Lemurs: they like to move it, move it!
From the loud call of the indri to the dancing Verreaux's sifaka and the instantly recognizable ring-tailed lemur, Madagascar is the destination for lemur lovers. But where are the best places to see them?
Madagascar enjoys a reputation for biodiversity and around 70% of the fauna is endemic. As well as the lemurs, which are a huge drawcard for many, Madagascar is home to some rare creatures such as the fossa (is it a cat, is it a mongoose – you tell me…?), the aptly named giraffe weevil and the large Parson’s chameleon – so much to discover, but for many lemurs are the main attraction!
Although the indri (above) is the largest member of the lemur family, you are more likely to hear it before you see it. Their call can be heard from about 3km away, it’s not dissimilar to the haunting song of the humpback whale (only louder). Another distinguishing feature is the lack of a long fluffy tail, indris have no tail to speak of. We think it looks like a cuddly black and white teddy bear with big, curious eyes.
BEST PLACE TO SEE THEM: Andasibe National Park
Sometimes known as white sifakas, these lemurs belong to the same family as the indri though they share their territory with ring-tailed lemurs. Sifakas spend their time in the trees, but when they come down to ground level, this is where they are instantly recognisable. They stand on their back legs and throw their arms above their heads - it’s a balancing act when you’re a lemur. As they jump across the ground, they appear as though they are dancing, a captivating and amusing sight.
BEST PLACES TO SEE THEM: South and west of the island, including the Berenty Reserve and Mandrare River Camp.
Perhaps the most recognisable of the lemurs with their attractive black and white banded tail and mask markings around their eyes. These lemurs spend more time on the ground than other lemurs and live in family groups of up to 20 individuals. Each lemur tail has thirteen alternating bands which they keep raised in the air as they travel along the ground, like a tour guides umbrella to keep the group together.
BEST PLACES TO SEE THEM: South and southwest regions of the island – Isalo and Andringitra National Parks and the Berenty Reserve or Mandrare River Camp.
These lemurs keep themselves to themselves and don’t associate with any other type of lemur. They take pride in their beautiful thick furry red coats and spend hours grooming. With a thick black tail, black legs, a black face and white tuft on the back of their head, they are both beautiful and striking.
BEST PLACES TO SEE THEM: Masoala National Park
These gorgeous little creatures are the smallest of the lemur family and they survive in good numbers throughout Madagascar. You’ll have to keep your eyes peeled though, they are solitary, move fast and are small in size as their name might suggest – some weighing in at a whopping 30 grams!
BEST PLACES TO SEE THEM: Andasibe and Ranomafana National Parks and the Berenty Reserve
Saving the weirdest till last, the aye-aye is so odd-looking it’s almost cute, you can’t help but stare – if you are lucky enough to see one of these reclusive creatures, that is. While not as cute and cuddly looking as the other lemurs we have mentioned, the aye-aye has a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. They have piercing beady eyes, huge ears, scraggly hair and a very long, spindly middle finger, used to extract food. Previously thought to be a bad omen, the aye-aye was heavily hunted, thankfully this nocturnal lemur now enjoys protected status.
BEST PLACES TO SEE THEM: Aye-aye Island on the east coast.