Thursday, 15 December 2011


Before I get started on the last bit of the trip, let me just apologise for taking so long to post this, exhibition work took over which is all I’ve been working on for the last month or so but more about that at the end of the post. This is the last part of our trip to Madagascar, it’s going to be a long one so grab a cup of tea and make yourself comfy. On leaving Ranomafana we made the journey up to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, stopping on the way at a lovely picnic spot next to the river where we found a rather cute little chameleon and a fuel stop where we picked up a bottle of J.C. Le Roux to celebrate our engagement. The two parks have so much to offer, but before we explored we made our way to our accommodation at Vakona Forest lodge, a beautiful lodge nestled in the forest. After settling in, selecting dinner and getting changed we headed off for our first night walk along the edge of Andasibe, it is not permitted to enter the National Parks at night.
The walk took us up the road past the main entrance to the park searching for frogs, chameleons and anything else we might be able to find! Our luck was in and we saw not only a couple of species of frog, couple of species of chameleon and a stick insect! So here is the first photo of this instalment, a rather cute little green frog with enormous eyes!
After our walk it was time to head back to the lodge and get some dinner and some sleep ready for an early start to head off into Andasibe to experience something that it not only a must do, but something that I was looking forward. After breakfast, off we went picking up our guide on the way and headed off into the park, time to find the indri, the largest living lemur resembling a teddy bear and the only lemur to sing. On the way to find the indri, we did come across a couple of Eastern grey bamboo lemurs munching away and while we were watching them we had our first, all be it at a distance, experience of the indri singing and it was amazing. We headed off into the forest to find the indri and it wasn’t long before we came across a small group high up in the trees, trust me trying to photograph them wasn’t easy as not only were they high up, it was also raining! But soon enough taking photos was not what I was after and when they started singing I switch to video mode to capture the beautiful singing that sounds a little bit like humpback whale song. One of the indri actually came down the tree and sat just above my head I could feel the song right through my body and yes I did indeed shed a tear, it is a very moving and incredible experience so here it is, the video of them singing.

I could have stayed with them all day but after an hour or so we had to move on, just before I move on here is one of the images I did manage to capture of the indri as it came down from the canopy.
Although we had to move on, we did see the indri a couple more times but high in the canopy eating! The next lemurs we came across were common brown lemurs, one of which was just above our heads eating away completely undisturbed by our presence. After watching them for a while we headed off hoping to find more lemurs but also a nightjar in its daytime roosting spot. Our guide, Maurice headed off into the forest to see if they were there and I can honestly say that I would never have seen them if he hadn’t pointed them out so here they are a pair of collared night jars showing their amazing camouflage.
We continued to make our way through the forest with the song of the indri ever present, eventually coming back out into the open and back to the visitor centre and the park entrance. But that wasn’t to be it for that trip as there was a young Parson’s chameleon next to the toilets, and I was quite surprised to see that it was bright orange and here it is:
Finally it was time for lunch so we headed back to the lodge and re-fuelled. The plan for after lunch was our choice; we could either head back into the forest to look for birds or stay behind at the lodge and visit the lemur island. Well, we decided to stay behind and after lunch headed over to the island where they have a small collection of lemurs that had been rescued from zoos and trust me they were very friendly jumping all over us, we must have been on the island for an hour or so and I’ve glade we stayed as it turned out this was the only time we would get to see the beautiful diademed sifaka and here he is:
It was a great chance for us to experience the lemurs close up and get some photos of us with our new friends. On leaving the island we headed off to see the crocodiles and a pair of fossas they had in captivity and then we slowly wondered back to the lodge enjoying time to ourselves which was followed by our chilled bottle of J.C. Le Roux sitting on the veranda. It was great to have that time to ourselves before we headed off out again for another night walk, but this time we headed into part of the park that they do permit night walks. But we had only made it a short distance before Claude spotted a Madagascan tree boa on the road, well it would be a missed opportunity if I didn’t jump out and grab a few shots but as this is me, I got very close to the snake but was rewarded by capturing a couple of images of it flickering its tongue and in this image you can see the shadow of where the tongue was!
So after the snake, we headed off into the forest and it was chameleons galore, images of which you can see on Flickr, but to our surprise we found something else, a praying mantis cunningly disguised as a leaf and here it is:
Continuing the walk we saw another mossy leaf tailed gecko and mouse lemurs moving around in the shadows, plenty of frogs and yet more chameleons! Finishing our night walk we headed back to the lodge for dinner and bed, ready for our last day in Madagascar. Up early we headed off to Mantadia which was about an hour away and nothing could have prepared us for what we were about to see. We could hear the indri again but we could also hear something else which definitely was not a lemur. Heading through the forest we came across.......... not one but three fossas high in the trees, but that wasn’t it as they were actually mating. To even see one fossa in the wild is incredible but to see them mating with a second male in the wings, well there are not words. Needless to say I have images and video so here they are the image of the mating fossas you need to look closely to see the top of the head of the female and underneath the video of them mating, enjoy!

Continuing our walk after over an hour, we caught glimpses a couple of indri and a black and white ruffed lemur with a radio collar on as they are carrying out vital research in this less visited park and on the way back to the lodge we found an Eastern grey bamboo lemur next to the road and a Madagascan buzzard sitting in a tree. On arriving back at the lodge, that was it, time to head back to the airport and start making our way back to the UK. Visiting Madagascar was not only a dream come true, but an eye opening, passion filled experience so naturally I was sad to be leaving. However, it is not the end as I am fully intending to re-visit one day and head up north as well as revisiting the areas we visited on this adventure and hopefully my stories and images will highlight the incredible and amazing wildlife and country of Madagascar and maybe encourage a few of you to visit one day. So this is it from Madagascar but do keep checking my website, flickr and facebook pages as I am still sifting through images and adding more and of course it is not the end of my adventures I will post about my trip to Norfolk but for now I have some wedding planning to do when Chris gets home at the weekend and of course it is nearly Christmas so here is one last photo of me with my new friends. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year with family and friends, but don’t forget to get outside and enjoy the natural world at some point to.