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Madagascar


2 weeks with the lemurs in one of the world's poorest countries.

 

Population: 20m (UK = 60m)
Area: 590,000sq km (UK = 245,000)
Average annual income:
£500 (uk=£26k)
Famous for:
Lemurs and chameleons
Cost of a can of Coke in a restaurant (the new standard!): 60p
Weather in October:
"Warm & pleasant " 28'C day, 20'C night .
Local food: Beef and rice, with extra salt.
Language: French, and hardly anyone speaks English.
Flight cost: £800 to Antananarivo via Nairobi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Days 1 & 2: Antananarivo

Long flight (via Nairobi)

Had a quick city tour but not particularly exciting. Stayed at a nice hotel, La Varanga which has a famously posh restaurant whose chef was once voted in the top 5 in the world. His culinary masterpieces were of course wasted on me! I prefer my steak to have seen some heat rather than still be bleeding. You could almost see it still twitching...

Just like any other busy, dangerous, smoggy capital city, you wouldn't want to stay here for long!

 

 

Day 3: Andasibe National park

The closest bit of protected forest to the capital city. On the way we broke up the 3 hour journey at a chameleon 'zoo'.

They are pretty difficult to see in the wild so seeing them in captivity was better than nothing.

 
  They catch insects by firing out their super-long sticky tongue. It happens in the blink of an eye.

The main attraction in this protected forest is the indri - the largest lemur.

Best described as like a 9 year old child dressed in a panda costume!

 

There are about 60 families in the forest, of which they allow you to visit only two of them.

To mark its territory it has a very loud call which resonates through the forest and can be heard from 2km away. We could hear it from our lodge.

 

In the evening we went on a night walk to see the nocturnal lemurs.


Dwarf lemur

 

Day 4: Mantadia national park

A 2 hour drive on dirt roads took us deep into primary rainforest where everything is untouched by the loggers who have removed all the forest elsewhere.

Coquerel's sifaka
Giant man-eating tree frog


Red bellied lemurs


Baby indri with mother


Black and white ruffed lemur

Lemur island

On the way back from the forest was an island where some friendly habituated rescued lemurs live.

Rather easier to find than in the forest, they roam free. Quite happy with banana handouts and generally larking around all day. Getting close to them was magical. I hope they dont have fleas...


Diademed sifaka

very playful black and white ruffed lemur




He checked me for fleas. I didnt have any. Until then...

The elusive fosa
The fosa are the evil animals in the film Madagascar. With no dogs or cats here, they fill the niche of the top carnivore and eat the lemurs. Very hard to spot in the wild as nocturnal. This one (un?)fortunately was caged.

Tree boa

 

 

Day 5:
To the Pangalades

A series of lakes, rivers and canals which stretch for 100km up the east coast. Very isolated - just a few locals who fish to sustain themselves.

 

Day 6: La Palmerium reserve

A protected peninsula where the lemurs are safe, and indeed very happy with a steady supply of bananas on tap from visitors.

 

They were very impressed to see the range of aperture
settings available on the new Canon 550D camera
...

Local village visit

On the way back we called in to see the real local life. Fantastic as usual.

Aftrerwards we couldn't get the boat engine started but luckily we were only 45 minutes walk from our lodge.


They teach hairdressing
from a very young age
 

 

The world's cutest lemur!

On our last evening we heard by accident that there was a bamboo lemur that lived in the local forest and came for a handout of rice from the kitchen at 6am each morning. We got up early hoping to catch a glimpse and were rewarded by a lifetime high. After half an hour with him he climbed onto us of his own accord. He wanted stroking and purred like a cat. After 20 min he'd had enough and dissappeared back to the forest.

 
 

 

Day 7: Slow boat to Toamasina

After 2 boat engine failures there was only one left and it took 6 hours to get to our next stop.

 

 

Day 8: Things start to go wrong. Flight to Island Saint Marie cancelled.

2 planned days of relaxing on the beach of a pretty island suddenly got cancelled with the announcement that the plane was instead going back to the capital city. They planned to fly to the island instead the next day but that would have only given us an afternoon and a morning there.

The tour company managed to change our flight to instead go to Morondava - the place where they have the famous baobab trees and Kirindy National Park.

 


The jeep which took us there kept breaking down, which was not ideal as we were miles from civilisation and we had a date with sunset at the baobabs!

Rather sadly the spectacular sight is leftover from deforesting all the other trees and leaving the baobabs because they had no value.

 

Day 9 & 10: Wasted days. Flight to Fort Dauphin delayed 12 hours

Having got up at 4:30am for the flight back we spent a wasted day in the capital. Then we got the news that our flight out the next day was delayed from 9am to 9pm meaning another day wasted in the capital.

It turns out that the nickname for Air Madagascar is "Air Maybe..."

 

Day 11 & 12: Berenty private reserve

One flight and 3 hours on terrible roads to a small haven of natural forest protected from being chopped down to accomodate huge sisal plantations.


Verreaux's sifaka are the main attraction
 

Famous for being able to climb on unfeasably sharp spiny trees...

...and for bounding along on their hind legs (called 'dancing')

The other main residents here are the ring-tailed lemurs (remember King Julian from Madagascar?!)

 


Chameleon

Mouse lemur

Madagascan Hoopoe

Fruit bat

Scorpion

Brown lemur
White footed sportive lemurs

Flower bugs

Scops owl

Little tortoise

 

Day 13 & 14: Pirate camp at Lokaro bay

Another long journey - 2 cars, a boat and a 4x4 took us to a remote peninsula where we were the only tourists.

 

 

Day 14 & 15 (&16!)

Flight back to Tana... next day transfer to airport to find flight home cancelled! Drive back to Tana from airport (for the 6th time!) to stay in a nice hotel courtesy of Kenya Airways. Eventually leave 24 hours later.