My First Day on the Red Island

Arabella Worthington

04 Jul 2013

First Day in Madagascar blog

My first school boy error occurred on the first day of my safari in Madagascar. Typical. I went on a walk in the rainforest and forgot my sunnies, bikini and beach towel . How stupid can one be?? I had been hiking for an hour or so, the downpour which had been in full tropical force had stopped abruptly and the sun's rays penetrated the rainforest. This means only one thing in the forests of Madagascar; sunbathing o'clock. And I was the most ill equipped of all the primates. For high up in the canopy the cool kids were stretched out, their bushy fluffy brown tails lazily swaying from the branches, and their bodies lying chest open to catch as many rays as possible. We observed these magical primates 30 metres above us, as they swaggered from branch to branch in search of a better sunbed or tipped their heads to catch more rays. I was pretty convinced there was a canopy top bar up there somewhere with a waiter who resembled 'King Julian' (from the Madagascar movie), reciting the happy hour specials with his beeping, cheeky grin "creme de banana, banana daquiri buy one get one free".  Probably not though. Red ruffed lemurs live on a diet of fruit and leaves. So maybe a nohito was the mocktail of the day. 

Red ruffed lemurs are only found in the Masoala Peninsula which is the largest national park in Madagascar and also boasts the highest biodiversity in the country. As Madagascar is in the top three countries is the world with the highest biodiversity I was basically standing in a minefield of flora and fauna, 80 percent of which is endemic to the country. This is also where the rainforest meets the reef so not only do you have forests packed with species but the reefs are home to a multitude of colourful, tropical fish that can be explored by snorkelling or kayaking. On my walk in the primary rainforest I had also seen two white fronted brown lemurs. The males resembled cappuccino with their milky white heads and coffee coloured bodies. 

Later that day, on a pirogue  (Local dugout canoe) I was fortunate enough to see the eastern grey bamboo lemur which are rarely spotted in the forests. These are very small and like pandas, dine on the forest's bamboo. Though we saw them on their afternoon stroll, jumping incredibly accurately from branch to branch along the rivers edge. There are three diurnal lemurs found in Masoala and thanks to the incredible eyes of my guide, Ursula, I saw all three on my only day in the park. As well as lemurs I met my first chameleon, saw a frog the size of my thumb nail, marvelled at the beautifully coloured Madagascar kingfisher and witnessed the beginning of the hump back whale migration which passes madagascar from July to September on their way to the ice bars of Antarctica. Not a bad day for my first day on the red island.  More to come soon!

As well as lemurs I met my first chameleon, saw a frog the size of my thumb nail, marvelled at the beautifully coloured Madagascar kingfisher and witnessed the beginning of the hump back whale migration.

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