Trekking the arid lands of southern Madagascar, working your way around dry forest and bush, and past bizarre sandstone formations; you spot what you are looking for - arguably the most captivating and iconic of all the lemurs in Madagascar, the ringtail. About twenty of these surprisingly large animals are scattered before you and as one approaches, appearing unafraid of your towering presence, you notice something, a tiny baby lemur on its back. The mother gets on with her day to day tasks (mainly foraging for food and sunbathing), seemingly unaware of the teeny creature that clings to the hairs of her back, hopping off every now and then, then jumping back on before it loses its nerve.
They are born after a gestation period of about four and a half months. For two weeks after their birth they will be carried by mum, until they are strong enough to cling onto her back. Here they will stay, gaining their confidence until they are totally weaned, at about five months of age.
Watching these, dare I say adorable, animals is an awe-inspiring experience. They play, they fight, they sunbathe and forage, and as they spend most of their time at ground level, they are usually easily found. It feels like you could just watch them in the natural habitat for hours, the mothers and their young all taking care of each other, pulling the most endearing poses that you’ll struggle to put your camera down.
Where and when
Ringtail lemurs are hardy animals and can withstand, even thrive in, the harshest of environments, including some of the hottest, driest, coldest and spiniest environments found in Madagascar. They are found mainly in southern Madagascar and we recommend spotting them at Isalo National Park when they can usually be readily seen among the flats and gorges.
Ringtails generally mate in the spring and will be pregnant for four and a half months before giving birth between August and September. To witness the baby lemurs, we recommend heading to Isalo in October, when they are happily clinging to their mother and starting to explore their surroundings, one step at a time.
This impeccable timing means that the young lemurs are raised during the ‘wet season’ when food is more readily available. They’ll usually have just one baby a year, but twins are not unlikely if the fare is plentiful.
How can I see the baby lemurs in Madagascar?
Isalo National Park covers most of the Isalo Massif, a dramatic terrain of sweeping canyons and uniquely sculpted fanciful sandstone shapes. The landscape here is simply dazzling, and one of the best places from which to see the ringtail lemurs with their young. Trek impressive bluffs on foot as part of your Madagascar safari to be in with a chance of seeing the ringtails, and maybe even the dancing sifaka lemurs.
It is best to bear in mind that Madagascar is a huge destination and distances between the areas you wish to visit can be vast, or difficult to link together. On the same level, it is as vast as it is beautiful and interesting, so you will want to see as much as possible whilst you are there. We recommend you give us a call or an email so we can tailor a safari to your exact specifications.
Best time to go