From the capital, Antananarivo, our expedition began in earnest with a domestic flight to the remote town of Maroansetra, gateway to Madagascar’s most extensive wilderness of the Masoala Peninsula. A boat excursion along the backwaters of the Antainambalana River in the afternoon offered insights into the way of life of the rural Malagasy, along with a fine male panther chameleon, but the day’s highlight was undoubtedly our spectacularly successful quest for nocturnal creatures around the Relais de Masoala. This nocturnal foray with our intrepid local guide, Julian, is usually fairly productive, but it is difficult to see the most elusive and bizarre of all lemurs, the legendary aye aye. A short walk into a coconut plantation brought us to the spot where this strange creature was foraging, clambering around the crown of a tree. We were able to appreciate all the unusual features of this remarkable animal, from its enormous ears and peculiar face to its bushy tail and skeletal middle finger. This fortuitous sighting was to set up our record-breaking lemur tally for the trip.
Other trip highlights included fimbriated leaf-tailed geckos, brilliant green-backed mantellas, boisterous white-fronted brown lemurs, and a bonus sighting of black-and-white ruffed lemurs resting in the crown of an enormous wild fig tree. A nocturnal spotlighting excursion produced sightings of nocturnal lemurs in the form of eastern woolly lemurs and the recently described Goodman’s mouse lemurs, as well as an incredible five species of chameleons.
Our visit illustrated Madagascar’s remarkable natural diversity, with fascinating wildlife, breathtaking landscapes and cultural interactions en route—our pilgrimage to the eighth continent was an enriching experience.