Trip Start Nov 18, 2002
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Andasibe 11th May 2008
So after staying one night in Antananarivo we then headed off east of the capital in search of more wildlife especially those lovely Lemurs. Andasibe is approximately 3 hours away. By the time we actually left and then stopped at a huge modern supermarket on the way out of the capital we ended up arriving at Hotel Feon'ny Ala in Andasibe in the dark.
Driving in Madagascar in the dark is definitely NOT a good idea. For a start the amount of cars with dodgy headlights or in fact ANY headlights for that matter is rather high. Some people drive with no headlights as they think they are saving power! This practice and driving on mountain roads with dangerous hair-pin bends does not make for a good combination. Plus the road we were on was frequented mainly by artic container lorries (coming from or to the main port on the east coast) just to make the journey all the more exciting. Again just like the journey to Ambalavao we were relieved to arrive still alive! We vowed never to drive in the dark again for the rest of our time in Madagascar.
Our home (Hotel Feon'ny Ala which aptly means 'song of the forest') for the next 2 nights was a detached bungalow facing the lake and primary forest or so we found out the next morning. The place had a friendly atmosphere about it. And we actually met some people from England travelling too. The first in the whole 3 weeks we have been here so far.
Our first morning was an early one. After breakfast we set off down the road towards Andasibe National Park. Split into 2 parks we went to the smaller Reserve Speciale d'Analamazaotra sometimes referred to as Perinet. The landscape consists of primary forest with a couple of lakes. Lac Vert and Lac Rouge (green and red for those of you not familiar with French).
This park is extremely well visited because it's main attraction is to see the rare and famous Indris, Madagascar's largest lemur. The wondrous indris has been described as looking like 'a four year old dressed in a panda suit' and is famous for its eerie wailing cry, which sounds (to us) like a beginner trumpet player, playing one note at a time for as long as their breath holds out.
We opted to take a 3-4 hour trek. It was about 40 minutes into our trek when we got to see our first sighting of this fantastic creature. We have been so used to seeing the smaller lemurs that the size of the Indris really hits you. They were just munching away at the young leaves in the trees oblivious to the hordes of tourists below. And then their chorus started. The sound was really piercing to the ears. The surrounding groups of Indris started to call back stating their territory. It was just like a trumpet practice. When the chorus stopped and the Indris settled for their nap we started off on the trek again for other species. Next we crept up on some Diademed Sifaka with caramel coloured legs and arms they we very striking and almost the same size as the Indris. One female had a baby clasped to her belly. It was nature truly at its best.
Once they had all taken off higher and further into the forest we trekked further on and there on the path we came across a group of common brown lemurs. These guys got really really close and were very confident in walking on the ground next to us. They make a sound in their throat to communicate with each other (very similar to a pig). . They hung around watching us as much as we watched them. We have some great photos as a result.
Once back at our hotel we had lunch and then we went off to Vakona lemur sanctuary which is within the massive grounds of the posh and overly expensive Vakona Forest Lodge. There is a crocodile farm and small zoo which we choose not to visit but they did have an area apart from the fore mentioned with a group of islands which was home to 4 types of lemurs. We crossed the small stream by canoe which took all of 10 seconds. Once on the other side we were taken with the guide for a walk. The man started whistling and then as if by magic a Diademed Sifaka appeared. Her name was Caramel obliviously because of the colour of her legs and arms. She was beautiful and very tame. She liked being stroked just like a cat very much. It was a real treat to be up so close to such a beautiful creature.
Our guide put a piece of banana on our hand and she would hold our hand with one of hers and take the piece of banana with her mouth so gently and then let go of our hand. Their hands have soft black skin with small finger nails. She was lovely.
Then we went further into the island. More whistling from our guide and then a whole load of common brown lemurs descended on us. It was so funny we were just like trees to them. They thought nothing of sticking their bums so close to our faces. Mmm nice! They climbed all over our heads and searched through our hair the whole works. We were in fits of laughter. Further on we saw some black and white ruffed lemurs who weren't at all bothered about coming down to see us and stayed up in the tree lounging. That was actually good to witness as it meant to us that they weren't so dependant of being fed by humans all the time. There were plenty of fruit trees all around for them to feast on.
After playing about with the common brown lemurs and the tiny bamboo lemurs we then headed back to the canoe where the Guide took us on a little journey to another island where 5 ring-tailed lemurs lived. We did not get out of the canoe but moored up along side the island where the ring-tails came up sooooo close. We sat mesmerised as they jumped and leaped about chasing each other right in front of our camera.
Initially it has to be said, we were not too sure about visiting some of these types of 'Zoo' places. Mainly because we had heard and read they had some animals such as chameleon snakes and Fosa etc kept in small cages. And after making such an effort to come to Madagascar and trek to see them in the wild it only felt right not to support this and avoid paying to see these captive animals. However the Lemur sanctuary was just that, a 'sanctuary' for lemurs who had been donated to Vakona lodge from people who had kept them as pets in their own home and could no longer cope with them. Hence why they are so tame. The success of their breeding since has proved that the lemurs were happy in there environment even though they are on islands, they are large islands. The care and well being of these rescued lemurs is obliviously paramount here, even thou you go home with your shoulders smelling of lemur wee it is definitely worth a visit. Just avoid the 'zoo' stuff.
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