The Top 13 Animals You Want to See in Madagascar

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The Top 13 Animals You Want to See in Madagascar

For wildlife enthusiasts, Madagascar is the Holy Grail. Known as the Eighth Continent for its incredible diversity of flora and fauna, Madagascar is known worldwide as a top nature travel destination. Of course, you’ll find the adorable lemurs you’re hoping to see, but think beyond those little creatures and think chameleons, birds and even insects. When it was cut off from mainland Africa 165 million years ago, Madagascar’s wildlife evolved in a unique way – more than 90 percent are endemic to the island, according to the World Wildlife Federation. Bring your binoculars and make a promise to travel responsibly and ethically (many of the species are facing extinction) and you’ll be warmly welcomed to this top wildlife-watching destination. The top places to look for animals endemic to Madagascar are the Masoala Peninsula, Makira National Park and the island’s three marine national parks. Here are 10 wildlife species to look for when you are visiting Madagascar:
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1. Diademed Sifaka Lemur
There are more than 100 different lemur species in Madagascar! Look for the Diademed Sifaka Lemur, recognizable for their distinctive coloring and long, silky coat, in Analamazaotra National Park. It’s second in size only to the Indri Indri Lemur.
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2. Indri Indri Lemur
Recognizable by his haunting cry each morning, the Indri Indri Lemur is the largest of its kind. It can jump up over 3 feet through the air. It has a distinctive black-and-white coat and is often seen moving through the treetops in a small family group. They’re definitely some of the noisiest lemurs, calling out to other groups through singing and roaring. Look for these sadly endangered species at Andasibe National Park early in the morning.
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3. Ring-Tailed Lemur
You may recognize this guy as King Julien in the Madagascar film series. These easily recognizable furry critters range from gray to rose-brown with gray limbs, heads and necks. Their bellies and faces are white and their noses are black. Their most striking characteristic is their namesake tail, ringed with 13 stripes of black and white. They spend more time on the ground than other lemurs, moving quickly along the forest floor. Look for them in the canyons of Isalo National Park. Looking for a tame lemur? The closest you’ll come is the ring-tailed lemurs of Lemur Island, who might crawl onto your shoulders in search of a snack.
 
P.S. Want to see the bad guy from Madagascar? Head to Kirindy Reserve and try to spot the elusive, puma-like fosa (it’s actually a mongoose).
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4. Aye-Aye
You won’t see the nocturnal aye-aye during the day, so sign up for a night time wildlife-life viewing tour to see these bizarre creatures. It looks like a cross between a bat and a squirrel. Notice its very long middle finger, which it uses to scoop out insects from tree bark.
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5. Parson’s Chameleon
You probably didn’t know that Madagascar hosts almost half the world’s chameleon species. Besides that, almost 60 of these species are found only here. Look carefully for this guy, found particular in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. Look up into the branches of the trees for the best chance of spotting one.
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6. Leaf-Tailed Gecko
This eye-catching gecko is recognized by a long, flat body, triangular head and broad tails. If you see one up close, stare into its marbled eyes and notice the red striations around its pupils – you’ll be mesmerized. Their color varies from tan to green to gray to brown and, as expected, changes to camouflage with the environment. Look for them on the island of Nosy Magabe, in a by in northeastern Madagascar, in Ranomafana national Park or in the rainforest of Madagascar’s eastern coast.
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7. Brookesia Chameleon
The strikingly tiny Brookesia Chameleon can sit on the tip of your finger. They are among the world’s smallest reptiles – one of the species reaches a maximum length of just one inch. Look for them in the leaf droppings along the floor of the rainforest or in Madagascar’s dry deciduous forests – they’re particularly easy to spot at night. Look for it at Montagne d’Ambre National Park – the guides here are particularly good at spotting it.
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Giraffe-Necked Weevil
If you’re curious about insects, look for this weird (and oddly named) insect, distinguishable by its red shell and jointed neck. They are primarily found in Andasibe-Mantadia, Marojejy and Ranomafana parks in the spring.
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9. Lowland Streaked Tenrec
A hodgepodge of various small mammals and rodents – think hedgehog, shrew and mouse – the yellow and black Lowland Streaked Tenrec lies in lowland rainforest in the northern and easter regions of Madagascar. You may see them stamping on the ground with their tiny front paws – biologists believe they are increasing earthworm activity below the surface to make for easier hunting.
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10. Grey-Headed Lovebirds
Whether or not you’re an avid birder, you’ll be charmed by these high-speed birds of Madagascar, a smaller species of parrot. They are the only lovebird species that are not native on the AFrican continent and the smallest of lovebird species. As they are difficult to breed in captivity, your best bet at seeing one is likely to be Madagascar. Look for them near forest edges or even in the suburbs near cultivated land or grasslands.
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11. Humpback Whales
Here’s wildlife you’re not going to find in the tropical rainforests of Madagascar, but instead off its coast. The best places to glimpse breaching humpback whales is from Ile Sainte Marie, Baie d’Antongil, Fort Dauphin, Tuléar or Nosy Be, too. The best time is between July and September.
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12. Sea Turtles
Head to Nosy Tanikely on the western coast of Madagascar to see these giant marine turtles. The five most commonly seen species are green turtle, Hawksbill, loggerhead, Olive Ridley and leatherback. If you snorkel or dive, you can get up even closer to these majestic beasts in their natural habitat.
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13. Comet Moths
These huge moths are something to get excited about (not something we typically say about moths)! They have a wing span of around 8 inches and a tail span of 6 inches. Notice their yellow wings with brown markings and eye-like patterns. Their tail – like a streamer- is eye-catching.

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