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The Wildlife of Madagascar: the Most Amazing Animal Species to Encounter

25 August 2021

Exploring the national parks, nature reserves, forests, and rivers of Madagascar, you have an amazing chance to encounter a wide range of endemic mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish. From 100+ lemur species to 61 reptile species, this isolated island has everything to impress even the most experienced traveler. 

To help you navigate through this diverse wildlife and understand what kinds of animals live in Madagascar, we have compiled a detailed list of species you can encounter while exploring this island. You will also find some tips on how to meet as many animal species as possible and recommendations on what tour to choose to spot certain animals in Madagascar

Some Tips on Wildlife Watching in Madagascar 

  • If you are new to wildlife watching and just want to meet a wide range of animals in Madagascar, we suggest you explore the island’s southern part. Visit such national parks as Zombitse-Vohibasia with its endemic bird species, Ranomafana to spot numerous birds and reptiles, and Anja Community Reserve, home to adorable ring-tailed lemurs. 
  • There are 33 endangered lemur species in Madagascar, making them the most endangered mammals in the world. Try to avoid getting too close to animals while exploring national parks as it can cause them unnecessary stress. Watching wildlife from a distance is a great way to observe animals in their natural habitat without disturbing them.

  • Thanks to the tropical climate in Madagascar with the wet season between November and April and the dry season from May to October, you can visit the island year-round. Though if you want to spot magnificent humpback whales, we recommend you plan your journey from early July to mid-September. 
  • Madagascar is home to such nocturnal creatures as dwarf lemurs, tenrecs, giant Comet moths, and Malagasy civet. Don’t forget to equip yourself with a pair of night vision binoculars or cover your flashlight with red cellophane. Many nocturnal animals can’t perceive red light so that you can observe them with minimal disturbance. 

The Most Iconic Animal Species to Encounter in Madagascar 

  • Lemurs

No trip to Madagascar is complete without seeing lemurs as it’s the only place on the planet where you can admire these cute creatures. There are about 111 lemur species in Madagascar, 33 of which are critically endangered. A devastating combination of climate change and deforestation leads to the loss of biodiversity and habitat destruction. Though thanks to the lack of predators on the island, lemurs have good conditions for breeding and reproducing. 

Exploring the island, you can encounter numerous lemurs, from indris that can grow up to 120 centimeters (3.9 feet) to tiny mouse lemurs with body and tail lengths of 27 centimeters (10.6 inches). You can also meet the aye-aye who looks like a weird mix of a bat and a squirrel, extremely sociable ring-tailed lemurs and dancing Verreaux’s sifakas. 

We recommend you take a four-day Madagascar Lemur Fever tour to explore the island’s wildlife to the fullest. You will visit the Pereyras Reserve to observe reptiles and amphibians and stop by the Mitsinjo Reserve to meet leaf-tailed geckos, chameleons, and nocturnal mouse lemurs. Your experienced guide will also take you to the Mantadia National Park, home to a wide range of huge indri lemurs. 

These mind-blowing adventures will be completed with a visit to Andasibe so that you can meet the locals, immerse yourself in the diverse Malagasy culture, and get some souvenirs. During this tour, you will enjoy your stay at the expertly selected hotels, so this experience will be comfortable and stress-free for you. 

  • Fossas

The fossa is one of the few predators of Madagascar’s fauna. This carnivore looks like a combination of a small dog, a huge cat, and a mongoose. Thanks to their long tails, fossas can grow up to 1.8 meters (6 feet) in length! Usually, fossas hunt for lemurs, fish, and birds or wander around trash cans looking for scraps, so be careful while organizing a picnic in Madagascar. They are solitary animals that hunt alone, so you are less likely to encounter a couple of fossas searching for the prey together in the forest. 

These creatures prefer to live in forested areas, making it easier to find them at such places as Kirindy Reserve, located west of Morondava. The period from August to December can be a perfect time to observe fossas as during the dry season lots of little pumas can show up to find water and food. They often visit camps so it’s possible to experience a close-up encounter with these graceful predators. 

Besides fossas, this forest reserve is home to 90 butterfly species, endangered birds, 50 reptile species, and numerous amphibians. If you want to spend more time here and encounter nocturnal wildlife, you can rent simple wooden bungalows equipped with showers and toilets. If you don’t have a lot of free time, take a 2.5-hour tour to explore the Kirindy Reserve, meet the locals, and take photos of the gorgeous Madagascar wildlife

  • Chameleons

There are 100+ chameleon species in Madagascar, making the secluded island a fantastic place to observe these multi-colored creatures. You can spot a huge variety of such reptiles in Madagascar, from the Parson’s chameleon that can grow up to 60 centimeters (23.6 inches) and weighs about 700 grams (1.5 pounds) to the brown leaf chameleon that is about 35 millimeters (1.4 inches) in length. 

Chameleons can shoot out their tongues much further than their body length to capture the prey. It’s also believed that chameleons change their color to conceal themselves, but they actually do it to communicate and express their emotions. For a better experience, we suggest you take a night walk when chameleons become almost white in color. 

To make your Malagasy adventures unforgettable, you can take a nine-day tour to explore both the tropical coast and the wildlife in Madagascar. You will explore the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, discover the Anjajavy peninsula, enjoy exciting snorkeling sessions, and relax at the comfortable Anjajavy Lodge. Vibrant chameleons, friendly lemurs, and a high diversity of marine life will delight you in no time! 

  • Humpback whales

If you are visiting Madagascar from early July to mid-September, you just can’t miss out on a chance to observe beautiful humpback whales! During this season, whales migrate from Antarctica looking for the warm waters for breeding and calving. These amazing creatures are known for their captivating songs, range in length from 12 meters (39 feet) to 16 meters (52 feet), and weigh 25-30 tons (50 000-60 000 pounds).   

Madagascar’s eastern shore is the perfect area to spot humpback whales. These gentle giants with black backs and white bellies jumping out of the water with a huge splash won’t let you indifferent! You can see them from the shoreline, but for a close-up encounter, it’s better to take a boat tour on Ile Sainte-Marie.

  • Green sea turtles

Madagascar is home to numerous sea turtles with recognizable heart-shaped shells. You can find them gliding along the Indian Ocean’s azure waters or wandering around the beaches. What’s more, every female turtle travels to her birthplace beach to lay eggs, even if it’s located dozens of miles away from her. A typical green sea turtle is about 1.2 meters (4 feet) in length and weighs 135-225 kilograms (300-350 pounds). 

If you want to discover the illustrious beauty of marine life, go for a mind-blowing diving session with Scuba Nosy Be. There are a lot of fancy restaurants and comfortable hotels nearby this diving center so that you can spend the entire day there. You will be accompanied by an experienced captain and skipper to assist you if necessary. 

Apart from green sea turtles, you will encounter leopard sharks, jackfish, manta rays, nurse sharks, and leaf scorpionfish. If you are new to diving and can’t even imagine the process of breathing underwater, no worries, the divemasters will tell you everything about the safety measures, set up your equipment, and teach you basic techniques to ensure you have a great experience! 

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Traveling with Rangar, you have a wonderful chance to discover the world’s most coveted travel destinations and encounter unique wildlife. Just choose the perfect location you want to explore and embark on your unforgettable journey aboard a luxurious superyacht. The world is your oyster!

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