The whole of the morning and almost a couple ofhours into the afternoon were all about the lemurs in the Andasibe reserve. Even as we were climbing out of the car, distant Indri could be heard over the sound of the chatter and engines. Quite a few tourist groups were assembled at the entrance, but most of the time we managed to avoid them in the forest - apart from at the occasional "lemur jam". There are three trails in the park, lasting 2, 3 and 4 hours, and our guide told us we were going to follow the latter. Excellent! The initial format seemed to be to follow the decent built trails, but much of the walking then went off piste into the thicker forest, albeit on feint trails. Three species of lemur were seen during the morning, of a potential 6 diurnal ones in the park. Not a bad return!
Indri were heard regularly, and often sounded close, although the sound is loud and carries far in the forest. The beauty of searching for these is that they have small well defined territories, so can be located by the guides, who are essential in the park, quite easily. We were shown to both of the groups which were allowed to be found (many others are off limits for conservation reasons). The first were right over our heads on a decent trail, and lounged for some time quite contentedly. Then for some reason they started to call - this was as loud as a claxon - seriously! We watched them for some time, along with a group of mixed lemur watchers, before we were ushered by our guide to find the other group. A deal of wading through denser vegetation ensued, but was well worth the effort, with a group of 4 adults and a playful youngster, which didn't stray far from mother.
By the time we saw the Indri, we had already chalked up two other species of lemur. The Grey Bamboo Lemur was not far along the track from the entrance, and in a dense bamboo thicket beside the track. It took some time to get good views, but was worth the effort. A pair of Red-bellied Lemurs had to be worked for. They were down a muddy trail in the forest, and above us in thicker canopy. One was glimpsed regularly for some time, before the pair were located and seen snuggling up for a kip.
Birds were seen at regular intervals, the main obstacle being the thick vegetation. A pair of mating Coucals, Blue Pigeons at the top of trees, and a Turtle Dove on the track were early and easy. Later in the morning, a mixed flock of Paradise Flycatchers, Red-tailed Vanga, and White-eyes were in the lower trees around us. Harder birds to pin down were Blue Coua flying through, Spectacled Tetraka and 2 separate Common Newtonias keeping to the foliage, and a Blue Vanga showing briefly but well. Thankfully, at the end of the walk, Souimanga Sunbird and Crested Drongo were much easier. In addition to the birds, our guide pointed out some incredible Giraffe-necked Weevils on their favourite type of tree, and a nocturnal Tree Boa lazing beside a wall.
After a well earned lunch at a restaurantoverlooking the river, we were taken to Lemur Island, which is a private "reserve" owned by the Vakona Lodge, the usual accommodation for tour groups visiting the area. I am usually very anti any captive animals, and this visit had been laid on by the tour company, but I stretched this for our visit, since the animals present had once been captive in homes across the island, and then shipped here, where they roam free on a small water locked enclave. While still not free in the true sense of the word, the small group of mixed Lemurs (we saw Black and White Ruffed, Grey Bamboo, Red-fronted and Common Brown), were not only apparently content with their lot, but you had to question who was playing with who as they voluntarily clambered over various types of foreigner eager to take their souvenir pics (ok, a couple also snapped by yours truly, but only because the Lemurs made me!). If you can put up with a group of tourists cooing and salivating over some conversely terrific animals up close for an hour or so, it's not such a bad place should your itinerary bring you here, although it adds nothing to the wild experience we were after for the most of the trip.
The second nocturnal walk seemed at first to potentially look much poorer than the previous evening. It was to be along the main road, which was busy with traffic, and also busy with quite a few tour groups intent on the same idea as us. However, the flip side of many eyes worked, with an even better array of wildlife than the previous evevning. Three species of lemur were spotted, with a Hairy-eared Dwarf Lemur busily scurring amongst fruits, preceding a much more somnolescent and obliging Goodman's Mouse Lemur. A trio of Eastern Woolly Lemurs, one carrying a baby, were darting around further along the road, with a second Hairy-eared Dwarf Lemur in tow.
Only one chameleon tonight, another Nose-horned, but pride of place amongst the reptiles was a Malagasy Cat Snake, showing off its arboreal prowess in the same tree. Green tree frogs were again present and numerous, with a couple of stick insects and one or two other insects for backing to the show.