Traveling along the bumpy National Route 2 from Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital city to the island’s east coast we were greeted with a different type of landscape. Unlike the dry, deciduous forest of the west, the east side is lush with greenery like the endless supply of banana trees and the over-populated eucalyptus tree.
Fields of rice patties filled the open landscapes interrupted only by tiny villages or slashed and burnt hillsides along the dirt road we travelled.
The temperatures were cooler and the air was filled with a slight humidity.
We were heading towards the Analamazaotra Reserve and the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park in search of the species of lemurs that are found there.
Originally our itinerary only had us going to the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park but with the recommendation of our guide, Mana, we also did a walk through the smaller Analamazaotra Reserve.
The Analamazaotra Reserve is located near the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park and encompasses only 1,500 hectares (3,706 acres) which is a much smaller area than the larger National Park.
This was a huge draw for us as it allowed an opportunity for more lemur encounters within a smaller range and shorter walks. This reserve is home to the largest species of lemur,
the Indri, as well as the:
the Red-Fronted Brown Lemur
the Black and White Ruffed Lemur
the Grey Bamboo Lemur
and the Woolly Lemur.
In addition to the lemurs, many species of insects, birds, chameleons and amphibians can also be found here.
The park is broken up into a few paths, labelled as “circuits,” each one following a different route around the reserve. We began walking along the Indri Circuit 1 route in hopes of spotting our first Indri.
Our guide, Victor is one of the local guides of the Reserve and neighboring National Park and also seemed to be a master lemur spotter. Almost immediately after entering the Reserve, Victor spotted a sleeping Woolly Lemur and a Red-Fronted Brown Lemur. It wasn’t long after that we saw our first glimpse of an Indri. High up in the forest’s canopy was the distinct black face and tailless body of the Indri. Unfortunately, he was very high and quite difficult to see so we continued on in search of other lemurs. We followed Victor through the thick forest and came upon a family of Diademed Sifikas.
At first they were high in the trees but as we stood and watched they began “dancing” through the trees, slowly making their way to the forest floor.
We crouched down quietly beside them and two of the lemurs began playing around right in front of us.
These lemurs were not shy.
We sat watching and softly giggling for quite some time before walking over to where the rest of the family was.
A mom, baby and two more Diademed Sifikas relaxed on the ground while the baby bounced around, leaping from mom’s back to the tree to another Sifika.
These soft, cuddly looking lemurs were so fun to watch.
Eventually the lemurs began bounding away so we continued along in search of more Indris.
It wasn’t long before we saw an Indri perched halfway up a tree.
As if on cue, the Indri began wailing its unique call which can reach distances of 2-3km away!
More Indris were spotted jumping from tree to tree, stopping from time to time to happily stuff their faces with all the delicious leaves.
Andasibe-Mantadia National Park
The day after our walk in the Analamazaotra Reserve we drove the 14 km from Vakona Forest Lodge where we were staying to the entrance of the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park.
Having already picked up our local guide Victor for a second day, we headed straight into the forest. Encompassing a much larger area of 16,000 hectares (roughly 39,537 acres) and a complex labyrinth of paths its no wonder the lemurs were harder to find there.
After we spent some time weaving in and out of the lush rain forest Victor found a family of Black-and-White Ruffed Lemurs snacking high in the tree tops.
We watched as these silly lemurs, who are known as acrobats, hung upside down and contorted their fluffy bodies just to get at delightful leaves.
Excited to have seen yet another species of lemur and to experience the magical atmosphere of the rain forest we left Andasibe-Mantadia National Park completely satisfied but also wanting more.
Because I just hadn’t had my fill of lemurs for the day we headed to Lemur Island for the second time to feed them bananas and give them all the pets.
Tips before your trip:
- We recommend long hiking pants and trail shoes to protect your feet from the insects or branches along the forest floor.
- Apply sunscreen and insect repellent before heading into the forest
- Pack bottled water as most visits to the parks last about 2-4 hours
- The Analamazaotra Reserve is located about 4 hours east of Madagascar’s capital city Antananarivo.
- Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is located only 14km from Andasibe but it will take you 1.5 hours to travel there because it is a very bumpy dirt road.
- Below is the fee schedule for entering the parks