We’re big fans of the world’s fourth largest island, and our 12-day Magic of Madagascar gets among the best this fabulous place has to offer. Madagascar offers a wildlife experience different to anywhere else in Africa – or the world for that matter. Geographic isolation have allowed animals to go their own way here, turning watching wildlife into a bewitching experience of being up-close with the curious and captivating.
No residents are more compelling than the lemurs, so here are a few random assorted tidbits about the stars of the eighth continent, and some tips on where to see them.
There are 50 species of lemurs, 17 of which are endangered, with habitat loss being their main threat. \
They are prosimians, or primitive primates. Their name comes from the Latin lemures, meaning ‘spirits of the night’, prompted by the animals’ strange vocalisations, reflective eyes and nocturnal habits.
The biodiverse, humid high plateau Anjozorobe Forest is a good place to notch up some sightings – there are 11 types of lemur lurking in the dense rainforest there, including the largest, the indri, which weighs up to 10kg (the forest is also a great area for birdwatching, particularly for aquatic birds).
Head to Berenty Private Reserve for the ‘dancing’ sifaka lemurs. Normally arboreal creatures, when distances between trees are too great to leap, lemurs descend and make their way across the ground – sometimes up to 100 metres – by standing upright and hopping sideways with their arms held to the side waving up and down. Seeing a troop of lemurs make their waddling way across a clearing is a spectacular, surreal sight. Propelled to fame by the animation ‘Madagascar’, when you see the comical sashaying and shuffling, you’ll wonder why they didn’t feature in cartoons sooner.
Lemurs use their sense of smell to communicate with each other. Look out for male lemurs having "stink fights", where they get busy waving their tails (which have been rubbed on their strong-smelling wrist gland) at one another.
One fellow who’s going to be tricky to spot: the pygmy mouse lemur. This cute little furrball weighs in at a mere 50g, measures around 12cm and is nocturnal. So infrequent is it spotted that it was feared extinct for a number of years – so if you do see one, make sure you boast about it back home.
A female lemur carries her newborn in her mouth until the baby is able to cling to the fur on mother’s back.
Other than humans, black lemurs are the only primates that have blue eyes.
Some strange and interesting facts, but nothing can compete with coming face-to-face with these wonderful animals – if you get the chance to visit Madagascar and its famous inhabitants, take it!