Our first piece of “wild” Madagascar was tasted in Ranomafana National Park this afternoon. The first suspicion that we failed to do our research on ideal visiting times presented itself when we pulled into the entrance at midday. Almost on cue the Landcruiser packed carpark emptied itself like a Wild West Saloon on closing time.
Three, hard-to-see, coconut sized lemurs (grey and golden bamboo) were spotted during our 2hour trek through the steep, undulating forest, this was the next clue. Coconut-sized because that’s how high up in the tree they were, fast asleep and happily unaware of the gawking mouths below. Turns out like many animals the lemur prefers to pass the “Z’s” during the hottest part of the day.
More interesting than the diminutive views of the lemurs were the reptiles and giant stands of bamboo which stretched like inspector gadget arms into the forest canopy. Often as high as the tree tops. On the lizard front there was a spectacular leaf gecko that even on close two-inch inspection seemed like a dead, discarded leaf. All brown, frizzled and curled the chlorophyll long disbanded. The guides probably swap bets on who can convince the most tourists that a leaf is a gecko. Smart buggers.
Tuesday, July 10 puffed out its chest, held back its shoulders and lifted its chin. There was a bit of the King with the golden touch about the day.
It began in the twinkle of the moon’s eye as we picked our way toward Anja Park in the thick morning fog. With determination and some U-turning we found our way to the carpark where two willing guides soon joined us. They talked “shop” with Tiana and Lova for an extended period of time but this provided a pleasing unveiling of the boulder mountains on either side to us. The lifting fog was like tackling an overgown garden. You see and appreciate different parts individually but it’s not until everything is finished that you can stand back and appreciate the view. And so it was with the fog, whose shifting and movement exposed pockets of rocky mountainside before the sun concentrated its significant glare, obliterating the fog to reveal the majesty of round, rocky marbles dissected by temperate vegetation jostling for position on the limited soil.
The walk through the park was largely different to that in Ranomafana National Park. The environment here is drier and far rockier but also more varied in its terrain with large round boulders scaled one moment and then in the next traversing the undergrowth to a network of caves beneath a section of rock.
The real highlight here though are the cheeky ring tailed lemurs which roam in packs numbering 20-30. They have confidence around human presence in Anja Park and freely chased the rising sun within twenty metres of us. It would have been no problem for me to shoot here all day long.
Like all primates much pleasure is derived from observing their human qualities. Most humerous of these is their quest to warm up in the sun by sitting upright with arms extended outward at right angles to the body. Like some tantric, yoga master they sit like this for minutes at a time only occasionally glancing to one side at a boisterous, younger, family member. Due to the early hour of the day we followed one particular family group carry out this procedure across multiple rocks as they pursued the angle of the shifting sun. Eventually Moddy pulled me away by the camera strap in a desperate bid to extradite me back to the RAV4.