Monday, June 6, 2011

Living in Lemur-Land

Our guesthouse didn't serve breakfast, so Guy and I trekked along the road from Andasibe through the misty sunrise to Hotel Mikalo to start the day. Our guide Dipsi was meeting us at the national park entrance in half an hour, and the hotel was on the way.

Dipsi was there waiting for us, chatting with a dozen other guides that were hanging around looking for work.

"Which circuit would you like to do?" He showed us a map that detailed three different circuits around the park.

"Which one is the best for seeing lemurs?"

After several confusing answers, we learned that the #2 circuit was the best. But #1 and #2 were the same up until a fork two hours in. So now Guy tried a few more suggestions.

"Why don't we do #1, and when we get to the fork, we can see if we need to keep going to see more lemurs?"

This was agreeable to all of us, and then Guy threw in a wrench.

"Why don't we do the circuit in reverse so we aren't following all the groups?"

That sounded dandy to me, but it took us another ten minutes to convey it to Dipsi because of our differing accents and languages.

But it worked out, and Dipsi seemed impressed with this unusual approach, so off we went.

Early on, we reached an idyllic lake, complete with huge spiders and their webs. Guy and Dipsi were a lot more interested in the spiders than I was, so I wandered off, fidgeting, until they caught up.

We hiked around, and once in a while, Dipsi would hear or see some kind of clue that was invisible to me. He'd motion us to follow, and then he'd point.

"Dancing lemur."

Wow. So it was. Technically, as Guy would later look up, it's a "Red-Fronted Brown Lemur." But "Dancing Lemur" sounds so much nicer. "Muppet" also seemed apt.

Next up was brown lemurs—lots and lots of brown lemurs. They were raccoon-like. The lemurs were fast and furious now, around every corner for us when Dipsi wasn't helping other guides. He really did have extraordinary tracking abilities.

We'd just reached the end of Circuit #1, when Dipsi said "The indri are near. Just up here."

This knowledge was less incredible than it sounds. He'd been talking to other guides and also listening to the amazing whale-like call of the indri.

The indri are the stars of the lemur show in Madagascar. There's nothing else in the world quite like these rare and endangered panda-koala-mokey-muppets with their picky diets and whale hooting.

We watched them snack and groom each other. And eventually, the family of indri gracefully leapt away, like fat monkeys that could fly with the aid of a few branches.

Dipsi led us, the satisfied tourists, back to the front gate, where we thanked him for his services and took our leave to hike the two kilometers back to town. We were thrilled by our lemurs. We'd seen all kinds of lemurs on the first few days of being in Madagascar. What could possibly top this?

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