Fort Dauphin Sunset

Madagascar – Month Five

A lot of exciting things have happened this month!

First, we had International Women’s Day, where the women of SEED, along with many other groups, marched through town.

International Women's Day, Madagascar

The next morning we left for Sainte Luce, where SEED has a camp. It was GORGEOUS. I did a lot of things that would have freaked me out in a previous life, mostly like exist in closed spaces close to huntsmen spiders, and it was fine.

Sainte Luce Trip

I think that’s kind of the big thing I’ve realised I’m learning from this experience. I can do hard things. My laptop broke when we went to Greece and I CRIED because I couldn’t imagine how I’d get through the trip without it. My laptop broke in Mada about 6 weeks ago and you just kind of get on with things. (That is my excuse why I got so behind on these updates). When we first moved in, the cockroaches terrified me, and now they are nothing. Just big beetles really. I used to be so neurotic about food and I’ve really come around there as well – there’s no point in stressing. If I did that here it would be every meal and that’s just a terrible way to live. I don’t find it embarrassing to have diarrhea or health issues – my body is incredible for how it’s gotten through everything. My bed is filled with ants and fleas, there are ALWAYS bugs all over me when I’m sleeping. For a while I was going to bed in full pants and socks but it’s just too hot so I let them have at it. You adjust. You can do hard things. What an empowering thing to not only believe but to know and live.

Travel

I also spent some time this month travelling in Ethiopia and Kenya, which I was freaked out about doing solo and really shouldn’t have been. First of all, compared to Mada those places might as well be the UK. I think another thing I’ve learned is life just goes on everywhere. Mada was recently named the poorest country in the world, and yes, sure, you can see that. The infrastructure is poor, as are the education and health systems and so on. But you can always find a bar to listen to music or have a dance, everyone still loves to laugh, and life honestly stops feeling any different there vs here. Kenya and Ethiopia used to sound exotic to me, but by the time I got there they felt familiar in ways they reminded me of Mada or the UK and interesting in ways they were different. But exotic isn’t really a thing, is it?

Giraffe Centre Nairobi, Kenya

Art from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The last big highlight of month five was stopping in at Marie Stopes Madagascar in Tana. I spent an hour with the Country Director, just talking SRHR in Madagascar and it was educating and inspiring and wonderful. I’m so incredibly proud of the time I spend working for MSI and really hope to be back there some day.

Marie Stopes Madagascar

I’m in the UK for another week and just got back from a quick trip to Sevilla with Gareth which was amaaazing. I’ll do posts about Addis and Nairobi and Sevilla soon, as well, now that I’ve got a working computer and SO MUCH FREE INTERNET WHAT.

Ring-tailed Lemur at Berenty Reserve

All About the Lemurs

As you all know, we spent Christmas at the Berenty Reserve in Androy, Madagascar. You can read about the logistics of such an adventure here, and see the photo diary of everything but the lemurs here. What you will find below are the best pictures and videos I got of all the different lemurs that live in Berenty. So without further ado, the highlight of the trip — the lemurs!

Sifakas Lemurs

These guys were so cute. They live in big groups (up to 13!) and can co-exist peacefully with other lemurs (though they do have certain territory, it can overlap). Sadly, all species of sifakas are threatened, ranging from vulnerable to critically endangered. When not stuffing their faces, which we saw quite a bit, they spend a good part of the day sunbathing, stretched on the branches.

Sifakas lemurs in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar Sifakas lemurs in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar      Sifakas lemurs in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar Sifaksa Lemurs in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

We also saw these guys do a little dance to cross the road at one point, which was honestly so, so cool.

Ring-Tailed Lemurs

These guys were crazy friendly and brave. Though we commonly saw them out in the forest, there are also about 20 who live in the camp and hang out whilst you eat (and try very hard to steal your food). The ring-tailed lemur is highly social, living in groups of up to 30 individuals. It’s matriarchal, a trait common among lemurs. To keep warm and reaffirm social bonds, groups will huddle together. The ring-tailed lemur will also sunbathe, sitting upright facing its underside, with its thinner white fur towards the sun. Sadly, though they reproduce quite easily, they are also endangered due to habitat destruction and hunting for bush meat and the exotic pet trade. In 2017, it was estimated there are only about 2,000 left in the wild.

Ring-tailed Lemur at Berenty Reserve Ring-tailed Lemur at Berenty ReserveRing-Tailed lemurs in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Brown Lemurs

These guys are called the “common” brown lemur and while they were cute they were kind of overshadowed by the others, haha. Though the littler, darker one below was very frightened of this water and watching it muster the courage to drink was pretty adorable.

Brown lemurs in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Also this momma was carrying her baby in her mouth as it was too young to cling to her back.

White Footed Sportive Lemur in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

White Footed Sportive Lemurs

These guys are nocturnal, though we spotted a few in the day. They cling to bush and are pretty difficult to spot. Mothers will live with the children and males live in solidarity but have territories that will overlap those of one or more females. They also eat their own feces, so that’s something.

White Footed Sportive Lemur in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar White Footed Sportive Lemur in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Gray Mouse Lemur

This teeny little lemur (it only weighs about 2 ounces) is ADORABLE. We only spotted them at night and it was hard to get a good picture, but doesn’t it look kind of like a non-creepy furbie? The gray mouse lemur and all other mouse lemurs are considered cryptic species, as they are nearly indistinguishable from each other by appearance. For this reason, the gray mouse lemur was considered the only mouse lemur species for decades until more recent studies began to distinguish between the species.Like all mouse lemurs, this species is nocturnal and arboreal. It is very active, and though it forages alone, groups of males and females form sleeping groups and share tree holes during the day.

Gray Mouse Lemur in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

So I’m assuming you’re currently looking up flights to Madagascar to have your own experience in Berenty Reserve, no?

Honestly, what an incredible Christmas/life experience this was. I’ve seen the lemurs!

Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Berenty Photo Diary

Everything But the Lemurs

During our three incredible days at the Berenty Reserve, we were able to see so much. Dozens and dozens of lemurs, reptiles, birds, bats, and bugs. I’ve already written a post about the logistics of organising a trip to Berenty, but here I wanted to share a photo diary of our time there. This is everything but the lemurs as there were too many of those for one post. You can find the lemurs here!

The Room

Bungalow at Berenty Reserve
Bungalow at Berenty Reserve
Bungalow at Berenty Reserve
Accommodation at Berenty Reserve

 Animals

Lizard, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar Radiated Tortoise, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar Scorpion, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Chameleon, Androy, Madagascar
Owl, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Lizard, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Sleeping Chameleon, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Bird, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Three-eyed Lizard, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

We saw the cycle of life in full effect a few times as well 😉

Chameleons Mating, Berenty Reserve, MadagascarSpider Tortoises Mating, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Snake eating a bird, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

yes, that is a snake eating a bird

Flying Foxes

Flying Foxes, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Flying Foxes, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Flying Foxes, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Berenty

Spiny Forest, Boabab Tree, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Baby Boabab Tree, in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Garden, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
Spiny Forest, Boabab Tree, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

We saw an 850 year old Baobab tree, which made my Little Prince loving heart very happy. Boabab Tree, in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar Boabab Tree, in Berenty Reserve, Madagascar

Don’t forget to check out the lemurs, here!

Spiny Forest, Berenty Reserve

Christmas at Berenty Reserve

Guys, we went to Berenty Reserve and I finally saw lemurs!! Hundreds of them!

We knew we wanted to stay around Fort Dauphin for most of Gareth’s trip, mainly so he can see where I’m living and help sort out my flat (thank you, G!!). But we wanted to do something special over Christmas which led us to Berenty.

Berenty is a small, private reserve about 3.5 hours from Fort Dauphin, and one of the most famous in all of Madagascar. It’s one of the best places to see lemurs in the country, and where primatologist Alison Jolly studied lemurs for over 50 years. If you’re into lemurs, this is your spot.

Logistics

Transport

You need to organise transport to and from the reserve directly — you can’t just turn up. They can arrange this from Tana, but in Fort Dauphin the Le Dauphin hotel is their sister site and you can arrange things there. You’ll be picked up from the hotel early in the morning with a driver and a guide. The drive out is part of the experience, with a few stops along the way to see the changing landscape. We had a fantastic drive out, you can see some of the pictures below.

Drive to Berenty from Fort Dauphin Drive to Berenty from Fort Dauphin Spiny Forest, Drive to Berenty from Fort Dauphin Chameleon, Drive to Berenty from Fort Dauphin

Food

There is a restaurant at the reserve, but nowhere to buy snacks. The restaurant is a fixed menu — continental breakfast (with or without eggs) in the morning, and three courses (starter, main, dessert) during lunch and dinner. Breakfast is from 6 – 9, lunch from 12-2:30 and dinner 7-10. The food was good but not great — though this lobster on Christmas Eve was quite the treat.

Lobster Dinner Christmas Eve Berenty Reserve

Electricity and Water

The reserve runs on generator power, so there’s electricity from 5am to 9am, 11am to 3pm and 5pm to 10pm. This is generally fine but as it’s the peak of summer, nights without a fan or air con were HOT. There is also running water, flushing toilets, and showers with hot water. (YES, PLEASE!)

Accommodation at Berenty Reserve Grounds at Berenty ReserveAccommodation at Berenty Reserve

Cost

The cost for transport and the guide is €157 each. While we originally thought this was a bit high, after having experienced the level of service, it felt like such an incredible deal. It includes the driver, gas to/from the reserve, a guide who provided us with three (long) walks a day (7-11 am, 3-6 pm, and 7-8 pm), room and board for both driver and guide, and entrance to the reserve and museum.

It’s another €62 each night for a double occupancy room. Meals are 19,000 Ariary each for breakfast and 36,000 Ariary for lunch and dinner, however on special occasions (Christmas Eve), there is a special menu that was €22 each. Water, and most drinks, are 6,000 Ariary.

The experience

Ring-tailed Lemur at Berenty Reserve

You see SO much at Berenty. You’re basically guaranteed to see all the different types of lemurs that live in the reserve, and you can get quite close to them! We also saw chameleons, flying foxes, snakes, so many cool bugs, tortoises, and a crocodile. We saw so many incredible things, which you can see in the photo diaries here and here. Our guide JP was incredible — he was SO knowledgeable about everything and just such a nice person to be around.

Ring-tailed Lemur at Berenty Reserve

In all, if you’re in Southern Madagascar and at all interested in lemurs, Berenty Reserve should be top of your list!

2018 Wrap Up

Wow, another year nearly over! 2018 honestly went by so fast I’m struggling to write this post — my brain does not compute.

There were some pretty big things that happened this year though. For starters, the vast majority of my friends got married! I went to seven weddings this year and there was only one where either Gareth or I weren’t in the wedding party! It was such a wonderful, love filled year and I’m so grateful I was living in London (and able to get to Boston) for everything!

There were also some great trips —

I went to Paris in February to visit Faye and meet Ross, which was so lovely. FAYE I MISS YOU COME TO MADAGASCAR!

Eiffel Tower, Paris Paris, France

Ibiza for a hen do, where we stayed in the nicest villa and went proper clubbing. I haven’t done that since I was 21 and brand new to LA!

Ibiza

Egypt and South Africa, which were huge life highlights I’ll never forget.

jumping rhino, kruger, south africa

Pyramid, Giza, Egypt Sphinx, Giza, Egypt

Greece, easily one of my favourite places on earth.

Boston, to see my fam and watch some of my best friends get married.

Madagascar, where I’ve moved to work on HIV and WASH projects for the next year.

Ring-tailed Lemur at Berenty Reserve

Regarding my 30 before 30, I crossed off four (and a half) items. Go to Egypt, South Africa, Greece, work in the field in Africa, and I’ve started my masters.

This year was big professionally and educationally, and moving to Mada has been pretty big personally as well. Being apart from G after having lived together is a new kind of hard, but it’s also teaching me so much about the world, myself (to be corny), and of how much I’m capable.

Also I’m quite enjoying looking back at wrap ups for 2016 and 2017 and seeing how much has/hasn’t changed. One more year to 30!