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Lemurs, geckos and sleepless nights

 

That night we have dinner at the restaurant at the hotel. While eating our food we listen to the noises coming from the jungle and drink $1 vodkas before heading to bed for what will be one of the scariest nights of my life!

A RAT! And not just a little rat, no a massive, ginormous, disgusting fat piece of RAT!

After an hour or so of sleep we wake up from a noise coming from the corner of the room. There’s something in the plastic bags filled with our food that we were so clever to leave outside of our suitcase. At first I think it must be the cockroach I had seen earlier on the wall, so I don’t think anything of it and try to go back to sleep. Ten minutes later, another noise. This time I realize there’s no way a cockroach can make that much noise. Lance shines his torch to see what it is and on the wall a big fat rat appears. I scream and sit paralyzed with fear. I am so terribly scared of rats that all I can do is cry and beg Lance to get rid of it. The thing runs of, disappears in one corner and thinks it’s hilarious to poke its head out of another corner. Lance ensures me it’s fine to go back to sleep, but I have other ideas. There is no way in hell I am staying here with this monster! The rats now back inside and I can’t see where it is. It’s run down the wall and I know it’s somewhere in our room. With all the courage I can muster I take the biggest jump of my life and run outside, while Lance fights this creature with his shoe. The rat runs outside, right passed me and disappears into the darkness. Don’t ask me how, but I manage to get back into bed and “sleep” with the light on, checking the corner every few minutes making sure there’s nothing there.

Luckily the rat stayed away and it’s now six AM and time to get up. We have a four hour hike ahead of us!

Yesterday we had organized a guide who would take us through the park. As soon as we drove up to the park she had run up to us and before we even had time to get out, we had our guide sorted. It was that easy!

It’s 7AM and Tina is already waiting for us at the entrance. With our camera gear packed and on our backs we head off. Tina has worked as a guide for 7 years and knows this place inside out. Every so often she stops and points at things that I would have walked right past….

…a huge termite nest

…and the smallest orchid found here in Madagascar.

After walking for about 30 minutes she tells us to stay where we are and wait for her while she runs off in search for the Indri, one of the largest living lemurs, native to Madagascar. She comes back after a while and guides us through very thick forest. We’ve gone off the path and descend down a steep hill, covered in wet leafs, so with all our photography gear it’s a mission to navigate our way through the dense forest, but the noises they make start to get louder and louder and we realize we’re getting closer. We finally manage to find a family of three. These lemurs aren’t used to humans as much as the ones we had around our necks yesterday and rather stay in the trees they live in.

The next lot of lemurs we stumble upon are the Diademed Sifaka. These are an endangered species of sifaka and so very beautiful. Their colors are just amazing. When we get there the sifaka are high up in the trees and difficult to spot, but the longer we wait the closer they get to us. While Tina has run off again, in search of a type of gecko Lance is interested in, we hang around and follow them (as advised by Tina, so she will be able to find us again). Unfortunately word has gone around about the whereabouts of these sifaka and soon there’s about 15 other people eager to take photos (and wave at them?). It makes me a little sad that this National Park is so very small and that these animal are forced to live so close to human beings. I feel like I’m intruding their space and try to hang back a little bit, but unfortunately not everyone feels like that and I get a little annoyed with the loud and obnoxious people around me. Do they have any respect at all? At one stage during our time in Madagascar someone told me that many of these tourists are here just for that extra stamp in there passport and don’t actually care so much about the place itself. It’s sad, but true. However on the other hand I realize that Madagascar needs its tourists to sustain these forests and the people that live here.

After at least an hour of following the sifaka, Tina returns, like a ninja (all of a sudden she’s back!). We are now so close to these animals that you can literally touch them if you want to. I stand in one spot and one them comes closer and closer. I don’t move as not to frighten it, but it seems interested. It starts looking straight into my eyes and I laugh a little on the inside. So many greedy people surrounding this animal, wanting to take its photo and it chooses to sit right in front of me, giving me the best seat in the house to photograph it. Karma, that is all haha

A couple days earlier we watched one of David Attenborough’s documentaries on Madagascar. One part was about this animal called a tenrec. Tenrecs are a bit like hedgehogs and very difficult to find. Most species are nocturnal and therefor not seen very often during the day. They live with their families and can have as many as 30 babies at once!

While walking, I see something move from the corner of my eye and notice a group of probably 15 to 20 of these tiny tenrecs. As soon as they notice us they scurry off and I only have a few seconds to grab my camera and take a photo, but manage to snap at least one decent one. We try following them, but they’re so quick that it’s nearly impossible.

Our amazing guide Tina, who always went the extra mile to find what we wanted to see.

Teeny tiny caterpillar

A few minutes before arriving back at the gate a group of people point out there’s a giant snake in the grass. Tina points at the skin that’s hanging on a branch and for some reason I thought they were talking about a dead snake, so I get up close to it and start photographing it. I ask Lance: “It’s dead right?” to which he replies “no!”. I quickly jump back up after realizing this is actually a cobra I’m taking photos of :/

After our 4 hour hike it’s time to head back to the hotel. It’s only 11 AM and it feels like I’ve been up forever. We’ve had such an amazing time and are so excited about all the cool animals we’ve got to photograph. I’m so grateful that we had such an amazing guide and ask her if she would be interested in taking us for a night walk as well. We decide to meet her that evening, after I’ve caught up on some sleep, writing down all the great experiences from the past couple days in my diary…..

…and filling up every single hole in our room with whatever I can find to make sure this rat can’t come in haha.

That night we walk for about an hour, along the road and use our torches to look for animals. It’s too dark to photograph all the things we see, but using a flash I manage to capture some of the animals we’re able to get close too.

Our second night I luckily manage to get some sleep and don’t get disturbed by rats or other scary monsters (except for the snoring man in the hut next to us). We set out for another 3 hour hike with Tina.

We don’t see as much during our second day, but enjoy being out here none the less. I meet a couple from Norway and talk to them, while Tina is off on one of her searches for that bloody leaf tail gecko Lance is desperate to find. I also meet a French family who live in Madagascar and have a young Malagasy girl with them with down syndrome. I presume she is their adoptive daughter. We talk in half French/ half English and their daughter is the sweetest girl. She gives me the biggest smile and runs up to me, jumps on my lap and wants to take photos with my camera. I have photographed so many lemurs by now that we spent the next couple minutes photographing anything she is interested in. I think to myself how funny it is that no matter where I am in the world I always have kids hanging around my neck.

We are outside the park by 10AM and have to check out at 11, but Tina is determined to find Lance his gecko. She tells us she’s seen one a couple days ago, by the road side and sure thing, after about half an hour of looking she finds it! Up to this day I do not have a clue how she did it, because this gecko is camouflaged so well that even when it’s right in your face you have trouble seeing it. Besides there are so many bushes and branches in front of the tree that I am amazed she was able to spot it. In no time there are locals around us, all wanting to see what we found. Tina runs up to one guy and quickly comes back with him and a machete to cut down the branches so Lance can take his photo. We stand there with our mouths wide open by how far she is going for him to get the shot he wants. But before we can even say something the branches are gone and we are told to photograph it.

Our two days in Andasibe have been wonderful (apart from that one sleepless night, but I guess that’s all part of the adventure, right!). We get back to the hotel ten minutes before check out time and still need to pack everything up, but aren’t allowed to check out a little later, so we quickly throw everything in the car and head off for a 4 hour drive to Tamatave (pronounced Tamataaf) where we will stay one night before our last 10 days at the coast!!

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