Madagascar is one of the most unique and diverse destinations in the Indian Ocean with amazing wildlife encounters on offer, scenery like no other and some of the most exceptional beaches to be found in this part of the world. It is incredibly important to travel to Madagascar with an open mind and realistic expectations, so that you make the most of your time here and don’t come home feeling disappointed. Here we give our rundown on how to prepare and what to expect.
Blog: Pierre’s Lemur Tales
Gaining world-renown and legions of fans thanks to King Julian in the film Madagascar, ring-tailed lemurs are one of the greatest draws to the Indian Ocean island. Here our Madagascar expert, Pierre gives us the low-down on where to go to be on the tail of these fascinatingly entertaining creatures.
Berenty Reserve is approximately 200 hectares in size and is made up of an enclosed canopy gallery of tamarind trees situated along the Mandrare River and the bizarre spiny forest. We spent the following 2 days exploring the gallery forest and spiny forest. Day time was best for viewing animals in the spiny forest, whilst night walks ensured the viewing of nocturnal animals and lemur species.
Our experience was only improved upon by having my own private guide who had been with Berenty for 15 years and knew the reserve like the palm of his hand. We saw various family groups of ringtail lemurs from afar and up close. One of the families occupied the restaurant and lodge area which formed part of their territory. This ensured for entertaining meals as the different members would sneak up to us, trying to get a helping of what we were eating. Verreaux’s sifaka and brown lemurs also roamed the reserve and could be spotted during the day while mouse and sportive lemurs could be viewed during our night walks. Different species of birds, chameleons, geckos and insects were also plentiful.
After 2 days at the Berenty Reserve, we headed 45 minutes further to the west to Mandrare River Camp, a small luxury tented camp. Mandrare River Camp works closely together with the local community as the spiny forests that you explore are all owned by local families. These forests can only be accessed by crossing the Mandrare River by boat or during the summer months, by foot. This definitely ensures for a little adventure in itself! The lemurs that can be found here are not as habituated as at the Berenty Reserve as human interaction is limited and the animals are respected and treated as wild. The viewing of lemurs or other wildlife in close proximity cannot always be ensured as is the case in the Berenty Reserve.
Nonetheless, our knowledgeable guides made sure that we still had a very interesting experience. One of the other highlights for me of staying at Mandrare, was that we could interact so much with the local community. During our walk, we were quickly approached by local families who were very interested in finding out more about us. The children were posing for photos and loved seeing themselves ‘in the camera’ – a device that they do not know of. Adults invited us into their homes and loved chatting to us with the help of the translation from local guides. Although the wildlife viewing here does not match what Berenty Reserve has to offer, it must be said that the rest of the experience was simply out of this world and personally I found it more rewarding seeing lemurs in a more wild setting.
Our final stop on our lemur quest was Manafiafy Beach & Rain Forest Lodge, located on the south east coast of Madagascar – an eco-lodge which is a magnet for wildlife enthusiasts in search of lemurs as well as whales. As this lodge is situated in the rainforest region of the country, hot and humid days and afternoon showers are a possibility. The pristine blue ocean water and private white sandy beach are a real draw and it is wonderful being able to watch local fishermen land their catch after a hard day’s fishing. There are lots of activities to do here and the coastal location makes snorkelling a must. We were of course here primarily for the lemurs and we were not disappointed!
The Littoral Rainforest where you can go on guided day and night walks is home to dwarf, mouse, wooly, sportive and collared brown lemurs. Beyond the lemur hunt we were also treated to chameleons, snakes, geckos, carnivorous pitcher plants and a wide array of birds. The coastal location also makes Manafiafy the perfect spot for whale watching between June and December. Deciding to spend the day lazily in the ‘whale tower’ looking out into the ocean or taking to the ocean on a guided boat trips to see these amazing giants is an absolute must.
There are over 100 lemur species waiting for you to discover on Madagascar, but as the Eighth Continent with one of the greatest diversities of wildlife and so many endemic species, you can be assured of there being so many more amazing creatures to encounter too.