Madagascar Experience Chapter 2 : First contact with lemurs & chameleons

After the long trip to Madagascar I managed to get a good night’s sleep. Waking up was early, at 7.00 in the morning. Breakfast was at the hotel we were staying in Antananarivo. Rather bland, nothing exceptional but clean and good enough. We started at around 8:30, boarding our yellow bus that was to be our home for the next week.

We started at first for a small tour of Antananarivo’s main central avenue and some sights such as the railway station, Lac Anosy which is a central artificial lake and then quickly were outside the capital, heading east towards the national park Andasibe-Mantadia which would be our first overnight stop

On the outskirts of Antananarivo (or Tana as it’s abbreviated by the locals) we stoped on a super market to get some first supplies. Prices are generally low, except for imported stuff which can be very expensive, sometimes even higher than Europe!. Most items are imported from France, naturally. I used the opportunity to get a nice hat ๐Ÿ™‚

Leaving Tana we drove on Route National 1 (RN 1) towards the east. This is one of the main ‘highways’ of Madagascar but it’s a very slow ride as it is a one-lane road each way, with many twists and turns and all kinds of traffic going on : from bicycles and zebu cars to trucks going and coming from Tamatave, the main port down on the Indian ocean

Even from the suburbs of Tana we noticed many people on rivers, ponds and canals doing their laundry.ย  It was a Sunday and Malagasy people use to do their laundry on Sunday. In Madagascar it is allowed to wash your clothes in public waters and as many houses do not have running water they prefer to do so.

After around 1.5 hr of driving we made a small stop on a village by the road, just to get our first taste of rural life in Madagascar. This village consisted of small houses among rice paddies that lied on the slopes of the mountains. We also observed some people tending the rice fields, zebu carts passing by and also some little convenience stores just by the road

A little while after this stop we reached the Peyrieras reptile reserve, which we had the option to visit. This is a private reserve, with a modest entrance fee of 20000 Ar (= around 6 Euros)ย  which is absolutely worth it since the reserve contains a group of semi-wild Lemurs and a large collection of reptiles, chameleons mostly and also geckos, frogs and some snakes).

First we headed to the forest on the back of the entrance where a group of cocquerel sifakasย reside. This was my first contact with lemurs. This species is quite photogenic and this group has learned to gradually come down from the trees to be fed by visitors (and be photographed in the way ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). We had to go there first as it was close to their feeding time, after that and in the hottest hours of the day they usually retire high in the trees, where they sleep or just lay down to conserve energy.

After the wonderful lemurs we visited the chameleon area. Most reptiles are kept in open large air cages and greenhouses. You have to visit accompanied by a guide, who explains a little about the various animals (and makes sure no one is harmed I suppose).

It was my first contact with such large number of chameleons. They are amazing to watch, they move very slowly except for their tongue which is soooo fast when catching pray. And they come in all sizes, from Parson’s chameleon which is the largest in the world down to tiny ones barely some centimeters long (including the tail)!

There were some other open air cages, with various other animals such as geckos, bats (that were of course asleep at the time) and we even saw some snakes. But the highlights of the visit were the chameleons and the lemurs before

Eventually we spent more than two hours in the reserve, a time well spent and enjoyable. We then headed for the village nearby for lunch and to continue our journey to Antsirabe, which will be the next chapter of the story!

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