Where to walk with lemurs (on your head)

When you think of Madagascar, what’s the first thing you think of? I’m sure that for many folk, the answer is ‘lemurs!’

When we were planning our trip to Madagascar, seeing a lemur was non-negotiable!  In fact it would be criminal not to see one! Not when our kids have watched the movie ‘Madagascar’ at least 20 times and they’ve imagined a scene of lemurs jumping from tree to tree singing “I like to move it, move it!” But we had just one problem. We were short of time and we were heading west from Antananarivo. My research indicated that if you really want to see lemurs, you go east!

We’d debated long and hard about which way to go from Antananarivo on our short 12 day trip; South, East or West?  We eventually chose to go west simply because we love ‘baobabs,’ it was bound to be hot and dry, (always a plus since moving to cold Ixopo in South Africa) it was the shortest route and we’d get some ‘beach-time’ too!

But there were the lemurs…we had to be sure we’d see them! Our car rental company consultant from GAM suggested we take a 2 day detour and head east before heading west to Morondava. For the love of lemurs, we agreed!

3 hours later, after winding our way through rice paddies and misty hills on the RN2, we descended the escarpment and arrived at the busy little town of Andasibe, the Lemur capital!

Eastern Madagascar route

…On the RN2 road from Antananarivo to Andasibe

Merina farmers

Eastern Madagascar landscape

Fruit market

Eastern Madagascar

Hotel Feon ny ala

Feon’ ny Ala Hotel, Andasibe

Lemur Island at Vakona Private Reserve, Andasibe

Our first stop was this touristy little gem! In most cases, if I’m told a place is ‘touristy,’ I’d

Lemur selfie

Every self-respecting tourist must have a selfie with a lemur!

usually run a mile and avoid it with great determination! But in this case, we had just a couple of hours in the late afternoon to find and experience ‘lemurs!’ At the Lemur Island, lemur sightings are guaranteed. In fact within a minute of stepping onto the island, they will climb onto your shoulders in search of bananas. (If you dont fancy the idea of being ‘pawed’ by lemurs, I’d suggest you stay away from the bananas and take a canoe trip around the island instead…lemurs hate water!) But for the kids, it was an absolute highlight! And though we debated as to whether it’s a ‘tourist trap’ or a ‘rehabilitation centre,’ these highly entertaining and social little critters soon took the stage and won our affections! (and a few extra bananas)

Park fees (includes a guide): AR 25000 per adult (free for kids)

Us being tourists 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lemur frenzy

 

 

The next day we had one last mission before we headed back to Antananarivo and to the West of Madagascar: to see the largest species of lemur, the Indri. The Indris are not only famous for being the ‘largest,’ but more so for their eerie and haunting calls that can be heard in the mornings, usually between 7am and 11am when they are most active. To see them and hear them, we went to Parc National d’Andasibe and the adjoining V.O.I.M.M.A Community Reserve.

For the 4 of us, the visit to the park cost us AR 110 000 with a guide. (It’s compulsory to walk with a guide in most parks in Madagascar) We thought this was a bit steep and started to do frantic little sums in our head, imagining our budget blown only 2 days into the trip!

But then I think of the road from Antananarivo to Andasibe. It looks vaguely familiar. The cultivated lands, a high density population, ancient rain forests chopped down for business, rivers the colour of mud and not a bird or wild animal in sight. It reminds me of Malawi. I think again about the AR 110 000. That the entry fee we pay supports the local villagers in Andasibe who are committed to a reforestation program. In light of the obvious destruction of their country’s natural habitat, their home and their future, they are removing invasive species and replanting native trees. In retrospect, AR 110 000 seems a small price to pay. And it truly is a beautiful park, well worth the visit and the 2 day detour.

Parc National d'Andasibe guide

Our guide at Parc National d’Andasibe

 

 

Looking for Indris

 

 

 

Sacred site

Sacrificial site

Indri

The Indri

Madagascar may never be what it once was, but if tourism can protect and prevent what still is from be destroyed by the likes of logging and charcoal, maybe in one hundred years from now, there will still be rain forests in Madagascar and our children’s children will hear the haunting wails of the Indri, singing of what was, what is and what can still be.

***Note: We did see wild lemurs in the West too. But not the Indri.

“We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.” – Thomas Fuller

Andisabe

Listen to the Indri’s haunting call…