Weird and wonderful wildlife

Published: October 24th 2014
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After just three days here we now know it is true - Madagascar is full of wildlife. We have seen so many lovely lemurs - black and white ones, ginger ones, brown ones; big indri lemurs that scream from the tops of the trees, mouse-size pygmy lemurs that silently creep around our feet; black and white ruffed lemurs that run away and hide, bamboo lemurs that bounce from tree to tree to find us and stare back from a foot away!

Finding lemurs means trekking around rainforests and we get to see all manner of flora. The forest plants range from huge hardwood trees that tower above us out of sight to tiny orchids that hang from vines, flashes of colour in a world of greens and browns. Ferns and vines are abundant, and the bamboo grows so tall that it curves over to make giant arches.

As well as the cries of lemurs echoing across the forest, we hear lots of frogs but we have only seen one - the red tomato frog! Birds call, too, but we need the book to identify them. 80% of Madagascar's flora and fauna only occurs on this island, so nearly everything is new to us. Also, there is a lack of predators so many variants survive. Where else would you get a little beetle with a long neck like a giraffe?

A night walk has us scanning the trees with our torches, looking for tell-tale reflections from lemur eyes. It seems a little ridiculous until we start finding nocturnal lemurs, sitting, eating, climbing and jumping from tree to tree, all in pitch dark save for our torch beams.

The next day, in a reserve, we are able to get up close to chameleons, literally of every shape and colour. And, of course, their colours change before our eyes. There are 80 types of chameleons on this island, there are only 160 in the whole world! And there are also some very weird geckos!

We are now on our way south. As we drive, we pass rice paddies being ploughed and planted for the new season. On Sunday start of our first trek. More soon.

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