I hop back in the canoe and the guide takes me around to another spot among the watery channel of islands. He gives a quick call and then one by one the famous ring tails we know to associate with the lemur family start to appear among the grasses. He pulls the canoe up to the island and two Ring tailed lemurs hop aboard and once again decide to inspect my hair care regime. I don’t think they were impressed as they quickly hopped back ashore and darted back off into the grass. Lemur experience number one, tick!
The next morning, Alain greets me at 7am and drive me to the National Park. Along the dirt road we pass through a graphite mine which is beginning to bustle as the villagers begin to arrive for work. As we continue down the road it becomes quite clear the villagers are walking to the mine from the Andasibe village. I confirm this with Alain, who then goes on to state, “long walk.” Long walk indeed; these people walk 10 kilometers or just over 6 miles to work, BAREFOOT. I will have a much greater appreciation when I next pick up a graphite pencil. Unbelievable what these people do daily without complaint
We arrive at the National park, and Nesta my park guide greets me. He shows me we have three options for exploring the park in an attempt to locate the largest of the lemur family the Indri. I opt for the full 8km, 4hr trek through the jungle. I didn’t come all this way to skimp at the best part. We set off into the thick jungle. Nesta is quite a bit smaller than my 6 foot 5 frame and can easily maneuver through the undergrowth. I struggle to keep up as I’m constantly walking through spider webs, darting around tree vines, and lifting the ferns out of my way.
Out of nowhere this loud whale like calling echos through the jungle canopy. Nesta picks up the pace and I struggle even more to keep up. I catch my breath, sweating profusely, wipe my brow and gaze up towards the tree tops. Nesta has found a family of Indri. The Indri is the largest of the lemur species, nearly 3 feet in length and up to 30lbs. Their black and white markings give them a panda-like appearance. I grab my camera and start taking my best NatGeo shots. Clearly I’m an amateur but still relish the thought of being in a truly amazing experience.
Our trek takes us into the depths of the park and out again. In total we find three groups of Indri families tracking them by their distinct calls. Sweating, battered, and bruised I emerge from the bush exhausted, in need of a shower but completely satisfied with my lemur encounter.
That night an American couple checks into the Lodge and I hear them make mention of a cyclone heading towards Madagascar. I use the crawling Wi-Fi to confirm there is indeed a storm forecast to hit the day I’m meant to leave for Johannesburg. Not ideal at all. I arrange for Alain to meet me at 7am the next day in hopes I can get back to Tana in time to get on the South African Airlink flight to Jo’burg. This proves to be no problem; however once in Tana, the traffic is at a standstill. Saturday markets overflow on to the already congested streets making the 20km (12.5 mile) journey take nearly 90 minutes. By the time I arrive at the airport the heat trapped in the non-air-conditioned car makes me feels as through I was in a slow cooker ready to be served. A $20 change fee is applied to my ticket and I’m set to flee the approaching cyclone and begin the next bit of my adventure in South Africa.