A trip to remember Madagascar - Part 2
Louise Stanion, Africa Product Manager, flags up the last of her ten most memorable experiences from her October 2010 Madagascar trip.
5) Trekking the Indri Indri Lemur in Andasibe NP, E Madagascar
Andasibe National Park, an 16,000 hectare area of thick montane rainforest, is the best park in which to spot the Indri Indri. A diurnal tree-dweller and the largest lemur in Madagascar, two of the 62 resident groups have been habituated, making them easy to see.
All the exploring is done by foot along walking trails that weave through the forest. It can take between 1-5 hours to find the Indri Indri. The walks are particularly rewarding in the early morning when the Indri Indri's impressive shrieks echo through the air.
Andasibe National Park is located just 140kms to the east of Antananarivo and comprises of the Mantadia Park and the Analamazaotra Reserve. There are eight other species of lemur in the park with the most commonly seen being the brown, woolly and bamboo lemur. The park also houses a number of reptiles including the tiny nose-horned chameleon. Frogs are plentiful and the 112 species of bird also include the blue pigeon and the Madagascar long-eared owl. A good accommodation option in Andasibe is Vakona Lodge.
6) 360 Degree View from Rocks at Manafiafy, SE Madagascar
Stand on the rocks overlooking the deserted beach at Manafiafy Beach & Rainforest Lodge and enjoy this 360 degree view.
The vegetation is brightly coloured and tumbles right down to the shoreline. The huge bungalows are tucked discretely behind the trees and shrubs giving a feeling of absolute privacy. Two loungers sit on each private terrace and it is a great moment to relax there, gazing out to the sand and to the ocean beyond. Wander out to the nearby rocky peninsula and you may come across local Malagasy fisherman.
We found a woman painstakingly collecting salt from small man-made pools of water that had been left to evaporate. Look across the ocean to some of the remote islands, where visits can be made and a delicious picnic lunch enjoyed on one of the isolated sandy beaches.
7) The Sacred Forests of the Antandroy Tribe, Mandrare River Camp, SE Madagascar
There are 18 tribes in Madagascar of which the Antandroy, located in the south, is regarded as one of the fiercest and most traditional. Mandrare River Camp is opposite the sacred ancestral forests of the Antandroy Tribe and like all Malagasy, are proud people steeped in traditions of ancestor worship and Fady (taboo's).
When a member of the Antrandroy dies the body is taken for burial in a predestined tomb deep in the heart of the sacred forest. Some of the tombs are as big as 20 metres squared and each is individually decorated with something pertaining to the deceased's favourite activities or interests. When the burial takes place the Zebu (African cattle) are slaughtered and their skulls decorate the tomb. The more Zebu skulls on each tomb, the more wealthy the person was.
Your guide from Mandrare River Camp will walk you through the forests. A local Antandroy guide will also accompany you, which really brings alive the traditions and rituals associated with their ancestors and the sacred forests.
8) Market Day with the Antandroy Tribe near Mandrare River Camp, SE Madagascar
Spend a morning wondering around a local Antandroy market. It's colourful, buzzing and utterly authentic.
Here tourists can meander the stalls freely, followed by only a few well meaning and curious eyes. Cassava, cattle, rubber shoes, medical supplies, plastic buckets and shiny football shirts are all on offer.
9) The Carnivorous Pitcher Plant, SE Madagascar
The road linking Fort Dauphin with Mandrare River Camp and Manafiafy Beach & Rainforest Lodge are extremely bumpy but wonderfully scenic. Amongst the local village life, the paddy fields, the bridges with wonderful far-reaching views, were the pitcher plants.The carnivorous pitcher plant is one of the most famous of the Malagasy orchids. There are at least two species of pitcher plants found in Madagascar. Pitcher plants trap their prey (insects) in the cavity of the so-called cup.
Madagascar plants are probably even more unique than the animals. Of the 12,000 plant species on the island about 80% are endemic.
10) Spotting Ring-Tailed Lemur at Mandrare River Camp, SE Madagascar
Spend a morning in the deciduous gallery forests, close to Mandrare, and enjoy peace and quiet whilst spotting lemurs with your guide. You are most likely to be the only ones in the forest and we spent a good few hours following a group of very active ring tailed lemurs.
We were accompanied by a few local children who were charming and highly amused at our excitement at seeing the lemurs. Equivalent to squirrels in the UK, the children spent most of the time watching our strange mannerisms!