If I say Madagascar – do you say Lemur?
This seems to be the thing that everybody knows about the rather large piece of land that broke away from the African continent to find its independence and evolution exempt of influence. And yes, I know of the country’s rich history and the colonialists that laid claim to it over the years, but I’m talking creatures here. The natural history and mystery that they bring to my Southern Africa neighbour.
On my first full day in Madgascar, I ventured out of the capital on the potted road that leads East towards the portal city Toamasina. Elevated views, fanned palm trees, rice fields and farmland, interspersed with settlements and traders. Each bend more anticipated. My senses heightened by the endless trucks, taxis and vintage fiats with laden rooftops. All engaging in the same mad driving.
My first stop was at the Peyrieras Reptile Park where I was guided through the carefully maintained enclosures and shown the collection of chameleons, lizards, crocodiles, butterflies and snakes gently nurtured here. I had read about the illegal trade in these animals and their vulnerability was detailed to me.
The size of him! “I kissed a chameleon and I liked it”.
Love those hands.
I’m a great fan of snakes and knowing that Madagascar had none that were dangerous was all the encouragement I needed to get close to this little guy for a cuddle.
He took full advantage when I was showing my guide how to use my camera, and really snuggled in tight. Happiiness!
Next was the frog. Safe to say that I am terrified of frogs yet was determined to set that aside to meet this tomato frog. I carefully leant in and touched him. He was cool and smooth and non threatening. There is hope that my phobia will subside.
A further selection from Mother Nature.
After lunch in Moramango we were back in the car and further down the road towards the Andasibe area for a visit to the Vakona Reserve. Crossing the river to the island I found myself in a protective sanctuary where the local lemurs have a supplemented diet of fruit – provided by the guests. Although they do have the forested area and forage away at leisure all day. The nearby Vakona Lodge also offers horse riding and forest trekking.
River crossing from the land to the island sanctuary.
I was given a banana to share with the brown lemur, who proceeded to help themselves.
Common Brown Lemur.
Baby Brown Lemur with mom.
Black and White Lemur.
If you want to get up close and personal with lemur, this is certainly the place to do so. And even though the purest in me wanted to protest the human interaction, I am aware of the risk to lemurs in general and felt a moderate level of comfort that these are at least safe from poaching.
Despite myself, I loved their gentle touch and the ability to truly look into their eyes and seek the difference between them and the monkeys that we are more familiar with.
The next day would hold hiking in the Andasibe National Park, but for now I was content with a lemur or two on my shoulders and an incredible amount of joy in my heart.
After a day in the company of these glorious creatures, I knew that I had indeed arrived in a Naturalist’s Promised Land. Best of all though, was knowing that the next day held even more. This is one country that doesn’t disappoint.
FOOTNOTE: That night I stayed at Grace Lodge. Sweet rooms, gas for heated water, power between 6 and 9.30. Lovely grounds and the most charming knowledge host I could hope – meet beautiful Henriette.