Jump to content

Zim Girl

Recommended Posts

On 10/20/2018 at 4:41 AM, janzin said:

Wow, fabulous especially all those chameleons!  Its going to be a long year...actually exactly one year from today! :D


A couple of technical questions: Were you using flash for the nocturnal photos, or is it just by spotlight?  I had wondered about the etiquette of using flash with the lemurs, especially.  Also, were you using a macro lens?

Hi @janzin

A bit of both regarding flash/spotlight, depending on what came out best in the situation. The guides were happy for you to use flash but I also wasn't that keen with the Lemurs. All these photos were taken with a Panasonic bridge camera and I did use the macro setting once I'd got the hang of it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, Zim Girl said:

Hi @janzin

A bit of both regarding flash/spotlight, depending on what came out best in the situation. The guides were happy for you to use flash but I also wasn't that keen with the Lemurs. All these photos were taken with a Panasonic bridge camera and I did use the macro setting once I'd got the hang of it.


Thanks, great to know!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wednesday 19th September


Today we had a 6.45am pick up for another all day walk, this time to Mantadia National Park. The road to the Park starts just outside the Vakona Lodge grounds. The road is not tarred and quite pot-holed in places so although the Park is not that far away it took over an hour to get to the start of the trails.



Along the way a tree had come down across the road so Maurice, Lova and Alex had to do a bit of clearing.



We parked up at the start of the trail Maurice had picked for us, but first walked to a lake about 5 minutes away.





There we saw Madagascan Grebe, Red-billed Teal, Common Moorhen and Meller’s Duck.

We then walked to the start of the trail in the forest. Mantadia is all primary rainforest. It is more dense than Analamazaotra with less defined trails that are quite steep in places.



Most of the birds previously mentioned were seen, along with Spectacled Tetraka, Rand’s warbler, Long-billed Bernieria, Grey-crowned Tetraka, Tylas Vanga, Madagascan Starling and the Madagascar Buzzard.

Our first Lemur sighting was one we didn’t really expect to find. The Red-bellied Lemur, it lives in monogamous pairs rather than large groups and can be hard to spot.

Red-bellied Lemur  (Eulemur rubriventer)  Mainly diurnal lemur endemic to the eastern rainforest and classified as Vulnerable.







A male with the distinctive white 'tear drops' under it's eyes.





Madagascar Day Gecko  (Phelsuma madagascariensis madagascariensis)  A diurnal gecko that we saw quite a lot. There is a giant version of this (Phelsuma grandis) that we were hoping to see in Ankarana but it was one of the few animals we were unable to find.



We came across this solitary Indri up a tree just off the trail. 





Our main target Lemur species for this Park was the Black and white Ruffed Lemur. It is critically endangered and is only found in small pockets of eastern rainforest. We spent a long time walking the trails looking for it but with no luck.

We had our packed lunch in a small clearing that had a picnic table and a shelter for shade.

After lunch Maurice told us another guide had heard the calls of the B&W Ruffed Lemur so he wanted to have another go at finding it. We went back in the forest and followed Maurice who was trying to get to the area he thought the lemurs might be. The trails were getting very steep and we found ourselves tracking across a ravine which eventually became just too tricky to negotiate.





Maurice had to admit defeat but he had something else up his sleeve.  After around 20 minutes walking in a different direction he pointed up and we saw a small group of Diademed Sifakas. Two adults were in one tree and in the other a male and female with a baby! So a very nice consolation prize.



Baby Diademed Sifaka jumping around the parents













Two Sifakas in another tree




By the time we walked out of the forest and picked up by Alex it was around 2pm and we got back to the lodge after 3pm.


In our itinerary, we were given the option to visit Lemur Island this afternoon, which is a project run by Vakona Forest Lodge. It is actually three islands situated within the rainforest owned by the lodge. We had been debating whether or not we actually wanted to visit as we were not that keen on seeing people being allowed so close to the lemurs. We discussed it with the guides who didn’t see it as an issue and said that we should go and see for ourselves.

There are several species of lemur spread out over the three islands. Tourists are only allowed to walk on one of them. We were first taken by canoe along the shoreline of the islands to see if any of the lemurs could be sighted. 





We saw Bamboo lemurs on one of them, and then we were taken over to the island that has a group of Ring-tailed lemurs. You have to stay in the canoe and the Lemur Island guide calls out to the Ring-tails. They appeared from the forest and a couple of them ran over to the canoe and jumped in. The guide was tempting them with bits of banana and they ran up and down us and jumped onto our heads. We were told not to touch them. They played around in the canoe for a while jumping all over us and then after about 5 minutes the guide carefully paddles the canoe away from the shore and they jumped off and re-joined the group in the forest.











The guide then took us over to the last island where you are allowed to get off and walk around. As soon as we got out we were approached by two Common Brown lemurs who jumped straight up onto our shoulders. While I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that I really shouldn’t be doing this I can’t deny how amazing it felt to be that close to them. They ran down our arms and liked to sit on our hands. Their paws felt like the softest leather and they were no weight at all. The guide was only giving them the odd bit of banana but were very relaxed around us and stayed with us.  Even when we started walking around, the one Adrian had on his shoulder stayed with us most of the way before jumping off onto a tree.





Hard to take pictures with a lemur balancing on your hand.



Then we saw a Black and white Ruffed lemur, the one that had eluded us in Mantadia. It just looked down at us lazily from a branch. We were pleased the guide made no attempt to encourage it down.



We were taken the short distance back to shore by canoe and the whole visit from the start lasted around 40 minutes.

It didn’t feel at all touristy or circus-like and we could see only a handful of other visitors spread around on the island while we were there.

So in the end it wasn’t as bad as we were expecting. The canoe ride was pleasant and the whole area very peaceful. Visitor numbers are apparently regulated and the lemurs are at least living within their natural rainforest habitat. The guide was very calm around them and never tried to touch them or forcibly coerce them in any way. 


The nocturnal walk tonight was another walk along the roadside. We heard the calls of Woolly lemurs and lots of eyeshine high up in the trees but nothing easily visible. We did find this cute tree frog but other than that a quiet night.

Tree Frog (Boophis sp)  I didn't have a note of exactly which species of Boophis this was and there are 75 of them!






Edited by Zim Girl
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just to keep you going until the next instalment - can you spot the creature in this close up?



Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Zim Girl, struggling on pic 30, but think l have spotted the creature in 31.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The wife has just had a look, and thinks she has spotted the creature in 30. She goes to Specsavers!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The sifakas with the baby are wonderful. You certainly did well in terms of lemurs and reptiles.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

19 hours ago, TonyQ said:

The sifakas with the baby are wonderful. You certainly did well in terms of lemurs and reptiles.


Lots more to come Tony.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

So the masters of disguise are highlighted below - details to come.




Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thursday 20th September


For our last walk in the Andasibe area, Maurice and Lova wanted to go back to the VOIMMA community forest.  There are fewer tourists but just as much chance of good lemur sightings as in the National Parks. We had another 6.45am pick up and met Maurice at the entrance.

Our first super sighting happened quite soon.  Maurice and Lova had gone off the trail and were studying the trees, then with big smiles on their faces they called us over.  “There look”.  We couldn’t see anything, they were laughing saying “Just there, look”. Then I twigged what I was looking for and after a bit more searching up and down the bark of the trees I found it. Just what I was hoping for – a mossy leaf-tailed gecko in ‘daytime’ mode. This particular species mimics tree bark, flattening itself, head facing downwards against the trunk. It also has a limited ability to change colour to match either lighter or darker bark.


Mossy Leaf-tailed Gecko  (Uroplatus sikorae)



We found another one on the neighbouring tree.



Notice on this one the legs are flattened right back and the tail is missing. They are able to shed their tail if attacked by a predator. It will grow back in time. It is also thought they lie facing downwards to avoid eye shine attracting predators. We were to see more of these amazing creatures in the North and they were all facing downwards.


Only a short while later up the path and we heard rustling low down in the bushes. We watched and then the head of a Common Brown Lemur popped out. Fantastic and so close.






I was taking pictures when Adrian said “be careful, there is one on the ground just by your feet”. I looked down and there was a male wandering around next to me rummaging in the undergrowth.

The male has more white markings on the face than the female.



The female I had been watching jumped to a tree very close to us and looked at us.



They were not in the least bit bothered by our presence. We could hear more of them in the trees around us as well.  Maurice said that this particular species of lemur is very confiding and friendly.






Maurice and Lova enjoying the Lemurs as much as we were. (Take no notice of the fact they look like they are dressed for cold weather. It was very warm, we were in t-shirts).



Next up a second super sighting courtesy of Lova. Maurice had had his birding head on and was off down the trail after hearing a Wood rail calling but then Lova shouted for us. We turned round and he was jumping up and down on the path looking really excited. Naturally we whizzed back as quick as we could trying to see what he had found. Well we searched for a good while with those two giggling away behind us. I couldn’t see anything, I was minutely studying the tree bark for geckos but nothing. In the end Lova had to stop me as he said I was just about to touch it with my face. I looked where he had moved me from and suddenly it clicked. I was looking for the wrong type of Uroplatus. Right in front of me was a Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko. I was over the moon. The two leaf-tailed geckos I most wanted to see in one morning.


Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko  (Uroplatus phantasticus)  Endemic to the eastern rainforests.



Notice how it leaves one leg hanging down to mimic a piece of branch.



This was as much of it's head as I could get. It didn't want it's picture taking and I didn't want to upset it too much.



While we were transfixed by this crazy gecko Maurice had found another bizarre Madagascan endemic. The Giraffe-necked weevil. The male has an elongated neck which he uses to fight other males and win the right to mate with the female who has a shorter neck. The female uses her neck to help roll up the leaf that contains her single laid egg.


Giraffe-necked weevil  (Trachelophorus giraffa)  Endemic.  



We are not finished yet, up ahead is another group of Indri. This time they were wailing in response to another group farther away in the forest. We stood underneath them and the noise was unbelievably loud.


Our last sighting of the very beautiful Indri.











I have a sound file of their calls but it isn't an accepted file type, will see if it can convert and will post it later.


Then another beetle, this time one of the many jewel beetles. This one looked like it had been brushed underneath with gold paint.





Finally, on our way out of the forest Maurice found us the Parson’s Chameleon we had seen on our first walk two days ago.


We were taken back to Vakona at 11am to pack and have lunch before the long drive back to Antananarivo.


We left at 1pm but because we were going to hit Tana at rush hour the journey took five hours. Two hours were spent negotiating the traffic in Tana. I thought I had seen some extremely busy African cities in my time but this was unbelievable. Luckily, we were going against the main flow, although it was still really slow. However, going the other way, the traffic was completely gridlocked for most of our journey back to the Relais des Plateaux hotel.

But we had a very nice dinner at the hotel and got an early night ready for the flight to the North the next day.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What is so surprising is that the lemurs have no inhibitions to humans, enjoying your quality photographs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also, forgot to mention the beer in Madagascar is really good and cheap!

One of the best lager style beers I have had in Africa.

At Vakona a 33cl bottle was priced at 4500 Ariary or 1.2 euros. At some places in the north they had a pricing anomaly where a large 65cl bottle cost the same as the 33cl.  We were paying as little as 0.9 euros for a beer.


THB - Three Horses Beer


Link to comment
Share on other sites

The indri sound file works very well (it gave @Thursday's Child a bit of a shock).

The sound is very haunting and brings back many memories.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hmm, I can't get the sound file to work in Firefox. I'll try it in a different browser later.


Amazing photos of the leaf geckos!! I did not spot them at all in the original photos. Definitely on my wanted list!


Update: just tried it in Chrome and it worked. Wow, chilling sound!

Edited by janzin
Link to comment
Share on other sites

p.s. great news about the beer :) always important especially when cocktails (needing ice!) are generally a no-no.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Love the Geckos, incredible camouflage. Video is not working on my Firefox neither.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

actually I just got it to work in Firefox...if you right-click and then hit play it works, but does not work directly from the post.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great recording @Zim Girl

7 hours ago, Zim Girl said:

the noise was unbelievably loud


I remember well how shocked we were when one "let rip" a couple of yards away from us - How such a small creature makes such a loud call is beyond me.


Thumbs up on the "Tay Ash Bay" as well

Edited by AfricIan
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Had the i’pad on full volume,  it’s certainly a piercing noise. Wouldn’t want to be standing too close to a indri when making it’s call.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

14 hours ago, CDL111 said:

Had the i’pad on full volume,  it’s certainly a piercing noise. Wouldn’t want to be standing too close to a indri when making it’s call.


15 hours ago, AfricIan said:

Great recording @Zim Girl

How such a small creature makes such a loud call is beyond me.



We were standing right underneath them so could actually see them calling and yes, loud piercing noise from cute furry body doesn't quite compute!


18 hours ago, janzin said:

Amazing photos of the leaf geckos!! I did not spot them at all in the original photos. Definitely on my wanted list!


18 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

Love the Geckos, incredible camouflage. Video is not working on my Firefox neither.


Thank you @michael-ibk and @janzin.  The geckos are so cool, one of my favourite creatures without a doubt. (And more to come).

Michael, try using Chrome as janzin says, it works for me also.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Friday 21st September


We had an early 5.15am pick up this morning to catch the internal Air Madagascar flight to Diego Suarez in the far north of the island. There have been a lot of problems with the internal flights in recent years with delays and last minute cancellations. We asked Lova about this and he said a lot of the issues were with staff striking due to poor wages and working conditions as well as general inefficiencies within the airline.  This apparently has got a lot better this year as there are now other airlines offering the same domestic routes. Air Madagascar has had to basically pull it’s socks up to compete.

There was a very long queue outside the domestic terminal when we arrived. Three different flights were all going in quick succession. Lova left us with Alex and disappeared inside for a bit but shook his head when he came out. He had not had any luck getting us further up the queue. We waited for another 5 minutes or so then he went off to have another go. This time he came out all smiles with an airline staff member. “Just needed to find the right person” he said. Anyway, it worked. We were walked straight into the terminal and to about third in line at the check-in desk. It must have saved us at least an hour of queuing time. He waited with us to make sure we were checked in on the right flight then got security to let us back out into the main terminal area so we could say our goodbyes to him and Alex. We would be meeting a new guide and driver in the north.

The flight left bang on time at 7.30am for the two hour flight to Diego Suarez.


New guide, Lionel and driver Adel were waiting for us. The weather was a little bit drizzly but quite humid. The drive to our next accommodation, The Litchi Tree at Joffreville, took around an hour. On the way we had our first unexpected sighting. Adel stopped the vehicle suddenly and reversed. He had seen a chameleon in a tree by the road side. We got out and had a look. It was our first Panther Chameleon.


Panther Chameleon  (Furcifer pardalis)  Endemic to the north and eastern rainforests.  Typically the males are around 45cm in length and they come in a range of colours depending on where they are found. In this area they are predominately green. Easily identified by the thick white stripe along their body.



We arrived at the Litchi Tree with time to unpack before lunch. It is a lovely boutique guesthouse set in lush, beautiful gardens. It is owned by a French chef. The food here was the best of the trip with restaurant quality meals. There are six guestrooms in the gardens at the back of the main building which have been converted from the original stables. The guesthouse is set in an elevated position above Joffreville with views to the sea and Diego Suarez in the distance.



Front gardens with views to the coast



Guest rooms at the back (hidden behind the flowers)









We had a fantastic Zebu (beef) casserole for lunch and then at around 2pm drove to the entrance of Amber Mountain NP. The Park is a 15 minute drive away along a very bad pot-holed road. In general, the roads in the north are much worse than in the Andasibe area.

Amber Mountain was Madagascar’s first national park created in 1958. It is an isolated patch of montane rainforest covering approx. 18200ha.

At the entrance we met the Park guide Innes. He will be our guide for all our walks at Amber Mountain. 




Straight away he showed us two more mossy leaf-tailed geckos on trees at the start of the path into the forest.

This one started to move when I got close. Notice the green on it's body to mimic the lichen on the tree.



This one is a different colour with white patches again to mimic a different kind of tree.



The first chameleon we find is a local endemic. Because of it's isolation, Amber Mountain has a lot of endemics.


Arthur's Chameleon (Calumma ambreense)  Endemic to the rainforest in and around Amber Mountain. Around 18cm in length.





Then after a lot of sifting through the leaf litter Innes finds us a tiny Brookesia. This one is the Amber Mountain Leaf Chameleon and is only around 3cm long.


Amber Mountain Leaf Chameleon  (Brookesia tuberculata)  Endemic only to the Amber Mountain







Then our first lemurs. The Sanford’s Brown Lemur. They looked a little bedraggled from the morning’s rain.


Sanford's Brown Lemur  (Eulemur sanfordi Endemic to the far north of Madagascar, and now considered to be a separate species of Brown Lemur. 

It is most easily seen at Amber Mountain and is active both at day and at night. It's status is Endangered.







Next up, two more chameleons.


Boettger's Chameleon  (Calumma boettgeri)   Endemic to the north and north east.P1080186c.jpg.7326b8a86478ce6b678bb0a985335930.jpg


 All the chameleons in the north were extremely shy about having their photo taken. Every time you got close with the camera they would do a 180 round the branch or go higher up and it is surprising how quick they can move.


Amber Mountain Chameleon  (Calumma amber)  Endemic only to Amber Mountain. Similar to the Short-horned (with the 'elephant' ears') found in the eastern rainforests but it's range does not overlap.


Trying to make a quick getaway.





We left the Park around 4.45pm and Lionel asked us to be ready for the nocturnal walk at 6pm.


We were booked to walk in the Domaine de Fontenay private reserve. It is 300ha of rainforest that runs alongside a steep ravine just a 5 min drive away from the guesthouse.

This place was amazing. We had it to ourselves for the three nights and it definitely produced the best nocturnal walks of the trip.

We found our third species of leaf-tailed gecko. This was a male Giant Leaf-tailed Gecko. We saw him on every visit so called him Fred.


Giant Leaf-tailed Gecko - aka Fred  (Uroplatus giganteus)   This is the largest leaf-tailed gecko in Madagascar at around 32cm, and is endemic only to the Amber Mountain area. 



Now another new chameleon.

Petter's White-lipped Chameleon  (Furcifer petteri)   Endemic to the north, size around 17cm.



I had to study this picture for a while to remember what I had taken.


Apparently it is a leaf-mimicking treehopper.



Then another new leaf-tailed gecko. Rubbish picture I’m afraid but it was the only time we saw it.


Spearpoint leaf-tailed gecko  (Uroplatus ebenaui)   Endemic to the north and west and is the smallest species of Uroplatus at around 7cm.



Walking back along the trail we saw Fred again, this time he was in defensive position.


Watching Fred, directly ahead.



Then a couple of trees away we saw a female Giant Leaf-tailed gecko.  Isn't she stunning. Maybe that's why Fred was all defensive!!





We left the reserve at 7.30pm after a good night's hunting and made the short drive back to the Litchi Tree for dinner.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

52 minutes ago, Zim Girl said:

Apparently it is a leaf-mimicking treehopper.


It's a good job you also put the photo of the treehopper in-hand - I'd never have spotted it in the wider shot

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy