The next morning we had an early breakfast, and headed for the National Park where we were introduced to our forest guide, whose name was probably Jean-Noel. Andasibe Park is a secondary forest, as opposed to an untouched rainforest (of which more later); so there is a visitor centre with toy lemurs and the park has large cleared paths. As soon as we exited the visitor centre, we noticed a couple of large brownish birds waddling around in the undergrowth next to the path. “Wow! Madagascar Rail! Very rare!” exclaimed Jean-Noel. “Yeah, right,” we thought. “Enough with the over-acting hyperbole for the tourists,” and I didn’t bother to even get my camera out for these rather boring birds. Since returning home, I have since been informed by Mr Google that the bird was indeed a Madagascar Rail, which is threatened by habitat loss, and we were privileged to see it, so I owe some apologies to Jean-Noel.
We set off through the forest with a style which was to become our habit: we would walk slowly, become fascinated by small insects and odd plants, and be overtaken by many other groups of tourists who were marching purposefully to see the lemurs so that they could move on to the next attraction. The Malagasy have a phrase “Mura-mura”, which means “slowly-slowly”. It’s a kind of “don’t rush, take it easy” attitude – but even they were impressed at how good Tim and I were at dawdling and being late. Jean-Noel would walk along looking for wildlife, I would wander along with my camera, occasionally sneaking up on a disguised leaf,1 and Tim would bring up the rear whilst spotting things that even the guides had missed. After a bimble wherein we found many interesting birds and insects and reptiles, we found some lemurs. The method of location was simple: Jean-Noel would make a noise like a lemur in heat, and wait to see who showed up looking interested. Mostly it was just other lemurs, but I’m sure there must have been occasions where two park guides made lemur-sex noises at each other for hours. Thus it was that we found a set of snoozing diademed sifaka, a family of common brown lemurs, and a troupe of indri-indri whose “haunting melodic song” sounds like a howler monkey losing a fight with a hump-backed whale, and has all the subtlety of a vuvuzela armed with a half-brick in a sock.
|Another butterfly (swallowtail family?)|
|Common brown lemur (with baby)|
1 The leaves of Madagascar are amazing mimics. From a distance they can look like a chameleon, a bird, a tree frog, or even a small lemur!