Madagascar's Endemic Wildlife

Lemurs, Chameleons, rainforests and humpback whales

Not much prepares you for your first encounter with Madagascar’s indigenous lemurs

Look at a photograph and you might be forgiven for thinking that lemurs are “a bit like a monkey”, worthy of a quick look and not much more. But this would be to vastly underestimate both their diversity and magnetic appeal.

The fact that Madagascar is populated by one dominant strand of primate and that evolution has allowed this strand to proliferate and diversify to such a degree is bewildering.

For those interested in evolutionary biology there can be few better examples than Madagascar’s wildlife of how random mutations, combined with natural selection can create such astonishing variety and occupy so many diverse ecological niches. Some adaptations are so exquisite that they take your breath away…and it’s almost impossible not to nod to your inner-creationist.

Whether it’s their piercing eyes - which seem to look through, as much as at you - their easy dexterity or their phenomenal agility, these animals are a delight to track, observe and photograph. And en-route you will find legions of other peculiar species, from giant iridescent green pill bugs, to frogs that look like Christmas decorations and geckos so green that you wont believe your eyes.

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Madagascar's Wild Northeast with Lemurs & Humpbacks

RAINFORESTS, LEMURS, CHAMELEONS, WHALES AND TURTLES

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Madagascar's Humpback Whale Migration

Maybe it's because Madagascar is such a cornucopia of natural wonders that so little has been made of the annual arrival of the Humpback Whales which is only now starting to gain attention.

Whale-watching is a global phenomenon with hotspots found from Alaska to Tahiti. Surprisingly perhaps, for an island so synonymous with endemism, Madagascar is right up there among the best of them.

Arguably the most rewarding of all the whales to watch is the Humpback, with their famously photogenic habit of breaching (propelling two-thirds or more of their body out of the sea and splashing down on their backs) and raising their enormous fluked tails out of the water when diving. The fact that they are approachable and curious as well as active and entertaining only adds to their appeal.

Humpback Whales are found in seas and oceans around the world and their numbers have been gradually recovering since the 1966 global ban on whaling came in to force, current estimates stand around 80,000 individuals.  Yet despite these numbers and their massive range (undertaking the longest migrations of any mammal) finding them is not necessarily straightforward - because although they're over fifty-foot long and weigh more than 36 tonnes, the oceans are vast.

Happily however, Humpbacks migrate to tropical waters to calve and every year from late June to September females gather to give birth to their calves in waters surrounding Madagascar - particularly in the shallow channel between the mainland and Île Saine Mairie running north in to Antogil Bay by the Masoala Peninsular.

For anyone considering visiting Madagascar it is definitely worth considering doing so in the northern summer (June to September) months and including some time on the east coast of the island. Watching the Humpbacks can be done in relative luxury on Masoala - flying in and out of Tana - and for those looking for adventure the incomparable drive up the Route National 5 will give ample opportunity to spot these behemoths cruising up this most spectacular of coastlines. 

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There are a number of parks in Madagascar where it’s possible to find and observe the various species of lemur.

The starting point is likely to be Andasibe-Mantadia to the east of the capital Antananarivo

This is an excellent place to see these animals at close proximity and while you’re unlikely to have the experience to yourself, it’s still worth covering this area before heading slightly further off-piste. Chat with us about how best to get this balance right.

Habituated families of Indri live in Analamazaotra Reserve, an area of thick primary forest cut through with winding pathways. Here, if you’re lucky you’ll find yourself in the presence of Indri, sometimes at astonishingly close range. These are vocal animals, so part of the experience is to stand – slack-jawed – as they call to one another in the loud, reedy calls.

Children (and adults) will be mesmerised by the chance to tangle with a rescued family of lemurs at a reserve close to Andasibe (take a look at Madagascar for families). More than anywhere this gives a chance to see them at very close range (like for example sitting on your head) and is a great experience as a precursor to seeing their less habituated counterparts in other national parks.

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Sample Trips in Madagascar

NORTHERN MADAGASCAR'S RAINFORESTS & ISLANDS

Highlights:

Lemurs and rainforests in the east and north of the country. Incredible landscapes & culture. Indian Ocean islands and marine life

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Sample Trips in Madagascar

MADAGASCAR'S WILD NORTHEAST WITH LEMURS & HUMPBACKS

Highlights:

Madagascar's largest unbroken rainforest, lemurs and forest species, pristine beaches and humpbacks. Stunning small forest lodge.

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Sample Trips in Madagascar

Madagascar's Wild East Coast Road

Highlights:

Madcap safari up Madagascar's east coast. 15 pontoons, countless bridges and river crossings, migrating whales and beautiful coastline

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Sample Trips in Madagascar

MADAGASCAR'S DEEP SOUTH

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They are so cute...from a reasonable distance”

- MELMAN THE GIRAFFE

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Our experienced travellers include:

Vanessa Janion
Vanessa Janion
Andrea Hulme
Andrea Hulme
Olly Williams
Olly Williams

It takes genuine local knowledge to craft trips that go beyond the ordinary.

All of us at Natural High have over 20 years’ experience in the countries we offer. We’ve lived there, worked there and arranged countless one-off journeys for clients. We live to travel – and love to share our tips on what’s really worth doing. For expert advice (and a traveller’s tale or two), speak to one of our team. They’ll be happy to let you in on their travel secrets, and help you plan a tailor-made trip that’s truly unforgettable.

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