Searching the black lemurs

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We have organized a trip to a little national park today. The trip involves a transfer to the park which consists of a series of different modes of transport. First we get picked up in a tuktuk which will take us to the neighbor village where we change into an actual minibus which will take us across the island to a small village.

On the way to the village we stop in the middle of an ylang-ylang plantation where they grew a special plant with flowers which are used to make perfume. We walk out and spot a couple of chameleons and suddenly one of the other guest jumps a bit – he has just seen a medium seized snake which apparently is one of the very few venomous snakes which actually live in Madagascar – fortunately nobody get bitten by the snake so we just take a couple of photos and then we continue the journey to the village.

We get to the village where we leave the safety and go into a pirogue which is a local canoe. When we booked the trip we were told the transfer was included – what we were not told was we were expected to participate in the transfer by rowing the pirogue. It is a half hour of rowing the pirogue across the shallow waters around Nosy Be – and I can feel my shoulder not being used to the motion involved in rowing a pirogue. And after a while I realized the only people rowing was our guide me and another guest – the boat captain really didn’t do much rowing since he was too busy trying to sell souvenirs to Yunni along the trip.

The pirogue wasn’t the most seaworthy of vessels so after a while Yunni had to save us by using a bucket to empty the water which were continuously coming into the pirogue through what I can imagine is fairly large caps between the planks of the pirogue. The fact Yunni had to empty out the water of the boat had the positive side effect that the boat captain gave up selling her stuff and instead started rowing so we made faster progress towards the national park.
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We finally arrive at the beach next to the Réserve Naturelle Intégrale de Lokobe we wade to the beach and then start walking along the beach until we reach the village just outside the reserve. The village seems to focus mainly on selling souvenirs to the tourist. There are other tourists in the village but considering the number of tourist on the island it is surprising there aren’t more tourists visiting the national park. It is actually possible to go and explore the park in relative peace and quiet.

We start walking into the park – and just as we get to the trail leading into the main part of the park the guide start searching for something. He keeps searching for something tiny next to the trail and after a while he finally finds what he is searching for. It is a tiny tiny tiny chameleon – I am not sure it is the smallest in the world but it is the smallest living in the park and by far the smallest chameleon I have ever seen.

After having spotted the chameleon we continue into the park. We start walking around the park and we spot some large constrictor snakes which are resting in the trees. I guess it is warm enough for the snakes to be out all year in this northerly part of the country.
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Finally we find what we are looking for – the black lemurs. it is actually only the male black lemurs which are in fact black the females are a chestnut brown colour and if you didn’t know it is the same species and they are living in a large group you might have thought it was two different species. There are a lot of lemurs at this place in the forest so we stay a while looking at the lemurs moving around in the trees eating their lunch.

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After a while we say farewell to the lemurs and then we continue the walk and spot a few more of the large snakes. Then as we cross a little stream of water the guide finds a tiny frog – he picks it up and we can take photos of the frog – and then he hide the frog inside the palms of his hands and shake it pretty violently for a while. Then he opens his hands – and the frog has changed colours – if we didn’t know it was the same frog we would never have guess it was the same.

We finish our walk through the forest and while we have been in the forest some of the villagers have prepared lunch of some food we have brought along to the park. We eat the lunch at a table in the village which is surrounded by a lot of stalls selling souvenirs. After the lunch we walk back to the beach where the water has disappeared – it is low tide so we walk a long way out to the pirogue and we start rowing back.

It is another long rowing trip back and now it is in the middle of the day so the temperature has gone up significantly. After half an hour we are finally back at the village where the water is long gone. So we have to walk a pretty long distance across the mud before we get back to the beach. There isn’t much in the village so we just head into the minibus and drive back towards our hotel. There isn’t much happening on the trip across the island except a couple of police checkpoints where the local policemen want a bribe to supplement their salary. The guide pays off the police and we get back to the hotel in plenty of time to enjoy the sunset.
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