Did you know that 5% of ALL animal and plant species known to man live in Madagascar – and nowhere else? It’s no surprise that the African island that inspired the hit DreamWorks film, Madagascar, is a real-life dream destination for nature and wildlife lovers. The island is a kaleidoscope of fascinating flora and fauna. With colourful birds, wild orchids, deep green rainforests, and of course, those adorable little lemurs, Madagascar is a magical travel destination that’s perfect for the whole family.
According to National Geographic, lemurs may have floated to Madagascar eons ago on “rafts” of vegetation, and evolved in isolation over countless centuries. Sadly, many of them are now endangered because of deforestation and hunting. It has been estimated that up to 90% of all lemur species will face extinction within the next 20 to 25 years. Yet, tourism can help by bringing money to the country that can be used for wildlife conservation. On morning and night walks, travellers can interact with classic ringtail lemurs, teacup-sized pygmy mouse lemurs, sashaying sifaka lemurs, large indri lemurs, and other friendly primates.
Ring-tailed lemurs are unmistakable because of their long, vividly striped, black-and-white tail. They live in troops of 6 to 30 animals, with a dominant female presiding over all of them. The pygmy mouse lemur is the smallest primate in the world. Malagasy people have traditionally associated these teacup sized primates with evil spirits because they are active at night, and perhaps because of their eerie, large-eyed stare. Because these little creatures rarely leave the forests’ trees, little is known about them. Indri, however, are the largest lemurs on the island. You might hear these tree dwellers before you see them. Indri lemur couples make very distinctive sounds and songs that can last up to three minutes. They are almost 2½ feet in length and can leap up to 10 metres through the air. However, it’s the graceful Sifaka lemur that might be the star of the natural wildlife show in Madagascar. Watching this shy lemur sashay across the sand like a ballet dancer is pure magic.
Where to Spot Lemurs
So where is the best place to catch a glimpse of lemurs in the wild? The Red Island’s world-famous national parks are a great place to start.
Andasibe National Park is home to Madagascar’s largest lemurs, the Indri. Visit an Andasibe village for a glimpse at life among the local people, before taking a night walk to observe active lemurs and other nocturnal animals. This 810 hectare reserve also contains a unique variety of orchids, canopy, and endemic animals like chameleons, tenrecs, and many birds.
The 40,000 hectare Parc National de Ranomafana (Ranomafana means “hot water” in Malagasy), with its rain-forested hills and abundant wildlife, has long been considered one of Madagascar’s highlights. It’s one of the country’s most popular national parks. Altitudes in the park range from 800m to 1200m. In addition to its densely forested hills, Ranomafana’s terrain is characterized by numerous small streams, which plummet down to the beautiful Namorona River. Although much of the region has been logged, the easternmost part of the park still has large areas of primary forest. You can walk for hours in the National Park and spot lemurs, chameleons, and other animals.
Ankarana Special Reserve in northern Madagascar is also a great place to search for lemurs. Its small, partially vegetated plateau is composed of 150-million-year-old middle Jurassic limestone. These countless sharp pinnacles (known as tsingy) seem like they’re from another planet. The reserve has an extensive cave system and network of underground rivers, some of which contain crocodiles. Visitors may encounter the crowned lemur, Sanford’s brown lemur, Perrier’s black lemur, the northern sportive lemur, and dwarf lemurs.
Isalo National Park is located in the Ihorombe Region of Madagascar. The park is known for its diverse and spectacular terrain, including sandstone formations, deep canyons, palm-lined oases, and grassland. Lemur species here reportedly number 14. Here you might spot Sifakas, brown lemurs, and ringtailed lemurs, as well as fifty-five species of birds, lizards, and snakes. The park has a natural swimming pool, with crystal clear waters that make for a great reward to dip into, after a sunny walk.
You can also discover the lemur-filled rainforest near Tana, while staying at the epic Vakona Forest Lodge. Sleep in terraced bungalows built in a traditional Madagascan style. The lodge park is set on a scenic hillside that drops down to a beautiful mountain lake. The lodge’s sign-posted trails lead you to the middle of the primary forest where friendly lemurs abound. Or, discover lemurs and other treasures of Madagascar’s wilderness on an up-close and personal camping and kayaking adventure.
Curious about travel in Madagascar? Visit our website at www.goway.com or call 1.800.557.2841.