Richard de Gouveia
In Hot Water
Ranomafana is national park near Fianarantsao in Madagascar and the name means hot water after the hot springs that occur near to the park. It is a mixture of high and mid altitude rainforest nestled in amongst rolling mountains covered by a sea of green tree tops. As you enter the forest for the first time you are greeted by giant tree ferns and the sound of rushing water as the river cuts through the valley.
Our guides stop a moment to describe the forest that we are about to enter and the role the forest has played in their lives and how that has changed over the years; From previously cutting down the tree ferns and using their roots to make flower pots to them learning that some of these ferns are 2000 years old. They now guide tourists through this area teaching them about the forest, using it in a far more sustainable way.
Unfortunately not all the people are fortunate enough to have this knowledge nor the will to preserve the forests as their need for energy, in the form of charcoal, food and space drive their insatiable appetite for survival. All this while the forests and their wildlife suffer the consequences. But enough of my soapbox stories, let’s focus on the happier stuff for now...
It was such a perfect day and for the first time since we arrived we could feel the sun on our skins and the mood was particularly lifted as we entered the forest. Even the forest was audibly excited about the sunshine and warmth as the birds sang their beautiful songs.
Within the first few minutes we had found our first lemurs. Golden bamboo lemurs fed above our heads and moved from tree to tree in search of more food. Heads bent back looking straight up into the canopy, I shone my laser and tried to organize everyone to a window where they will be able to see the lemurs before they disappear to their private balcony on top of the trees. Just as the frustration of sparse sightings built one of the lemurs strolled down across a diagonal tree and began to groom. The feeling of frustration was drowned out by the sound of shutters and scuffling as everyone tried to get a front row seat to the show which only lasted a couple minutes.
With satisfied smiles the guest continued the trek upwards along the path through the forest and we talked about its intricacies and the way the Tanala people have used the forests for centuries. Looking in all the bushes for hidden creatures like the satanic leaf tailed gecko or some of the amazing birdlife. Our destination this time were the last two remaining Greater bamboo lemurs in this national park, a park which spans over 100 000 acres. A population which seems doomed to extinction once this father and daughter pair die.
The luck just seemed to be following us as both the lemurs were low down and feeding amoungst the curious tourist’s feet surrounding them. What an experience for everyone as their necks got a break from braking and got to see them so close and relaxed which transformed their satisfied smiles into shit eating grins 😃
Onwards we trudged through the forest heading towards the viewpoint only to be stopped by the sight on Milne-Edwards Sifakas, then red bellies lemurs and then amazingly black and white ruffed lemurs all feeding in the same area. We must have covered a mile in a 100 feet diameter as we moved between the three species when better views became available.
What a day it was and it was all topped off with a great night walk as we went in search of chameleons hiding along the roadside. the walk was only 45 minutes worth but we got to see a brown mouse lemur and five different Chameleon species.
Now I am writing this feeling rather stiff and uncomfortable as we tear through the countryside in our bus heading towards the Isalo Massif, which is an 60 mile long mountain range of carved sandstone that leaves the mind guessing what all the unique shapes could be. We have been in the bus for 10 hours now, we have walked through a village, shopped for silk scarves, watched mating boas and visited ringtailed lemurs. I look forward to our next destination and getting out of this bus!