5 PLACES TO SPOT LEMURS | MADAGASCAR
Spotting lemurs was the highpoint of an exciting roadtrip across Madagascar that capped an amazing 3 months research trip monitoring coral diversity with Blue Ventures. Lemurs have become the icon for Madagascar (thanks to the DreamWorks Animation Madagascar), from cute and tiny mouse lemurs, dancing ring-tailed lemurs, brown, red and golden to singing indri.
There are over 100 species of lemur, all of which are found in Madagascar! Lemurs belong to a group of primates called promsimians, which means “before monkeys”, because lemurs used to be widespread until monkeys evolved and drove them to extinction. Thankfully, Madagascar has been an isolated island for about 70 million years and now host a wide variety of endemic plants and animals that exist nowhere else on Earth! Lemurs have diversified to live in a range of habitats, from the northern stone forests, rainforests and to the arid shores of the east.
During my voluntary trip to Madagascar with Blue Ventures, I went on the overland trip (both ways) where we traveled across Madagascar from Tana to Toliar. Along the way we stopped at a number of amazing places, most of which hosted some of the most amazing, rare creatures including lemurs.
So you want to see some lemurs while you are in Madagascar? Don’t worry – here are a few of the places where you can spot one or two…
The Lemur’s Park
If you don’t have much time and you really want your lemur fix, then the Lemur’s Park is the place to go. Only about 40 minutes out of Tana (most of the time you will be stuck in traffic trying to leave the city!) this little zoo is mostly made up of rehabilitating lemurs that were kept as pets. The lemurs are all free (only the nocturnal lemurs are in cages) living in sections tailor-made to mimic the different regions in Madagascar - this way you can have a taste of the whole of Madagascar in one trip! You can get really close to these lemurs (11 different species) which makes photographing them very easy.
Anja Community Reserve
Located in the southwest of Madagascar around 50km from FInar, Anja is a hidden gem set among an impressive ring of megaliths. It is a community-run park which covers a small patch of protected forest inhabited by a large number of ring-tailed lemurs, chameleons, snakes and birds. Once you arrive at the park (where they have some good food!) you are taken on a guided walk into the forest, accompanied by two runners who will go ahead to look for the lemurs. Most of the time you will be looking up into the trees to watch the lemurs bounce back and forwards, playing games or just laying around in the sun! One or two might even get brave enough to run right past you!
Isalo National Park
Hugged by a sandstone massif that have been blown into an intricate web of canyons, gorges and caves, lies the grassy plains of Isalo National Park. Amidst stretches of Jurassic scenery - where you expect a dinosaur to walk by - are pockets of dense vegetation hiding waterfalls and crystal-clear natural pools. There are a few species of lemur to be found, including ring-tailed lemurs, brown lemurs, sifakas and a number of nocturnal lemurs. These lemurs are more on the wild side and may be difficult to spot without the help of an expert guide. There are a number of trails, ranging from a few hours to a couple of days - I suggest going with Momo Trek who are very welcoming (with traditional songs and dancing) and have great food!
Ranomafana National Park
Meaning “hot water”, Ranomafana used to be popular for its hot baths. Now, it is known for its mountainous terrain, dense rain-forests and the rare golden bamboo lemur. These cyanide-munching tree-jumping lemurs are threatened with extinction due to the removal of bamboo and other plant species. The park, however, is making efforts to educate the local community to restore the rain-forest and protect the wildlife living there. Here, it’s just you, your guide and the wilderness (apart from bumping into the occasional group of tourists). With another 11 species of lemur including the Red-bellied lemur and the Greater dwarf lemur, you won’t go home without seeing at least one, and depending on the length of trail you might even get to see them all!
Andasibe National Park
Nestled 150km away from the capital, the World Heritage Listed forest of Andasibe National Park is also known as “David Attenborough’s Park”, named after his love for this forest, as well as known for the rare creatures that inhabit it. With its tall trees towering above streams, the Indri indri have found the perfect spot to live. These lemurs are the largest lemurs in the world and look more like teddy bears with their big black eye, round ears and fluffy black-and-white fur. Despite their size, they are still as very graceful as they leap from tree to tree. However, it is not their size that makes them famous but their penetrating wail – a cacophony of melancholy sounds that can be heard up to 3km away!
We were lucky to get within touching distance of these fascinating creatures (even though I thought my ears were going to blow off – check out this video). We also managed to stumble upon the BBC who were filming the indri for their latest show – how cool was that?!
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go all over Madagascar but some other great places to spot lemurs include
- Nosy Mangabe Island – for nocturnal Aye-aye
- Ankarana National Reserve – the famous spiny stone forests where the crowned lemur and Sanford’s brown lemur play.
- Arboretum d’Antsokay – for cute little mouse lemurs.
It all may look like the happy Dreamworks movie of singing and dancing lemurs, but many of these species are on the endangered, vulnerable and critically endangered lists due to the degradation of forests. Therefore, it is crucial that these parks remain up and running, combatting and educating against current traditions to maintain Madagascar’s and the world’s last remaining dancing, leaping and even singing lemurs.