Cairngorm Wildlife Diary for

Allan and Heather's Madagascar trip in 2008

Enjoy this very special diary and please do get in touch if you have any comments to make.

You can click here to email Allan or Heather

or phone 01479 831768 or 07787 323264

or write to
Cairngorm Wildlife, 23 Craigie Avenue, Boat of Garten
Inverness-shire PH24 3BL Scotland

Tues 28th October - Travel To Edinburgh
We woke to a snowy scene, always a two-edged matter when about to leave for warmer climes - delighted to be leaving winter behind for a while but concerned about getting through the Drumochter Pass in time for the plane. In the event the road was clear and after calling at Aviemore Chemists for extra supplies of Tiger Balm - a good move as things turned out - we headed for Edinburgh.

Weds 29th October - Fly To London And Paris And Beyond
At 0300 brother in law Pat drove us to the airport for the prescribed three-hour check in. Pity it didn't open for another hour so it was airport coffee and doze as best we could. SAGA had phoned us the previous day to warn against booking our bags all the way to Madagascar because 11 of the 13 people on the previous group had to manage without their clothes for much of the holiday because Charles de Gaulle airport had swallowed their bags and only slowly regurgitated them. We could only hope there would be enough time between flights to pick our bags off the carrousel and check them in again for the next stage.

The flight from Heathrow was slightly delayed which was a bit worrisome but we met up with some of our fellow group members and we found our way from terminal 2B to 2A together. I think we all felt a little less edgy about the whole business now that we were a group and although the window in which to get to our main flight was shrinking fast and the check in was painfully slow we stayed calm-ish. We finally got to our departure gate five minutes before boarding began.

Paris CdG airport is a crummy place - grubby and in disrepair and the fact that their baggage handling arrangements are in such disarray is no surprise. It makes Heathrow and Gatwick look like palaces.

Our Madagascar flight left half an hour late and the cloud base over Paris was low so we did not see the city sights either coming in or going out. Having centre aisle seats did not help either. It soon got dark and they brought us the usual irksome immigration forms to complete and free drinks to ease the pain.

Thurs 30th October- Arrival In Antananarivo
We managed to grab a little sleep on the plane and arrived at Antananarivo at 0545 local time - half an hour late.

The slow trek through immigration was followed by the gleeful reunion with our baggage. All of us got all our bags so that was a real result and a pat on the back for SAGA for their timely advice. We got to the Carlton Hotel at 0745 and were soon able to shower and get some sleep. I did not sleep long and joined Brent in the bar for a beer, then had a bit of a wander outside. When Heather got up we changed 300 Euros into 664,000 Ariary (approx 2,800 = £1) and this amount almost saw us through to the end of the trip - Heather changed another 50 Euros on the final day. After lunch we went for a local walk, visited a street market and generally got our bearings. Antananarivo feels like other African towns we have seen with its mixture of rich and poor in close proximity. Our five-star hotel stood out like a sore thumb among tumbledown buildings and the press of poorly clad Malagasy people scraping their livings in whatever way they could. There were the usual beggars and persistent children but this behaviour was not as bad as we had experienced in the Gambia.

The Carlton Hotel

The View From Our Window

We had intended to visit the lake opposite the hotel but that would have involved crossing a main road where the drivers seemed to pay scant attention to pedestrians. We contented ourselves with a walk along our own side. It was quite hot out there so a beer and a coke back in the hotel bar cooled us down nicely before dinner. Bed around 2200.

Fri 31st October - A Day In The Capital
Up early at 0600 and away at 0830 for a bird walk. We went to a lake called the lake of birds on privately owned land - the general public are not allowed in here so we were privileged. The place is heaving with birds and among those that we watched were the rare and endangered Madagascar Pond Heron and the slightly rare Madagascar Little Grebe. There is a full bird list at the end of this page.

Bird Lake


Our Group At Bird Lake


We learned the colours of the Madagascar flag are red for power, white for people and green for prosperity. What?

By the way, Tierri Henri was born Madagascan. However, he was a twin and there was a taboo against twins so he was thrown out and adopted by a French couple and the rest is histoire. Madagascar has lots of taboos, many of which are specific to quite small areas so it is not unusual for neighbouring communities to have exactly opposite views on any particular topic.

Back to the Carlton for lunch then it was off to the Botanical Gardens and Zoo. There were lots of lemurs including the crowned, brown fronted, black and white ruffed, common brown, brown, ring tailed, mongoose, blue eyed black, bamboo, eastern grey and red ruffed. A few of us also saw an aye aye in the nocturnal house. Unfortunately Heather missed it.

Heather And A Colourful Friend

The trip finished with a visit to the fossa house where we got good views of the animal by sneeking round the back of its enclosure and peeping through the grill in the gate. I think our guide Mana used his considerable powers of persuasion to facilitate this. As the week progressed we were to benefit hugely from Mana's popularity everywhere he went.

Getting back to the zoo visit, it was lovely to see these animals and they looked well cared for but Heather and I do not enjoy the sight of wild animals cooped up like that.

On the way back to the Carlton we called in at the Supermarket to stock up on pens and paper to dish out to children and villages on our travels. It was the first chance to really get our heads round the value of these notes - 10,000 Ariary is about £3.78. You see the problem.

Back at the bus we had to send a search party out to find Brent who had got separated from the group in the crowded shop. We got back to the Carlton at 1815 for our daily briefing, then dinner and bed at 2200.

Sat 1st November - Travel To Antsirabe
Heather and I were both victim to bad tummies overnight but we coped with the day. Bags outside and breakfast at 0700 and on the road at 0800 for the start of our long journey. We would drive down the centre of the country, round to the east to Ranomafana, back to the centre and down and west across the Isalo plateau to Tulear on the west coast, up to Ifaty then back to Tulear for the flight back to Antananarivo in ten days time. In round figures about 1,000 kilometres by road plus the internal flight. Today's leg would take us to Antsirabe, about half way to the Ranomafana rainforest.

Once we left the city the countryside quickly became an unchanging mix of steep terraced hillside farms and winding rivers with rice paddies occupying all of the flat riverside areas and the banks of some of the larger tributaries.

Typical Terraced Hillsides

We had lots of stops along the way, the first of which was for Brian, one of our two botanists, to try and find a particular succulent (cactus to you).

Children Collecting Firewood For Cooking


The Local Launderette

Zebu Cattle Drawn Carts ...........

.................Were Used Everywhere

Ian, our UK wildlife guide and Mana went with him but they failed to find their plant. There was loo stop at a restaurant (we would be back there later for lunch) then a visit to the aluminium factory for most of the group. I declined on dodgy tummy grounds - I slept in the bus. The others returned with tales of how pots and pans were made using the most rudimentary methods and at risk of severe burns to the workers.

We had a long lunch break at the restaurant and then there was to be a visit to a local family, but they were out. 

At Antsirabe we visited the gem stone workshop, the zebu horn factory and the recycled tin miniature workshop and embroiderorium. Such clever people, making all of these beautiful things by hand and selling them for very small amounts of money.

The preferred form of local transport, apart from walking, was by rickshaw. These colourful vehicles were everywhere although the only ones I saw in use were carrying people who, judging by their dress, were relatively affluent by local standards.

It was at about this point I recognised how well we were being looked after on this trip. There were only eleven in the group and we had five people looking after us - Linda the SAGA Tour Manager, Ian the UK wildlife guide, Mana the local guide, Manu the driver and Anjy his helper. Wonderful.

Sun 2nd November - Travel To Ranomafana Rainforest

Up at 0515, bags out and breakfast 0630 and on the road at 0730. Today we would drive to the rainforest at Ranomafana - the area that Heather and I were most looking forward to. The journey was about 140km mostly through countryside similar to yesterday.

We called in at a roadside village and learned something about village life and the traditional layout of their houses. We took loads of photos which we have promised to print and send to them via Mana.

Roadside Stall

The Local Cinema

The Cludgie

Typical House

There were various other stops - one at a woodcarving workshop (it was shut but the shop was open) one for our picnic and one for Ian to try and flush out a Madagascar snipe. He succeeded but unfortunately the silly bird doubled back and none of us saw it. We had more success with a fluff tail which Ian enticed out with his iPod; neat trick and similar to what Heather and I had done with tawny owls a couple of years ago. The iPod was to be a main feature in the rainforest over the next two days.

We got to Setam Lodge at Ranomafana at 1730, had dinner and the briefing fairly quickly and off to bed around 2100. This kind of regime of early to bed and early to rise was very similar to other trips we have been on and it is slightly surprising how quickly one adapts.

Mon 3rd November - Day In The Rainforest
Up at 0345, breakfast 0500 and away at 0600 - slightly later than planned.

The day started with a bit of a stooshie. The local guides tried to enforce a change of plan without consulting with Linda or Ian. It would have meant doing two very long walks today and two shorter ones tomorrow, which made no sense at all because even the strongest of us would have been exhausted after the first day. Linda stood her ground and we reverted to plan A.

A Walk In

Ranomafana Rainforest

Small Tooth Sportiv Lemur

We spent the morning on a long walk looking for lemurs, birds and anything else that breathed. Heather and I were in the strong group although in the end the other group did only an hour less than we did. We saw five different lemurs, a red rat and several birds. Our local guide Stephan was ill with a headache so Ian gave him a paracetamol. He said it helped but there was little discernable change in his demeanour. There were other groups in the area and their success in finding lemurs seemed to rely quite heavily on the guides knowing where the nocturnal lemurs usually slept and on shouting to each other when a lemur was found.

We got back to the bus at 1130, had lunch at the hotel and slept in the afternoon. Later in the afternoon four of us met to go on a short guided walk in a different part of the forest but as we set off Brent found some red-fronted brown lemurs right in front of the hotel, so that delayed things. Once we got going we saw some more lemurs, a few birds, some frogs and pair of bizarre giraffe necked beetles. Our walk finished at a car park where we met up with everyone else for a walk in the dark down the road looking for chameleons and other night creatures by torchlight.

A Chameleon And A Frog Found During A Night Walk

Back at the hotel at 1930, then dinner and the daily briefing and checklist session. Altogether Heather and I walked for 10 hours today.

Tues 4th November - Another Day In The Rainforest
Heather was up half the night with tummy troubles so she had to miss out on the morning walk. Such a shame. There were three of us on this long walk plus Ian, plus Stephan again. The rest of the party would start a shorter walk later on and we would all meet up in the same place later.

Red Fronted Brown Lemur

Our walk was more successful in finding birds than lemurs and once again the iPod was used extensively to lure small birds into the open. Sometimes it worked, mostly it didn't. We found some lemurs early on but did not linger and then after more than four hours we came across another group of red fronted brown lemurs where we paused for a few minutes so that I could get some photos. Unfortunately by then time was running out and we had to move on. We then found another group of lemurs which we could not afford to stop for at all.

We got back to the bus where the others were waiting right on time. We stopped briefly at a bat cave before heading back to the hotel for lunch. All attempts to photograph the bats failed - it was a question of aim and fire and hope to catch something. My photos were all delete jobs.

The afternoon was at leisure before the final excursion of this phase - a night walk up to the viewpoint in the forest to try to see brown mouse lemurs and possibly the striped civet (fanaloka).

At 1530 the fast group went up to the viewpoint in the hope of getting established before other groups arrived. This we achieved but it availed us nothing because by the time the lemurs came out the other groups of French and other nationalities had arrived. It was all slightly chaotic and although we all got some good views of the tiny lemurs not everyone saw the fanaloka. I was lucky but Heather was not. We would like to have stayed longer but Mana insisted we leave or we would hold everyone else up at the bus. As things turned out we could easily have stayed another twenty minutes and still been back at the car park before the slow group and before the bus arrived, but I suppose Mana was right to play it safe. (sulks)

In the end, seeing rare mammals in the wild is what Heather and I came for and over the last two days we saw between us six different lemurs and two other mammals we had not seen before. That's a result by any standards and we were delighted.

Back at the hotel we had dinner, the briefing and packed ready to leave early tomorrow.

Weds 5th November - Travel To Ranohira, Isalo National Park
Up at 0530, bags and breakfast at 0630 and away at 0730.
We took some photos of the local waterfalls near the hotel and then settled down for an 11 hour journey.

Our Boat of Garten Post Office Bag Was Photographed At Ranomafana For Posterity (Long Story)

There were a few stops along the way, the first being at a town called Fianarantsoa wherewe dealt with a few chores. We refuelled, collected Brian's passport from the taxi office (he'd left it in Tana), bought some postcards, dropped Mana at the market to buy packed lunches for us all and visited the bank for those who needed to change more money. The bank visit took ages in spite of our friends being fast-tracked through the system.


Before leaving town we visited a viewpoint high above the town to take photos and meet some of the local kids. We were urged not to give them money as this place was known to be popular with tourists and so the local young drug and booze addicts sometimes collected here to scrounge money.


Next stop was a decorative paper factory where local people made paper by hand with flower arrangements embedded into each sheet. It was a very slow and labour intensive operation and did not seem to me capable of producing enough paper in a given time to sustain the workers.

Best stop of the day was at a roadside nature reserve where we consumed our packed lunches and then went on a guided walk to find ring tailed lemurs. We sat at tables under a thatched canopy to eat. There was quite a lot of food left over so Mana arranged the local children into an orderly queue and distributed the left-overs.

Mana Shared Out Our Spare Food

Kids The World Over Climb Trees

The local guides then gave us a briefing and led us the two hundred metres into the bushes to find lemurs. And there they were - the classic ring-tailed lemurs with young clinging to the adult females and quite unconcerned at our intrusion into their world. I got some lovely photos.




A word now about the landscape. When we left the Ranomafana rainforest at the start of the day the countryside remained much as it had on the first two legs of our journey - terraced hillsides, winding rivers and rice paddies on every flat area. However, after the lunch stop things began to change; there were progressively less terraces and paddies as the ground rose, eventually becoming a high, arid plateau.

The ground cover, such as it was, comprised rough grass which was grazed by the local zebu cattle. The herdsmen burned this grass to try and encourage new growth but the practise is illegal. Nevertheless they still do it and no one will split to the local police on who struck the first match.

At last we got to our hotel, the Relais e la Reine (the queen's retreat or summer palace - no one was quite sure), at 1830 - a good bit later than we were expected. We went more or less straight into dinner, then it was the briefing and checklist session before bed at 2200.

Thurs 6th November - In Theory A Leisure Day
A couple of activities were laid on today and I took advantage of both rather than just laze around. Heather and I also took ourselves off for a walk in between. I got up at 0515 to join the pre-breakfast bird walk but Heather was still suffering a bit so she stayed in bed. Six of us set off and we were joined by Brent a bit later on - he had been out and about before any of us. We got something like twelve different birds including one that Ian coaxed into sight with his iPod.

After breakfast Heather was feeling much better so we sat by the pool for a while and then set off for a walk into the barren rocky countryside by ourselves.




As always we took the GPS and compass with us so as to be sure of finding our way back to base. We climbed some of the rocky outcrops and then walked to the local rough airstrip which was marked out with lines of stones painted white on a fairly flat piece of savannah. They had also planted some incredibly sharp cactus plants along the edges to keep the zebu cattle off. They certainly deterred me, but only after I had been bloodied by one of them due to my curiosity about the painted stones beside one of the plants. Ouch.

It was very hot under that sun and after walking three kilometres we decided to head back for a shower. We managed to curve our dusty way back across the savannah to the hotel quite easily, thanks to the GPS. One of our friends was not so lucky and got lost for a couple of hours or more on the savannah but then eventually got lucky and found their own outward footprints in the sand and followed them back to base. Another group also became confused among the rocky outcrops on the other side the hotel but eventually figured it out. I could have sold several GPS devices at this point.

It was still only mid morning so there was plenty of time for that shower, do some laundry and have a dip in the pool before lunch. We spent the afternoon reading and recovering as we had been advised to use the leisure day well in preparation for a hard day next day.

The owl walk at 1830 was a great success, but not quite in the way intended. There was a strong wind and the owls stayed out of sight in the bushes. However, there was a spectacular electric storm going on over the savannah and we had fantastic views of it that we would have been denied had we not been out watching owls - or, in this case, not watching owls.

The briefing that night required us all to give great thought to how we should eke out our energies the next day. There was to be a long hard walk in the morning to a natural swimming pool with very little likelihood of seeing wildlife. We would then drive and walk to a campsite where we would eat our packed lunches and then embark on a 700 metre climb to a waterfall and another natural swimming pool and there was a chance of seeing lemurs on the way. Only the fittest of us would be capable of doing the morning walk and the afternoon climb.

Having experienced the draining effect of the heat that morning Heather and I decided to opt out of the hard walk next morning so as not compromise the more attractive prospect of lemurs in the afternoon, especially as there was a hard 700 metre climb involved - that's 2,300 feet.

Fri 7th November - A Walking Day
I awoke with a sore throat but Heather was much improved. Only Jean, Ruth and Brian went on the long morning walk with Ian and Mana. Heather and I did our own thing with a gentle walk through the fantastic rock formations to a small woodland and then out onto the savannah to the south of the hotel, keeping a weather eye on the GPS so as not to get lost. We were out for just under two hours and we felt that was enough considering the afternoon exertions to come. It helped that the sky was a little overcast so the heat was not as bad as the previous day.

The bus collected us at midday and we drove, then walked, to a campsite among the hills where we consumed our packed lunches before the strongest of us set off to confront the long hard 700 metre climb. Two hundred metres along the track movement was spotted among the trees on the opposite side of the valley and sure enough there was a group of Vereaux Sifakas - black and white dancing lemurs to you.

Vereaux's Sifaka - Our Favourite Lemur

The guides took a great deal of trouble to ensure that Heather and I got good views and I was able to get a few very long shot pictures before we continued the climb. To my astonishment we arrived at the waterfall only fifteen minutes later. It seems there had been a misunderstanding - the 700 metres was the distance, not the height, and it would have been within the scope of most of the group after all. Never mind.

Some of the group swam in the pool at the foot of the waterfall before we set off back to the campsite and the walk back to the bus.

We got back to the hotel at 1630 when Mana took Heather, Geoff and Sheila to watch the sunset while Linda, Ian and I drank beer. Ian then had another go at an owl walk before dinner with rather more success than the previous day.

After the dinner and briefing we headed to our rooms to pack and for an early night. There was to be a very early start next day so breakfast was delivered to our rooms before we went to bed, complete with flasks of coffee. I had little confidence that it would still be hot in the morning.

I, on the other hand, was very hot, having developed a full blown cold.

Sat 8th November - Travel To Ifaty
Rotten night - coughing and sneezing. Up at 0530 and away at 0700. Miraculously the coffee was still hot.

Today's journey would take us more or less west to the city of Tulear and then north up the coast to a hotel at Ifaty.

Soon after leaving Isalo we passed through the first of three townships that relied on their existence for the gem-stone trade, particularly sapphires.


We watched prospectors washing stones in the rivers and there were gem-stone traders all along the busy main streets. We were told these are dangerous places with a gun culture, casinos and goodness knows what other dodgy practises. Police were much in evidence and there were a number of road blocks, although it was not easy to take them too seriously as the preferred design of barrier was a length of wood with long nails hammered through from underneath and inverted empty plastic bottles on the nails to make them a bit more visible. There was an air of the Wild West about these places that was at the same time both comical and sinister. We did not stop.

For the next several hours the road crossed Big Country comprising vast vistas of parched grasslands extending to the horizon and beyond in all directions.

There were a few scattered hills and some stunted trees but hardly any human habitation. Between the sapphire towns we came across the very occasional village, each comprising a small gathering of huts made from sticks and grass with chickens pecking the ground and a few zebu grazing on whatever vegetation they could find. The inhabitants that we saw seemed intent only on ferrying water along the road from the nearest water course in ancient metal and plastic jerry cans. Most villages do not have their own spring.

Eventually we reached a forested area and the road was so quiet we were able to crawl along examining the trees for birds and animals. We soon got lucky with a Vereaux Sifaka on its own at the top of a tree right beside the road.

At 0830 we stopped at a Nature Reserve in the dry forest for a two hour walk. We found some more Vereaux Sifakas, a fossa scat full of lemur fur and a nocturnal Hubbards Sportiv Lemur half a sleep in its tree den.

Zombitze National Park


Hubbards Sportiv Lemur

A Fossa Scat Full Of Lemur Fur

Snake Up A Tree

Mana found a medium sized snake which he took back to our bus to scare the driver.

We stopped at the next sapphire town where a kindly restaurant owner let us use his toilets. He showed us his pet boa. Nice.


Two more hours of driving across barren, arid land got us to our next scheduled stop, an arboretum. We enjoyed a superb lunch in their restaurant but only Brian and Ian had any appetite for the planned guided tour. They made do with a shortened version.

We set off again at 1450 for the 2+ hour final leg of today's journey. The closer we got to sea level the hotter it got, then after the town of Tulear, the road ran out and we headed north along a road that had once been tarmac or concrete but that was now virtually non-existent. The surface got progressively rougher and we were forced to drive along the ditch in some places, that being preferable to the road. Sand from the nearby beaches had been blown onto the road and it was impossible to know what lay underneath.

At 1600 we paused by a small lake to look for waders. We found a few, including some of the local villagers who were intent on their daily ablutions.


The Road From Tulear To Ifaty

Further on we got bogged down in the sand and it was all hands to the pumps to get us out. Twice more it was touch and go if we would get through but we did and at 1700 we turned into the drive of the Paradisier - our hotel for the next two nights.

Electrical power here is a scarce commodity and only available after dark. Anyone needing to charge something up had to apply to the hotel reception for assistance. I don't think this bothered any of our party very much and we were more than content just to be here. We enjoyed our welcome drinks and then were led to our chalets for a shower before returning for dinner in the main building. On the way to dinner we became aware that all was not well with one of our party - she was locked in the lavatory in her chalet. Attempts to free her by subtle means all failed and eventually someone's boot applied with full force persuaded the door to budge and the lady was released with her dignity more or less intact.

Dinner was lovely that night. My rough notes from that day do not explain why but that's what they said.

Sun 9th November - Partly At Leisure, But......
Up at 0415, coffee in the hotel at 0430 and away on the bus at 0450. It was a 20 minute drive in the bus to a village then a 3 hour/4.5km walk on sand in the famous spiny forest. The going was quite tough especially before entering and after leaving the Spiny Forest Reserve. Inside the reserve the paths were sheltered and not so deep in sand.

We saw lots of birds, the most special of which (according to Ian) was the long tailed ground roller which is about 12th on the Birdlife International list of best birds. They take into account scarcity, appearance and difficulty to find when compiling the list.


A Walk In The Spiny Forest



Bee Hive


White Browed Owl


We got back to the hotel at 0830 for breakfast and the rest of the day was at leisure. We slept, went to the pool and read books.


After lunch we began sorting out our gear ready for the long journey home, which was not easy due to the confusion that prevailed over our precise schedule. Briefings tended to be for the next 12 hours only and the rest was on a need-to-know basis. This is a fairly new tour and there is a bit of bedding down to be done.

In the early evening we assembled for an evening walk along the access roads to look for the tiny grey mouse brown lemur.


We found some and got a few rather blurred pictures. Dinner was all too much - the food on this trip has been wonderful but huge in quantity. I left before the briefing and Heather stayed to take notes.

Mon 10th November - Fly Back to Antananarivo
A better night. Today's plan was breakfast after 0700, bags at 0900 and leave at 1000. The drive would take 2-3 hours and the flight from Tulear back to Antananarivo about one hour flying time and was due to leave at 1440.

After breakfast the shout went up - Brent had found a snake eating a bird. The snake was a tree boa; history does not record what the bird was.    We left on time and got stuck in the sand twice on the way south.


Each time the locals came and helped us out but at one point a heated argument broke out among them as to who should do the helping. It transpired that each village maintained its sand pit as a nice little earner for tips. It was even suggested that these pits were created by enterprising locals for the very purpose of trapping passing travellers and charging them for rescue. Nice one.

We had lunch on the coach in the Tulear airport car park and then said goodbye to Manu the driver and Anjy his helper. They would drive the coach back up to Antananarivo, taking two days to do so. By the time they got home we would be well on our way back to the UK.

We checked in and waited for our flight to arrive. It was four hours late and when it did show up one of our party was taken ill in the crush at the departure door. He had been poorly for a few days and the heat and the standing around had taken its toll. It was late when we finally got to the Carlton hotel and we were astonished to find a red carpet and airport-style security portal, conveyor belt and x-ray machine in the foyer. Evidently the President of the Chinese Assembly was in town and would be visiting some kind of trade delegation at the hotel - or something like that; it never was made very clear.

We were so late that our planned farewell dinner that night had to be cancelled in favour of grabbing whatever was left at the hotel buffet before bed.

Tues 11th November - Departure Day
Plan today was a free morning, then meet for a farewell lunch, then an afternoon city tour and back to the Carlton to finish packing. We decided to risk the slings and arrows of Charles de Gaulle Airport and book our luggage all the way through to Edinburgh. It was mostly laundry anyway so if it took a few days to find us it would not be a disaster.

Heather finally found a cuddly lemur to take home; she'd been looking for one ever since we got here. It needed a name so a small sub-committee made various suggestions and eventually hit on an amalgam of two ideas that became Ananaringo. Don't ask.

The last supper, as lunch was being termed, was a splendid meal at the Villa Vanille restaurant. The musicians and dancers who were to have played for us last night had kindly switched time and place to entertain us today and they did so brilliantly. Their leader designed and built his own instruments, one of which was a cross between a guitar and a harp - a very clever device.

After lunch it was off to the Kings Palace on one of the twelve hills surrounding the city. He had married 12 girls, one from each of the 12 local tribes to try and unify the country. When he died his daughter-in-law became queen and she was known as the wicked queen because she slaughtered thousands of Christians. After that it was decided the Prime Minister should say who was queen and the one he chose was a good queen and she reigned until 1895. After that I lost the plot.

My notes stop at this point so suffice it to say we got to Edinburgh next day and our luggage made it the day after. Yes, Charles de Gaulle did it again.

A wonderful trip. Madagascar is still a very poor country but tourism is probably benefiting the ordinary people to some extent. With a little effort it is possible to see a wide range of species that can be seen nowhere else so if wildlife is your thing go to Madagascar, but do it soon before any more of it is lost to the advance of civilisation.


These are the birds and animals we saw in the wild:

Lemurs (10)
Reddish grey mouse lemur
Brown mouse lemur
Small tooth sportiv lemur
Ring tailed lemur
Red bellied lemur
Red fronted brown lemur
Golden bamboo lemur
Milne Edwards diademed sifaka
Verreuax's sifaka
Hubbards sportiv lemur

Other Mammals (3)
Fanaloca (striped civet cat)
Commersons leaf-nosed bat
Eastern red forest rat

Birds (113)
Madagascar little grebe
Black-crowned night heron
Common squacco heron
Madagascar pond heron
Cattle egret
Green backed heron
Black egret
Dimorphic egret
Great white egret
Purple heron
Grey heron
White faced whistling duck
Comb duck
Red-billed teal
Hottentot teal
Madagascar cuckoo hawk
Yellow billed kite
Reunion harrier
Henst's goshawk
Madagascar buzzard
Madagascar kestrel
Banded Kestrel
Madagascar Partridge
Helmeted guinea fowl
Subdesert mesite
Madagascar buttonquail
Madagascar flufftail
White throated rail
Common Moorhen
Black winged stilt
Madagascar pratincole
Ringed plover
Kittlitz plover
Three banded plover
Madagascar snipe
Common sandpiper
Curlew sandpiper
Madagascar turtle dove
Namaqua dove
Lesser vasa parrot
Grey headed love bird
Madagascar lesser cuckoo
Red fronted coua
Green capped coua
Blue coua
Madagascar coucal
Torotoroka owl
Rainforest scops owl
White browed owl
Marsh owl
Madagascar nightjar
Madagascar spinetail
African palm swift
Alpine swift
African black swift
Madagascar malachite kingfisher
Madagascar bee eater
Broad billed roller
Pitta like ground roller
Long tailed ground roller
Cuckoo roller
Madagascar hoopoe
Velvet asity
Common sunbird asity
Yellow bellied sunbird asity
Madagascar bush lark
Mascarene martin
Brown throated sand martin
Madagascar wagtail
Ashy cuckoo shrike
Madagascar bulbul
Bensons rock thrush
Madagascar magpie robin
Madagascar brush warbler
Sub desert brush warbler
Rand's warbler
Common newtonia
Madagascar cisticola
Madagascar paradise fly catcher
Common jery
Green jery
Stripe throated jery
Cryptic warbler
Long billed greenbul
Spectacled greenbul
Apperts greenbul
Grey crowned greenbul
Soulmanga sunbird
Long billed green sunbird
Madagascar white eye
Red tailed vanga
Rufus vanga
Hook billed vanga
Pollen vanga
Sickle billed vanga
White headed vanga
Chaberts vanga
Blue vanga
Tylas vanga
Crested drongo
Pied crow
Common myna
Madagascar starling
Nelicourvi weaver
Sakalava weaver
Madagascar red fody
Forest fody
Madagascar mannikin

Lizards (15)
Three eyed lizard
Collared iguanid
Spiny tailed iguanid
Plated lizard
Leaf tailed gecko
Day gecko linneata
Day gecko quadricellata
Day gecko oplurus grandideri
Short horned chameleon
Short nosed chameleon
Nose horned chameleon
Carpet chameleon
Warty chameleon
Oustalets chameleon
O'shaunessys chameleon

Snakes (3)
Liopholidophis lateralis
Mimophis mahfalensis
Acrantophis dumerili

Frogs (2)
Mantidactylus corvus
Ptychedena mascarensis

Selected Invertebrates
Giraffe necked beetle