Many of the fascinating and endemic creatures of Madagascar are nocturnal. Frogs, geckos, chameleons and lemurs all include some species that prefer the cover of darkness. So to see them you have to get out at night too, of course.
For night walks a torch is recommended (we managed fine with our phones). Your guide will carry one too, powerful enough to illuminate the animals. While they look out for interesting wildlife, your focus, and thus your torch, needs to be on the path. Even the easiest walks will, I soon found, have tree roots, stones and other tripping hazards.
So equipped with our torches, please join me on the three different night walks we went on, compiled here for Jo’s Monday Walks.
Andasibe / Mantadia area
Rather than visit the national park here, we were taken to the small rainforest parcel of VOIMMA, which is protected by a local guides association. The path there was good in places, less so elsewhere, with lots of tree roots.
Our guide William found quite a few creatures to show us, using his head torch to illuminate them. We saw a leaf-tailed gecko, Eastern woolly lemur (very hard to photograph), mouse lemur (impossible to photograph!), two tree frogs, a ground frog, and two tenrecs, an animal new to me.
There were also a few insects such as a caterpillar and a stick insect. They weren’t easy to photograph but one of the tree frogs posed particularly beautifully and I managed to shoot a little video of him too (although not to keep the camera steady!)
Here we took a walk in a private park belonging to a rather rundown lodge, Domain de Fontenay. Our guide there, Laurent, told us it had belonged to a German man who divorced his also German wife to marry one of the local women who worked in the hotel. When he died a few years ago she inherited it, but had little idea how to run a hotel, hence its poor condition.
We set off along the lodge’s nature trail. The path followed the side of a hill, surrounded by trees and clumps of bamboo. Our first sighting was a very large spider, a golden web spider.
We saw several chameleons, one of them quite young. Laurent said they were phontus chameleons but I haven’t been able to track that name so I may have misheard. Going down the internet search rabbit hole I’ve concluded they were possibly Amber Mountain chameleons, but I could well be wrong!
Laurent also pointed out a brooksia tuberculata , otherwise known as an Amber Mountain leaf chameleon. It was somewhat larger than the brooksia minima we had seen earlier in the day, but still tiny.
Towards the end we found a boophis frog, also known as a bright-eyed or skeleton frog, and a zebu spider, named for its horns. Zebu are the ubiquitous horned cattle of Madagascar.
Finishing our trip with a relaxing break at the wonderful Eden Lodge (more on that in a later post), we nevertheless wanted to do a bit of exploring, so we signed up for a night walk with the lodge’s guide, whose name I failed to note.
Before setting out on the path our guide took us to look up into one of the palm trees on the beach, where some fruit bats were just waking up.
In the mango trees behind the property we saw a troop of fork-marked lemurs, a nocturnal lemur species. They too had just woken up and were calling to each other and leaping around in the trees. I found it impossible to take any photos of them as they were high up and partly hidden by foliage. But after pointing the camera at a tree for two minutes with video recording running I was able to catch one leaping from one tree to another. But blink and you’ll miss it!
We also saw several scops owls, one of which features in my header. Here’s the other:
Elsewhere we came across land crabs, frogs (which I spotted before the guide!), spiders and a giant snail. From later research I reckon the crabs were Madagascar hairy legged land crabs and the snail a species of African giant land snails. Meanwhile a lot of digging around on the internet leads me to believe that the spider might have been a thunberga greta, a relatively recently (2020) discovered species of huntsman spider, named of course for the Swedish environmental activist. This spider has a unique pattern of dots on its back which matches those on my example. Check out this BBC article and see if you agree with my ID!
Unfortunately our guide wasn’t as knowledgeable as others we’d had. He couldn’t, for instance, tell us the species of the spiders we saw and didn’t share any facts about the various animals. Nevertheless it was an interesting glimpse into the nightlife in this remote part of the country.
It was wonderful during our trip to be able to see so many nocturnal species, even if I couldn’t capture them all on camera. So I’m sharing too with Ju-Lyn’s Happy Place, Happy Space challenge.
I visited Madagascar in October / November 2023