Thursday 19 May 2011

Madagascar Honeymoon, Post #5: 17 to 18 April 2011

17 April

It is a bright and sunny day and we leave the hotel at 7:30 am to meet with Adrien, our Ranomafana Park Guide. He has a trainee guide with him, who is going to go scouting for lemurs while Adrien tells us about the park and we take in the surroundings.

We cross a bridge over the Namorona river with its rapids and enter the park. After about 10 minutes, we spot our first lemurs. We see a small group of Golden Bamboo Lemurs. The photo above is again the only one that turned out okay, they were to high up in the trees for my camera to get good focus. Below is a photo of Adrien holding some bamboo shoots that the lemurs have dropped after eating the bits they liked.

While we are watching the Golden Bamboo Lemurs, a group of curious brown lemurs shows up. They come way down the trees to have a good look at us, and seem very interested in a lady from another group, who is carrying some bananas  for her lunch... They are the drollest creatures and make happy grunting noises as they fling themselves through the foliage.

Our trainee guide appears and beckons us to follow. He has discovered a family of Milne-Edwards Sifakas nearby. These have a beautiful black and white fur and seem very calm and distinguished. Not like the Brown Lemurs who have followed us and are trying to tease the Sifakas out of their perches high up in the trees.

Some of these majestic animals are wearing tags around their necks, which helps the scientists who are stationed in the forest track them and study their behaviour. We follow the Sifakas for a while and watch them eat.

After the Sifakas have moved on deeper into the green, we keep on walking across little streams and through airy bamboo forest.

After a little while, we come across two Greater Bamboo Lemurs sleeping on branches. Our guide tells us that they are father and son. There are quite a few people hanging around, waiting to see if they will wake up. Some of them are not so patient, and just after the majority of tourists have trundled off, these little guys decide to end their nap and come right down towards us in search for young bamboo shoots.

After about an hour of us watching the Greater Bamboo Lemurs doing their thing, they get tired again and cuddle up with each other for another snooze, so we head on.

Our guide spots this pair of Collared Nightjars sleeping on the ground. At first I have no clue what I am looking for when he points out the spot where they sit, so well camouflaged were these birds. They are only active during the night.

Adrien also spotted a tiny skink scuttling along the leave carpet and picked it up for us to see.

These are memory stones, erected in a place that used to be sacred to people who lived in this forest hundreds of years ago. Places like this still exist today. For example, when somebody dies, everyone gathers in a square that has a big stone in its middle. A zebu is sacrificed, the meat handed out to all the mourners and then the story of the dead person's life is re-told, so they will be well remembered.

Some pretty fungi, funky fruit and wild coffee beans.


We stop for a break at a view point, where information about Ranomafana National Park is displayed. The visitors' statistics showed how much tourism numbers dropped after the coup in 2009.

In case you are wondering why we are compromising our otherwise fashionable look by stuffing our pants into our socks, that's just to keep the leeches at bay. But apparently they can chew through clothes, as Marco got a bite on his ankle anyway.

Some geckos were also enjoying the view...

And this is the chameleon that we almost stepped on while leaving the park:

I think it is called a Balteatus Chameleon. It decided to occupy a safer spot in a bush after its near-death-experience and we stayed a while to watch it climb up the branches.

Our walk took over 5 hours, so we went to have lunch and a relaxing look around Ranomafana village afterwards.

We stopped by this fruit stall. Eric is helping Marco pick a massive grapefruit and we also bought some of the red fruit below. They are the fruit of a wild ginger plant and tasted quite sour, with a gingery kick. The bunches of brown fruit that look a bit like pine cones are from the raphia palms.

Ranomafana means 'hot water', and the town was named thus because it has hot springs. There is spa for taking baths and getting massages and a hot water swimming pool. These doors lead into little rooms where the treatments are given. Unfortunately, we did not have time for any of it.

Some market stalls.

This night, we went on another night walk along the road that runs through the forest. It is dry, so our chances are better of spotting wildlife. We go to a spot were mouse lemurs can often be observed, and our guide Adrien, who's with us again, tells us he can hear them in the bushes. Unfortunately, all that the flashlight hits after some time of waiting is a bush rat. Better than nothing!

We also spot a few chameleons, they like to sleep at the end of branches.

And on our way back to the hotel we almost run over this boa, who is warming itself on the asphalt in the middle of the road. We stop to have a look and the driver of another car then picks up the snake to carry it safely across. He said it would only bite if he squeezes it too hard...

18 April

Today, our destination is the Tsara Camp in the Tsaranoro Valley. We get on the road early, as it's going to be another long drive.

We stop too have a look at a waterfall and then pay a quick visit to a smithy in a Betsileo village. The Betsileo are the local tribe in the southern highlands of Madagascar.

We drive on, and past many people who are brightly dressed and carrying goods, which indicates that they are on their way to a market. And we are right, it is market day in the town of Ambatovaky, which lies on our route. The market looks huge and very tempting from the roadside, so we ask Eric to stop so we can have a look around. Market days are the highlight of the week for many people in rural communities, because it gives them the chance to meet with each other and hear the news. Young people often go in the hope they will meet a nice boy or girl. Everybody always dresses in their best clothes to visit a market.

Second Hand Clothes Stall


More clothes and the pig market.

Tobacco Vendors

A stall holder and her offerings.

Note the zebu head in the corner. The muffins are a very common street food, called Mofo Gasy.

Aluminum pots for sale and a display of rocks, which are, as Eric explains, a specialty for some ladies, who can get a craving for these during pregnancy.

These suitcase were made out of press board, plastered with paper and painted very prettily.

Rice sacks and rock salt.

The Butcher's Corner

The Poultry Market

A Lingerie Stall

Peanut Vendor and Palm Leaf Baskets

Lamba Stall

Bags of Charcoal and a Banana Stall

The pharmacy and the bush taxis waiting to carry people and their shopping back to their homes.

I am really glad we stopped for a look, and on occasions like this, I always wish I could live in the country for a while, to learn more about the way of life and the daily habits of the people. The 45 minutes we spent exploring this place were definitely not enough to satisfy my curiosity.

This was only half our day, and there will be another Madagascar post tomorrow, I hope you are not too bored yet.

For earlier pics:

Post #4

And for later ones:

© Annika - All The Live Long Day (unless otherwise stated)


  1. Love the picture of the Nightjars. I used to go and watch these birds on the moor above my house in the summer. They used to fly all the way from Africa for the summer.

  2. Wow! What an amazing set of photos. Such a beautiful place.

  3. Oh my word, Annika! What an adventure! You're better than National Geographic!! I'll be sending my husband to your blog - and you might be interested in checking his out. He writes and posts pictures all about the desert wilderness he works in. He's

    Anyway, I really appreciate your descriptiveness and the magnificent pictures, taking us right along with you on your adventure!



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