Tana to Park Andasibe and Isle of Lemurs
Trip Start Mar 23, 2007
10Trip End Apr 01, 2007
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It took us quite a while to get out of Tana, partly it is a fairly sprawling city, but also it was the anniversary of the rebellion against the French, in I think 1947 (though I am not guaranteeing I have my facts right). As a result there were lots of people out and about, several detours, and lots of interesting things to see. Tana seems to be built across a series of hills, with lots of old buildings on the slopes, and rice being grown in the valleys - quite a juxtaposition of activities and scenes.
Everyone, including our guide, and other guides, and the person who sold tickets, was telling us we were mad to be going looking for indri indris in the afternoon, that there was very little chance of seeing them, and certainly not of seeing any activity. Apparently they are usually active in the morning and have a siesta in the afternoon. I think our park guide, Herman, had been pulled away from celebrations somewhere, he didn't seem to happy at the job either. However, we set off just after noon to do the 3.5km walk, which according to LP takes about 3 hours and according to the par info takes 4. I couldn't tell you how long we took as we didn't end up doing the walk exactly.
Early on in the walk Herman found a family of indri indri! He said there were 4, but we only saw 3. They were moving through the trees, and we took off into the forest/bush and followed them for ages. At first they were quite high up in the trees but then came right down to the ground, and incredibly close to us. Some spectacular leaps from tree to tree which I never managed to capture. The photos didnt come out very well as I wasn't using a flash so as not to startle or upset them. To me they looked like a cross between koala, panda and monkey, with big googley staring eyes which made them look either intimidating or scary. Bet they'd be good at the haka.
Apparently indri indris share territory with brown lemurs and they eat different parts of trees but they sometimes get aggressive with each other. We didn't witness any meetings so all calm.
Whilst we were transfixed by the lemurs Herman would go off and bring back things to show us - one time a giraffe beetle, which was really wierd, another time a tiny frog, and also some plants. (Unfortunately my photos of them didn't come out well.)
Returned to the visitor centre about 4pm, very satisfied with our visit, and rather smug that we had seen so much when everyone had been saying we'd see nothing.
Then headed for Vakona Forest Lodge, where we were to stay that night. On the way we stopped at Ile des Lemuriens (Isle of Lemurs). Lemurs which had been held in captivity have been released to a few islands, to which you can get a canoe, and walk around to see and interact with them. Some of the lemurs have been violent, and are on a separate island, which you can paddle past, but not land on. I read criticisms of the islands and the habit of releasing captive lemurs in an area to which they aren't native, and where they don't get all the necessary vitamins and protein or something from the vegetation. And also that close interaction between lemur and human is not good. So I was a bit dubious about it. I don't know enough of the facts to know how much weight the arguments have, but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the visit.
The lemurs were very accustomed to people, and would jump on your shoulder or head to try and get a banana. When eating from your hand, they grab your hand with one of theirs, almost as if to hold it still, and then very daintily eat the piece of banana from your palm.
There were several varieties, which apparently wouldn't usually be found in the same place.
Can't remember which were which of all of them, but we saw black and white ruffed lemurs (similar to the indri indri in colouring), diademed sifaka, brown lemurs, black faced brown lemurs and I think maybe others whose names I have forgotten.
After spending a while there, and there was a big tour group just leaving as we arrived, our guide then took us on a canoe tour around some of the other islands, which was a wonderful bonus. It was about 17.30 or so, the sun was getting low, and the light was gorgeous. Saw ring tailed lemurs on one of the islands where you couldn't lan, but they came out to see us. These are one species that we wouldn't have seen otherwise as they are not native to that area. Also interesting in that they (and I think all lemurs?) commonly stand and walk on their hind legs when on the ground, unlike monkeys.
Finally it was time to leave, and head on to the hotel, the Vakona Forest Lodge. The lodge is spectacular, situated in a bowl of a valley surrounded by tall trees on the slopes. The restaurant and reception are at the bottom, with the restaurant jutting out over a lake, and the rooms are around the sides - lots of steps.
Had dinner in the hotel, as there wasn't exactly anywhere else to go. They were hard partiers there - we were the last ones left at 22.00 and they started turning off the lights...
Where I stayed