Madagascar is an island off the coast of Africa. It is host to a variety of unique wildlife. One of the most notable examples of Madagascar's distinctive fauna is the lemur, which is found nowhere else in the world. 

Ring-tailed LemurCredit: Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr.com

 During my trip to Madagascar, I had the pleasure of experiencing these creatures first-hand in the wild. They sat up in their trees staring at us as we gawked up at them from the narrow footpaths in the forest. Seeing (and sometimes hearing) them in the wild was an amazing experience, but not nearly as magical as the up-close and personal experience we had at Vakona. 

Vakona Forest Lodge is a hotel in rural Madagascar, about 5 miles from Andasibe national reserve. I personally didn't stay at the hotel, but we were still able to visit their Lemur Island. Lemur Island is home to several species of lemurs, including ruffed lemurs, common brown lemurs, bamboo lemurs, and on a separate island, ring-tailed lemurs. The lemurs on the island are really friendly, especially when the guide starts handing out bananas. 

Early one morning, some of the other students in my group woke me for an impromptu trip to Lemur Island. It was a 5 mile hike over rickety bridges and narrow footpaths to get to the resort, though it is also possible to drive there. Once we got there, we hired several canoes to take us to the island. 

Lemur Island is a network of large wooded islands surrounded by marsh and brook. The canoe winds its way through the tangle of streams and comes to a stop at one of the several banks. We disembark and step into the knot of trees where we are greeted by over a dozen lemurs climbing down to meet us. 

My buddy the lemur

Here's a photo of me with one of the brown lemurs. 

Our guide distributes several bunches of bananas, and they are gone within minutes. The lemurs hop from one set of shoulders to another, occassionally landing on someone's head, grabbing for the sweet treats. The smaller lemurs hang back and wait for the frenzy to subside before they get their turn. 

After visiting two of the islands, we return the canoes and make the 5 mile trek back to our residence in Andasibe.

Overall, it was a very intimate and once-in-a-lifetime experience, and was the highlight of a very insightful visit. If Madagascar is on your list of places to visit, be sure to add Vakona's Lemur Island to your itinerary.