We left NYC around noon or a little after on Friday (shocker, flight delay out of JFK) landing 12 hours later in Dubai. Emirates was probably my favorite international flight, economy was spacious and the entertainment system top notch. No, we didn’t really sleep. Also, no, we don’t have that business class cash. Then we had a 6 hour flight (also delayed) to Mauritius, few hours layover then a 2 hour flight (delayed, naturally, but we didn’t care) to Madagascar!!!! Woo hoo. We landed later on Saturday night, were briefed by Nico and Li and settled into our hotel.
After a nice breakfast and some even nicer coffee, we were off! We drove through the busy streets of Antananarivo. There were so many little stores right on the road selling everything and anything. Since it was a Sunday, everyone was out and about. The city was hilly and the hills were covered in all sorts of homes. Some buildings looked really old. We get to spend more time in Tana at the end of the trip, so we headed to the east coast.
As expected, the landscape was gorgeous. As we traveled east through the hills (and perhaps mountains? I need to check a map), most of the landscape was lush and green with new growth forest. We drove through the rainforest midday and stopped for lunch in Andasibe National Park. I hate to admit it, but Amanda and I did doze off a bit in the car, we were exhausted still. We stopped at Antsapanana to check out the local fruit stands, so many yellow fruits!! Then we got off the national road (which is paved with some potholes, but comfortable) to a dirt (well, mud) road. I was shocked when the driver waited 20 minutes into the drive to engage the four wheel drive!! Super bumpy but fun ride. We came up to the small village of Betsimisaraka in Manambato and hung out on the beach while awaiting our boat.
Right before sunset, we boarded a small boat with all our luggage (and some other tourists) and cruised lake Ampitabe of Akanin’ny Nofy, which is actually a lagoon with a manmade canal. The sunset while we puttered along was gorgeous. This area is a string of lakes and mangroves, very cool. Our lakeside retreat was Palmarium Hotel. We ate dinner on the veranda, enjoyed seeing the Milky Way (Amanda snapped some awesome shots), and fell fast asleep in our lagoon bungalow once our mosquito nets were secured.
This morning after a fruit filled breakfast again on the veranda, we were off to see the lemurs. Our resort is pure magic, all these little bungalow tucked away in the forest right on the edge of the water. So pretty. So we again boarded our boat and were off to explore Ankanin’ny Nofy.
This is a special area that is separated from the Indian Ocean by thin coastal dunes. This protected area is home to ten species of lemurs. We visited the main Palmarium Lodge and spent the morning exploring with a guide. Within minutes, friendly lemurs were jumping on our shoulders to get a snack, as we carried cut pieces of banana around. I was in HEAVEN. The lemurs were amazing. So many different kinds came to say hello. They jumped on my shoulders and backpack, they ran up my arm and crawled on my head. They were incredibly gently, their used their long fingers to grab my hand and then gently take the banana from my palm. Often times they would just hold your hand, even with the banana gone. Their hands and fur were so incredibly soft. They don’t enjoy pets, but I did scratch the bellies of some. These little friends came so close! They weren’t afraid at all, and loved to get bananas from all the guests. Even after lunch, Li took Amanda and I find more lemurs. They were so awesome. There were many hybrid lemurs, about 40 to 50, but they are sterile. So no new species, yet….
In addition to lemurs, we saw tortoises, butterflies, caterpillar, and chameleon. I lost my shit seeing and holding the chameleon, his feet felt so cool and he just crawled up my arm. Afterwards, we visited a fishing village right on the Indian Ocean. They had a small museum and walked us around, the kids were super cute and followed us everywhere. When we headed back to the hotel they moved our bags to a bungalow on the beach, I think because Li was worried I’d swim in the lagoon and be eaten by crocodiles. I really wanna swim with crocs.
Tonight we took a short boat trip to a protected island where six aye-ayes live. Aye-ayes are endangered and rare to see. They set up coconuts in the trees to attract these lemurs. We saw four of the six, including the baby aye-aye. These lemurs were so cool with their big eyes, bat ears and messy fur. They were so shy, but eager to eat treats so we were able to watch them while the guides held up lights. They used their long middle finger to help slurp up the coconut water.
We took the boat in darkness back to our hotel and headed to bed after dinner with Li. Tomorrow is a relaxing day with time on the beach and then travel to the rainforest.
Madagascar is unreal.
Also, I know Amanda will tell everyone, a lemur pooped on me from a tree. It was banana based poop, since that’s what we were feeding them. It was on my shoulder and in my hair. I didn’t vomit, scream, cry or throw a tantrum, Amanda and Li helped me clean up, since I froze. I was able to wash my hair and tee shirt in sink. I won’t be wearing that shirt again on this trip. Also, I’m hoping I read that lemur shit is good luck and it means that I will find great love and become rich. And yes, lemur poo smells awful. Not like bananas.
(In case you’re curious, we booked our tour through African Safari Tours Holiday Vacations!)