It was a lot of fun seeing the inquisitive ring-tailed lemurs and athletic dancing sifakas in Madagascar’s Berenty Private Reserve. Next up: looking for the Indri lemurs, whose soulful songs echo in the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, some 3 hours outside the capital of Tana.
Unlike the semi-arid spiny forests of Berenty National Park, Andasibe is a rainforest with abundant biodiversity, including many endemic and endangered species. We sprang for the Vakona Forest Lodge as its Lemur Island promised a close encounter with several species of lemurs.
Blessed by abundant rainfall, the rice paddies in Madagascar yield as much as 4 crops a year. Outside the urban centers, those lucky enough to claim land through homesteading manage to eke out a living through subsistence farming.
The locals though poor are extremely resourceful. Homes can be built from whatever material is at hand, so they can be anything from bamboo, brick to stucco. We find many of the people, especially the children, to be a cheerful lot.
Malagasy homeowners take great pride in their properties’ appearance and these vibrantly colored houses are a perfect example.
The brown, ruffled, woolly and bamboo lemurs on the Island were purportedly abandoned pets and therefore used to human contact. The troops greeted us with overwhelming enthusiasm since we came bearing gifts of bananas. These rambunctious lemurs clambered all over me on sight of food but their soft furry paws sure tickle!!
As is often with birds, the male Velvet Asity is more colorful in order to attract the attention of the females: the jet black bird sports emerald green ‘eye lashes’ which are actually wattles. All asities are endemic to Madagascar.
Found only in Madagascar, the name giraffe weevil refers to the long neck of the male which is handy in fighting and nest building.
There’s plenty of wildlife at the Vakona Lodge even sans-guide. We found this colorful small frog inside a bromeliad by the dining room entrance.
Dining room at Vakona Lodge, memorable primarily as the scene of my second – and most serious – bout of food poisoning on the trip. Another meal of romazava, a stew made with zebu, accompanied by salsa, this time washed down by coconut rhum arrangé, did me in again. Apparently the offending bacteria were unfazed by the rum’s high alcohol content…
For someone who’s not partial to swigging hard liquor, rhum arrangé is ‘rot gut’ personified. But it is the island nation’s favorite home brew, and you can find the rum infused with any combination of fruits, roots and spices, generally for a month or more.
Not sure if it’s legal to handle the Painted Mantella in the park, but I assume our guide was angling for a bigger tip by showing us this poisonous frog.
After the morning hike, I took a turn for the worse from my zebu stew encounter and the resulting fever of 103 F with chills necessitated a detour to the local hospital. Having tested negative for malaria, I was given prescriptions and summarily discharged. The total bill for the emergency room visit, test, as well as medications for fever and turista came to 200,000 Malagasy ariaries, a whopping $90 USD! Yes we’re definitely not in Kansas and the US medical system anymore…
One of the largest lemurs, the black and white Indri lemur makes a haunting call that’s somewhat reminiscent of humpback whale songs.
It’s fascinating to see locals carrying everything from sacks of food and charcoal briquettes to stacks of bricks on their heads. Their ability to balance heavy, odd shaped stacks while walking long distances is truly incredible!
I saw this woman walk to the market with her head practically covered by her goods. Talking about a bad hair day!!
The chameleons and fauna at the Peyrieras Reserve were simply spectacular despite their rather run-down digs. Unfortunately the Cipro hadn’t fully kicked in, so I was too pre-occupied with other pressing issues to enjoy the visit.
Our final stop was Anjozorobe, one of the last high plateau forests in Madagascar. We failed to find the elusive aye-aye but caught a couple mouse lemurs nesting in the rafters of our cabin! The verdant valley below was shrouded in layers of mist as we left Anjozorobe at an ungodly hour to catch our flight for Tanzania to start the second chapter of our African Safari.
Malagasy jams are one of our prized souvenirs. Since the country is a major grower of vanilla, local confitures are generously studded with vanilla beans, taking the humble preserves to new culinary heights. Try this peach vanilla jam recipe for a taste of Madagascar. Enjoy!