Just a few hours to the east of Antananrivo, Andasibe-Mantadia is where the majority of people come to get their lemur fix
Lemurs can be seen in most of Madagascar’s parks, but there’s nothing like getting a good close up look (as you’ll certainly get here) to make you relax on visits to other parks later in your trip.
The area is a morning’s drive from the capital and home to 14 species of lemur including black and white ruffed lemur, the ethereally beautiful diademed sifaka and - most famously perhaps - the endangered Indri. All these creatures have an almost magical ability to leap enormous distances between trees with astonishing grace and speed.
The area comprises a number of different parks and reserves, the main ones being Mantadia National Park and Analamazoatra (confusingly also known as Perinet). “Andasibe” is the name given to a village that lies between the various parks and reserves. Mantadia covers around 160 Km2 and gives a sense of what large parts of this island must have looked like before much of it became deforested by a growing human population in recent decades.
Analamazaotra Reserve (very close to Mantadia) is home to a habituated population of Indris, who go about their daily lives entirely oblivious to your presence. The effect of being studiously ignored by such magnetically charismatic beasts – even at close range – makes one feel like a star-struck fan in the presence of an A-list celebrity. To stand a few metres below a tree in which a group of Indris are calling (a loud siren like call somewhere between whale song and an air horn) is an experience that will stay with you for life.
Access to the parks is on foot, with many different combinations and loops of varying lengths available. For the most part walking isn’t arduous and - as well as the lemurs, which materialise as if by magic from the forest, only to evaporate back into the vegetation as quickly – there are a host of other species ready to surprise you with their extraordinary colours or lifestyles. These range from colour-changing chameleons, brightly coloured geckos and frogs and a plethora of exotic birdlife to more brightly coloured bugs than a 10 year old can shake a stick at.
As well as the national parks, it’s well worth visiting one of the reserves where rescued lemurs have been relocated. The po-faced Englishman in me winced at the idea of meeting “tame” lemurs, but within minutes, I (and my family) were putty in their tiny furry hands. It also became quickly clear which of the two of us was being exploited, as one’s body is commandeered with cavalier abandon for use as a mango-accessing platform.
This is actually one of those experiences we’d advise you to find out as little as possible about so as not to spoil the surprise – as the saying goes “just do it”.