Friday 23 May 2014

On Lemur Patrol in Madagascar


Apparently Carl Linneaus named "lemurs" after a sort of mythical undead ghost - understandable given of their haunting cries and lithe human-like forms.  Having split off from the line that would evolve into monkeys, apes and humans on the isolated island of Madagascar, lemurs are creatures that seem somewhat like a strange cross between a squirrel, a monkey and a panda bear.

And they are amazing!

Running around in the jungle for a whole day from daybreak until the afternoon we found four types of lemurs (Indri, Diademed Sifaka, Bamboo Lemur and Common Brown Lemur) and an amazing diversity of other animals.  As the sole campers in Madagascar's Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, we got an early start with our excellent guide, Herman.  He could effortlessly spot and track down lemurs, tiny toads, even tinier chameleons and even an impossibly well-camouflaged leaf-tailed gecko.

After spending a couple of nights in the unremarkable capital Antananarivo, we took local transport (taxi brousse) to the town of Andasibe. Upon arrival we set up our tent in the well maintained camping grounds right next to the national park office. No one else was camping and for the first time I really appreciated and enjoyed the camping experience- out in the wilds. I was pretty impressed with Ty when he made the first night's fire for us to cook our dinner on with only a lighter,  leaves, wood and toilet paper! 

The 6 hour walk through the forest was awesome and definitely an adventure. At times we quickly moved through the trees and foliage following our guide Herman who had tracked down the lemurs. After hearing the indri's cries from a few kilometres away, it was great to finally see them in their natural environment. They were incredibly cute looking- like panda koala bears. However, the best moments came when Herman found some diademed sifikas who were low on a tree, literally a metre away from us. One even gave us a cheeky display, hanging upside down and staring Ty right in the face. Even Herman looked pretty chuffed. It really was an incredible experience and I felt very lucky to see four different types of lemur and so much other wildlife here.

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