It was strange hearing whale song in the middle of the rainforest.

Or at least that’s what the haunting call of the Indri – Madagascar’s largest lemur – sounded like as I stood in the early morning mists in Andasibe, Madagascar’s busiest and most accessible rainforest. As my guide John and I left the park office, this strange call became the soundtrack to our time here – a constant reminder of the parks most popular and elusive residents calling to each other in the distance.

No sooner had we entered the park than John was peering into pitcher plants and looking under leaves with great enthusiasm (although I warned him about my desire NOT to see anything with 8 legs up close) and it wasn’t long before we had found our first tiny frog. A vibrant orange golden mandella – sitting on a bright green leaf minding his own business. “These frogs can gather in their hundreds sometimes” said John and the noise I heard from my lodge last night was testament to that as they were calling to each other and potential mates from the pond outside my window.

We then saw the first of our lemurs – a troop of common brown lemurs warming themselves in the sun – a pair of tiny eyes peering at me from the protective embrace of the mother and the quiet squeaks and coughs of reassurance between the group. We then saw the diademed sifakas, their orange legs dangling from the branch and later, tiny mouse lemurs peering at us from the hollow of trees.

We carried on through the well-defined paths of the park, thick with vegetation all around whilst butterflies flew in and out of the shards of light coming through the canopy way above. We stopped at a pretty plain looking tree – my guide grinning from ear to ear. I love wildlife, but find it hard to get excited about trees and was preparing myself for a boring monologue about this particular species and how many individual plants are in Andasibe, when John asked – “where is its’ head?” Not sure how to answer this, I stood there looking at the tree with my mouth open until the tiniest movement on the trunk caught my eye and I realised I was looking at a leaf tailed gecko.

As we moved on, the more I looked, the more I saw – a tiny nose-horned chameleon hanging on to a leaf (who fell off when we walked passed so my guide picked him up and put him back), a bright yellow comet moth asleep in the shade and the endemic blue coua calling from the trees.

Just as we were about to leave, John darted off the path into the undergrowth – “quick, but be quiet” – so I waded in, rucksack and me getting tangled in the bushes, whilst he seemed to glide through the forest. “There” he said, pointing up and after extracting myself from the vegetation, I checked around for webs and stepped into the clearing next to him.

Looking up I instantly heard the Indri calling – from some distance away at first – before the one sitting about 10 feet above me replied. This close, the call of the Indri is less haunting, more harrowing, loud enough to be heard from over 3km away but to hear it is to be amazed and I have never heard a sound like it. After enjoying this conversation in the trees, we made our way back to the main path and I left the park as I had begun, with the Indri’s calls ringing in my ears.

Thanks for reading

Chris Johnston

Author: Chris Johnston