A Travellerspoint blog

Lemurs galore!

Madagascar day three

View Madagascar 2023 on ToonSarah's travel map.

Diademed sifaka, Analamazaotra Reserve

I was up in the night with a touch of tummy trouble but decided I was well enough by the morning to nibble at some banana bread, drink green tea and at least attempt to set out on our planned walk. Michel kindly offered to come back with me (leaving Chris with William) should the need arise. Fortunately though, it didn’t. I would have hated to miss today!

We drove through part of the nearby village, crossed the railway line and a river, and arrived at Analamazaotra Special Reserve where we met up with William. Before even starting the walk he found two creatures for us to enjoy and photograph. Firstly a young short horned chameleon which he told us was about 3 months old, and half its size. And secondly, a smaller yet fully grown nose horned chameleon.

Young short horned chameleon

Nose horned chameleon

A walk in Analamazaotra

We entered the park and William showed us a map of the circuits and proposed that we do the middle one of about 4.5 kilometres.

William at the entrance

The path was paved with rough cut stones and quite easy for walking. Nevertheless I watched my steps carefully and left William to watch for the wildlife. The first thing he found was a grey bamboo lemur. It kept its distance though and was hard to focus on through the trees.

Next came a green day gecko, much easier to photograph.

Green day gecko

Soon after that we reached the fork where the various circuits began. The path narrowed and after a short fairly level stretch, climbed up steep stone steps. At the top we stopped for a rest and to admire the view, then carried on along a wide earth path that was much easier to walk on although we had to watch out for tree roots.

William on the path

As we walked we could hear the spooky call of the indri. Of all the lemurs this was the one I most wanted to see and hear. The indri is the largest and most vocal of them all, and the one whom the Malagasy most revere. Many legends are told about Babakoto, as they call him. According to Wikipedia:

In some regions, two brothers were believed to have lived together in the forest until one of them decided to leave and cultivate the land. That brother became the first human, and the brother who stayed in the forest became the first indri. The indri cries in mourning for his brother who went astray.

Another legend tells of a man who went hunting in the forest and did not return. His absence worried his son, who went out looking for him. When the son also disappeared, the rest of the villagers ventured into the forest seeking the two, but discovered only two large lemurs sitting in the trees: the first indri. The boy and his father had transformed. In some versions, only the son transforms, and the wailing of the babakoto is analogous to the father’s wailing for his lost son.

William explained how it had proved impossible to keep indri in zoos because they needed a wide variety of native plants which they prefer to pick for themselves. There had been an experiment in Madagascar to try them in a large cage with all their preferred leaves being provided daily, but they went on hunger strike and refused to eat.

Unlike other lemurs, indris have no tail. They are monogamous and live in small female-dominated groups. Their distinctive calls include roars, wails and other noises, strung together in ‘songs’ that can last several minutes. I found the sound mesmerising and recorded a short video to capture it. The video is rather jerky, as I had to watch for tree roots while also trying to record and keep up with William and Chris ahead of me, but the sound is what matters here. If you only put your sound on for one of my videos, make it this one!

It wasn’t too long before William spotted an indri, or rather two – an adult with a baby. But they were high up, partly hidden by leaves and very hard to photograph! That didn’t stop me trying of course!


Eventually though we moved on, but not too much further William veered off on a narrow path barely discernible between the bushes. He knew what he was doing as this brought us to a pair of diademed sifaka posing beautifully and looking very cute! Now my camera really did go into overdrive! This is the next largest lemur after the indri, and one of the most attractive, with grey and golden fur.

Diademed sifakas

We stayed with this pair for quite a long while, partly because a group of German visitors had arrived before us and had cornered the best viewpoints. As they jostled for position beneath the tree where the sifakas were sitting I was sure they would scare them away, but the lemurs must be so used to this level of attention that they weren’t fazed by it. Once the German group started to move on I seized my chance to get closer and grab some more shots, then stopped taking photos and simply watched them for a while. One was grooming the other, but rather half-heartedly.

Diademed sifaka

When we finally left them to it we made our way out of the thicket and back on to smoother paths. We saw another couple with a guide who had stopped to look at something, so we of course stopped too. It was an adult short horned chameleon so now we could see what the youngster we’ d photographed earlier would grow up to look like!

Adult short horned chameleon

Our path took us past a fish farm with carp and tilapia. A local guy was standing by a no entry gate and spoke to William. Did we want to see a snake? Of course we did, especially knowing that Madagascar has no poisonous ones! He led us round one of the ponds to a ditch where he pulled some leaves aside to reveal the snake curled up – a Madagascan tree boa.

The fish farm

Madagascar tree boa

Lemur Island

Soon after this we arrived back at the start. We had been quicker than expected because the lemurs had been in easy spots to find, so Michel proposed that instead of waiting until this afternoon to visit Lemur Island, as planned, we should go there next. The lemurs would be more active and there would be fewer other visitors. So of course we agreed, but I made a request for a break to have a drink. So once we reached the lodge on whose land the island is situated, where we had to get permits, we relaxed for a while on its terrace over our drinks.

View from the lodge's terrace

Solu drove us back down the track to the island where we had the shortest ever boat ride, little more than twice the length of the canoes they use.

Crossing to Lemur Island

We had a different local guide here, Daniel, and he led us along a boardwalk and then easy paths between the trees. As we walked he gave a whistling call while also explaining a bit about the lemurs here. They are second generation descendants from the original inhabitants who were rescued from captivity as pets and released here. They are free to live a ‘normal’ life but can’t leave the island and are helped by being fed fruit to supplement their diet. They are habituated to human visitors but since the Covid pandemic feeding them by hand isn’t allowed as they are susceptible to the disease.

We saw three species here. The first was a common brown lemur family, with a super cute baby just three weeks old. We spent ages watching their antics. Daniel encouraged them to come closer with bits of banana, which they clearly loved, locking the branches of the trees where he smeared it to be sure of getting every morsel. The baby was on mum's back, his tail curled around her for support, but he did nearly slip off at one point!


Common brown lemurs

Further along the path we came to a black and white ruffed lemur which was really beautiful. Again Daniel produced some banana which was eagerly devoured. The lemur posed beautifully for us, hanging from trees and jumping between them – on one occasion just above my head.


Black and white ruffed lemur

The final species we saw here was a bamboo lemur, the smallest of the diurnal lemurs. He was a different kind of cute and ate even more greedily than the others, with his mouth open most of the time.

Bamboo lemur

Afternoon and evening at the lodge

Finally though it was time to leave so Daniel paddled us back to the parking area where Solu was waiting.

Michel (front) in the kayak from Lemur Island

He drove us back to the lodge where we were in time for lunch on the terrace.

We'd decided against another night walk as I was tired after doing so much today and as Chris said, after the great time with the lemurs we would find it extra frustrating trying to photograph the night animals. So we had a leisurely afternoon and evening. I planned to go in the pool, but it had turned cloudy and cooler so I decided to leave it and instead sat out on our terrace sorting photos, writing notes and WhatsApping with my sister.


View from our terrace , storm approaching

Zebu carpaccio

In the evening we ate in the lodge's restaurant with zebu carpaccio starter (excellent) and chicken in a very mild curry sauce with rice (a bit dull).

Rather than dessert we decided to have local rums, and while Chris had the regular brown one, which here is flavoured with vanilla, I chose one of the Malagasy specialities, a rum infused usually with fruit but in my choice with ginger. It was really good!

Posted by ToonSarah 15:17 Archived in Madagascar Tagged boats islands food wildlife hotel africa reptiles snakes lemurs

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents


I don't think I have ever seen (or heard) any lemurs in real life.

by Nemorino

That's what I wanted to hear! Did you ever try the hot sauce that the guides insisted on having with their meals? No meals were ever dull if you added a bit of that.

by Bob Brink

Hi Don and Bob! I'd seen lemurs in zoos previously, mainly the ring-tailed ones (which we didn't see while in Madagascar) but of course never in the wild. And no to the hot sauce, I didn't even see it on offer - but if I had I'd have steered clear as my digestion sadly isn't up to hot spices these days!

by ToonSarah

What fantastic photos of the lemurs and the lizards. The sound of the lemurs was very surreal.

by irenevt

Thanks Irene - I think 'surreal' sums it up perfectly!

by ToonSarah

OMGosh, the sound of the Indri wanted me to go there and look for them! Really beautiful pictures Sarah, loved them all, but I think the bamboo lemur is the cutest! :)

by Ils1976

That sound is really haunting Ils :) And yes, the bamboo lemur is probably the cutest, but they are all beautiful!

by ToonSarah

Sounds like you had a lovely day!
Peculiar looking monkeys, indris and lemurs. :)

by hennaonthetrek

Thanks Henna :) The indri is a species of lemur but none of them are monkeys, they're a completely different animals! But most of them are very cute :)

by ToonSarah

Ah, my bad, biology has never been my strong suit! :)

by hennaonthetrek

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.