that we would like to Si one of them Fakas, and, before I knew it,

there it was – a Diademed Sifaka! There was another one nearby, too,

but it was too busy feeding itself (very noisily!) to be interested in us.

It wasn’t long before Abraham spotted some movement among the trees which resolved itself as a group of Red-bellied Lemurs making their way through the trees.  I found the next half an hour very frustrating, as all I got were photos like this

and this.

These lemurs were very active, and were moving quite swiftly along; they’re very agile and were leaping from branch to branch with gay abandon, which is marvellous to watch but an utter bastard to photograph. Our group – and the Dutch group, too – crashed through the undergrowth trying to keep up with these lemurs and get ourselves into a position where one could get a clear view for a photo. Crashing through primary rainforest is pretty unrewarding, as there are all sorts of vines and trailing branches to trip up the unwary.  I became grimly [grumpily, more like – Ed] resigned to not being able to get a clear shot, when all of a sudden they stopped moving for just long enough to get some photos.

This was the male of the troop.  There were some young ones playing about in upper branches

and I managed to get a clear shot of one of them, which was very cute indeed.

By this stage, we’d been chasing around the forest for well over three hours, but had seen no fewer than five different species of lemur, as well as the kingfisher. This counts as a very rich haul; apparently a group that had been there the day before came away having seen none, so we were very lucky indeed, as well as being indebted to the skill of our guides, Abraham and Kenny, in spotting them and, further, finding the right position to get clear photos. So, tired but happy, we headed back to the car, where a packed lunch, prepared by our hotel, was waiting for us.

Then we just had to repeat the slow grind of the bumpy ride back to the hotel – Haja certainly earned his corn with the three-plus hours he spent wrestling the car along that benighted track.  Amazingly, whilst driving along, he actually spotted another lemur!

This was an Eastern Grey Bamboo lemur; it was a bit tricky to get the right angle for a clear shot, but I think I managed in the end.

Not that one is counting, of course – perish the thought – but six species of lemur in a day! It was by turns boring, frustrating, tiring and rewarding – an excellent outing overall.

We had planned to stop in the village of Andasibe on our way back so that we could wander round what is a picturesque place; but the heavens opened as we drove back (more luck! it could have rained whilst we were out in the forest) so we simply headed back to the hotel.

Tomorrow’s plan involves a shorter drive to a longer walk, to be taken in the Analamazaotra National Park – more chances to see Indri and Sifaka lemurs.  This is secondary rainforest and a more popular tourist destination, apparently, so the lemurs are more habituated to humans, so it should be interesting to see what effect that has on the chances to see and photograph whatever we happen across.

Being there – Masoala Forest Lodge Day 2

Monday 3 June 2024 – As if yesterday weren’t busy enough, today has been something of a day of relentless achievement also. We had a comfortable night, lulled, I suppose by the crashing of the waves on the beach outside our “bungalow”.  As background noise, this was quite loud, and at times supplemented by heavy rain, but it didn’t keep us awake, and I managed to get down the steps to the bathroom during the night without injuring myself or damaging the property.

We had agreed an outline plan to congregate after breakfast to decide whether to proceed with the plan A half-day rainforest hike; and the weather prospects seemed OK, not that it’s easy, or even possible, to predict from one minute to the next whether it will rain or not. So, off we pottered in one of the lodge’s Zodiacs, with Ursula and Pascal.

Ursula had suggested that we use poles to help us on the hike.  I was initially reluctant – I have my manly pride, after all – but when she said that she would be using one, I decided that it might be worth doing; and she provided both Jane and me with suitable sticks. As it turns out, I’m exceedingly glad that I swallowed my pride, as the going was

pretty tricky underfoot and

somewhat up-and-down. It turns out that the first 20 minutes or so was a test to see whether we were up to the rest of the hike. (We passed.) The trail proper started at a noticeboard

whose photo gave a clue as to the main objective of the hike – to see if we could find, view and (of course) photograph the red-ruffed lemur.  The going continued to be quite tough in places; the combination of that, and both guides’ insistence on “mora, mora” (slowly, slowly) – as that way you’re less likely to miss something and also to injure yourself through over-ambitious orienteering – meant that my Garmin watch refused to credit us with moving at all for most of the way up to the top. (I turned off auto-pause for the way down, which is how I know that we climbed about 130 metres during the hike.)

Given that rainforests are supposed to be a haven for biodiversity, there was very little by way of wildlife to be seen.  Ursula is something of an expert on the plants of the forest, particularly also on their medicinal properties, and so was able to point out some interesting things on the way.  For example, this particular palm tree

is unusual in that dead leaves don’t drop, but stay attached and continue to provide nutrients to the plant itself.  There were some substantial tree ferns

which are a marker that one is actually in proper rainforest.  Ursula pointed out what looked like fungus on another tree,

which is actually the fruit of the tree, which is colloquially called a cauliflower tree. If you look just above the “fungus”, you can see another fruit about to burst open, too. Buttress-rooted trees were not uncommon, and some of them had very substantial root systems

(distinguished academic provided to show scale). Generally the rainforest was quite a spectacular environment.

On a couple of occasions, Ursula and Pascal had to engage in bridge-building

in order to ensure we could safely cross some of the streams that were, erm, streaming down the hill.

By this stage, we had spent some two and a half hours squelching  up and down in search of the elusive varecia rubra, and time was beginning to press if we were to return to our start point punctually.  Ursula and Pascal decided that they would try one last possible location, so off we went and

bingo!  There it was, apparently guarding some fruit to stop other lemurs (typically white-fronted brown lemurs) from stealing it. (I guess that’s how the guides knew there was a good chance it was there.)

By the way, it was bloody miles away up in the treetops. I am frankly astonished, as ever, that they could see anything.  Even through a 560mm telephoto lens (that’s about 10x magnification) what was on view was this.

You can imagine that to mere mortals like Jane, Tom and me that was simply a bit of tree, but the guides could somehow see that this blob was not just a trick of the light but was actually a lemur.

A word on image quality, here.  Both Jane and I were sporting Samsung Galaxy Ultra phones, and it was possible to get a clear image on either of them.

This is an untouched image from one of the phones (left), put beside an enhanced one from my Nikon-Zf-with-hulking-great-lens-attached (right).


On the face of it (and particularly viewed on a phone screen), they look pretty similar. But look at them in detail and a difference is much clearer – phone first, then Nikon.

It’s a great tribute to the imaging power of modern phones that you can get such astonishingly good results; but a large sensor and top-quality lens still trumps that if you’re after the best quality results.

In other words, it was worth lugging that sodding lens all the way up the hill.

Just as bloody well, really – that was the only wildlife we saw during the entire morning. But we were really glad that Ursula and Pascal were able to find the elusive red-ruffed lemur for us.

We returned to the lodge for a well-deserved and, as usual, excellent lunch followed, in my case, by a bit of a siesta until it was time for tea followed by another sundowner cocktail hour. Once again, this was interrupted by calls to go and look at some wildlife, one before dusk

White Chameleon

and one after.

White-fronted Brown Lemur (male)

After dinner, we did another night walk scramble, which turned up a few more images. Our little mouse lemur was there again, and looked very unimpressed with all the lights being shone at him.

I got another chance at a decent image of a woolly lemur, with slightly better results than yesterday.

Woolly Lemur

We saw a big-nosed chameleon, although it’s not, frankly, easy to see why it gets that name from the photo I was able to take.

Big-nosed Chameleon

There were some tree crabs in, erm, trees,

and there were moths and frogs, too, but you’ve seen one Cyligramma Joa Boisduval, you’ve seen ’em all. Oh, you haven’t? OK, then:

Cyligramma Joa Boisduval


They are rather lovely, aren’t they?

Finally, a cricket match.

This night walk was interrupted even more markedly by the rain, so we hastened back to the lounge for a final cup of tea and consideration of the possibilities for the morrow before retiring for the night. The main candidate seemed to be a canoe paddle up a nearby river, but again this is going to be subject to whether the weather permits; the prospect of drifting slowly along whilst getting drenched is not an appealing one.  Who knows what we’ll get up to?