It is no secret that Madagascar is home to some of the world’s most weird and wonderful flora and fauna. That being said, Madagascar is not all baobabs and lemurs, discovered safari specialist, Anton, on a recent trip to the world’s oldest island. Home to a nocturnal world that only comes to life after dark, Madagascar is a destination that continues to surprise us time after time.
When you hear the word Madagascar, you would be forgiven for instantly thinking of rainforests, baobabs, lemurs and chameleons, but these bigger attractions simply don’t do justice to the plethora of life hidden behind its famed landscapes. On a recent trip to Madagascar I was blown away by the weird and wonderful life at home there.
Night walks in Madagascar are often the last thing you’d want to consider after spending the day walking through the rainforest, tripping over the odd protruding root in search of lemurs hopping from tree to tree.
I was naïve enough to think that the walk would be like a typical night drive in Africa, when you travel through the bush looking for the odd flash of a nocturnal animal’s eye as it catches the light. I could not have been more wrong. We did see some distant eye flashes, but the real highlights were the littler things; the reflection of a chameleon, the flash of a gecko’s white belly and many, many more.
During one particular night walk in Amber Mountain National Park, we started off in the hope of spotting the rare red owl, and quickly got distracted by the leaf-tailed geckos. Having spend eight hours hiking in the forests and not seeing a single gecko, we were privileged enough to spot these masters of camouflage hunting under the cover of darkness. Amber Mountain is home to numerous species of leaf-tailed gecko and we were fortunate to find three of them, varying in shapes and sizes, leaping between the trees.
A day later we found ourselves in Ankarana National Park, a region that is famous for the Tsingy, a moonscape that has taken millions of years of rainfall to form. Imagine a landscape dotted with razor sharp rocks and canyons deep enough to create their own ecosystem, a landscape that is so alien that these canyons have managed to allow entirely different species to evolve, of which some are still being discovered today. Our night walk there confirmed Madagascar’s allure as the home to the unknown. Our hike began with a fantastic sighting of two Madagascar scops owls and continued with numerous leaf-tailed geckos and chameleons, including one of the smallest species of chameleon in the world.
Before long, I heard my guide calling me over in a hushed yet excited tone, ‘quick, come, come here! Look, up in the tree! Do you see that? That is a sportive thick-tailed lemur, it was only classified as a new species to science two years ago’. At this moment I knew that despite the bumpy roads, the dust, the limited Wi-Fi, the long hikes and the copious amounts of rice, this was the real reason I had come to Madagascar; to feel like a real adventurer and be fortunate enough to be one of a handful of people to have seen what I saw. Madagascar allows you to avoid keeping up with the Jones’, it allows you to create your own adventure, where you are able to see landscapes you never knew existed, find animals you’ve never heard of with names and shapes that will keep you wanting more.