Lemur-spotting in Madagascar

Lonely Planet Travel Editor Tom Hall is on a mission to discover 52 of the most awe-inspiring places to visit across the world. This week he revels in the lemur-spotting exploits to be enjoyed in Madagascar.


During the millions of years of evolution, while the rest of the world was getting on with the survival of the fittest, over on the mighty island of Madagascar something unexpected was happening.

The primates living here found that there just wasn’t any competition and filled niches occupied elsewhere by larger primates, rodents and even birds. For this reason, a visit to Madagascar beats a trip to your average tropical island. It’s a journey into a land where lemurs rule the evolutionary roost.

Where is the best place to see lemurs in Madagascar?

There are 32 species of lemurs in Madagascar and some are easier to spot than others. You’ll almost certainly see brown and ring-tailed lemurs, especially if you venture into national parks or on river-rafting expeditions in the centre of the island.

To find the largest lemur, the Indri, most travellers head to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. Their distinctive hooting cry, similar to a car alarm, can be heard from miles around through the early morning mist. Seeing an Indri let rip at close range is an astonishing experience and one of the highlights of a visit to Madagascar.

One lemur that eludes most visitors is the Aye-Aye. This nocturnal creature has rodent-like teeth and a long, thin middle finger. As bizarre as the beast sounds, it has evolved to fill the role occupied by woodpeckers elsewhere in the world.

The island of Nosy Mangabe off northeastern Madagascar is one of the best places to try to spot the animal, who was last in the queue when looks were being handed out.

When is the best time to visit Madagascar?

Travel in October to avoid the crowds of high summer, but pack for chilly rainy mornings if you’re going into montane forest looking for lemurs.

Travelling on a budget

Madagascar is an expensive place to fly to but costs plummet once you’re there. £50 a day is a good mid-range budget, leaving room to occasionally hire a car and driver – the best way to get to remote locations.

Planning your trip to Madagascar

Stop by Visit Madagascar for information and enough pictures of beaches, baobab trees and lemurs to have you plotting the big trip. Air Madagascar has details on international and internal flights.

© 2009 Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd