Tag Archives: re-ruffed lemur

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?