Morondava, Mozambique

You come to Madagascar principally to see two things - Lemurs and Baobabs. Morondava has both Baobabs and Lemurs. We saw both, so it was a good day out

Technical reasons meant that the Discoverer had to anchor a long way from the shore, and it was windy, choppy and a fair swell. Hence the Zodiac journey ashore was, shall we say, wet. We loaded into 4x4s with three punters to a jeep. One saw the trademark sign of corruption with frequent police blocks and checks of the drivers' papers

We stopped at the Baobab avenue both going and returning from the reserve. Getting to the lemurs was a fair hike through the forest. I reckon the rangers go out early in the morning, keep an eye on the tribes of lemurs in the trees, and talk the guides in over the RT. Both the lemurs and the baobabs I found impressive,

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You want lemurs, we saw lemurs in family groups in the trees. There were three groups in different places

Lemurs are mammalian animals of the order primates, divided into 8 families and consisting of 15 genera and around 100 existing species. They are native only to the island of Madagascar. Most existing lemurs are small, have a pointed snout, large eyes, and a long tail. They chiefly live in trees (arboreal), and are active at night (nocturnal).

Lemurs share resemblance with other primates, but evolved independently from monkeys and apes. Due to Madagascar's highly seasonal climate, lemur evolution has produced a level of species diversity rivaling that of any other primate group. Until shortly after humans arrived on the island around 2,000 years ago, there were lemurs as large as a male gorilla. Most species have been discovered or promoted to full species status since the 1990s.

Lemurs range in weight from the 30-gram mouse lemur to the 9-kilogram indri. Lemurs share many common basal primate traits, such as divergent digits on their hands and feet, and nails instead of claws (in most species). However, their brain-to-body size ratio is smaller than that of anthropoid primates. As with all strepsirrhine primates, they have a "wet nose" (rhinarium). Lemurs are generally the most social of the strepsirrhine primates, and communicate more with scents and vocalizations than with visual signals. Lemurs have a relatively low basal metabolic rate, and as a result may exhibit dormancy such as hibernation or torpor. They also have seasonal breeding and female social dominance. Most eat a wide variety of fruits and leaves, while some are specialists. Two species of lemurs may coexist in the same forest due to different diets.

Lemur research during the 18th and 19th centuries focused on taxonomy and specimen collection. Modern studies of lemur ecology and behaviour did not begin in earnest until the 1950s and 1960s. Initially hindered by political issues on Madagascar during the mid-1970s, field studies resumed in the 1980s. Lemurs are important for research because their mix of ancestral characteristics and traits shared with anthropoid primates can yield insights on primate and human evolution.

Many lemur species are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and hunting. Although local traditions generally help protect lemurs and their forests, illegal logging, widespread poverty, and political instability hinder and undermine conservation efforts. Because of these threats and their declining numbers, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers lemurs to be the world's most endangered mammals, noting that as of 2013 up to 90% of all lemur species face extinction within the next 20 to 25 years.

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The Baobab Avenue

The Avenue of the Baobabs, is a prominent group of Grandidier's baobabs (Adansonia grandidieri) lining the dirt road between Morondava and Belon'i Tsiribihina in the Menabe region of western Madagascar. Its striking landscape draws travellers from around the world, making it one of the most visited locations in the region. It has been a centre of local conservation efforts, and was granted temporary protected status in 2007 by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests—a step towards making it Madagascar's first natural monument.

The area is not a national park, and the trees are threatened by further deforestation, effluents from encroaching paddy fields and sugarcane plantations, bushfires, and forest fires. Despite its popularity as a tourist destination, the area has no visitor centre or gate fees, and local residents receive little income from tourism. Conservation International in partnership with Fanamby, a Malagasy non-governmental organization, has launched an ecotourism project aimed at conservation of the area and economic improvement for the local community.

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Baobab Amoureux

Some 7 km to the northwest of the Baobab Avenue are the Baobab Amoureux, which are two baobab trees that have become twisted to each other as they grew

According to legend, these two baobabs came and grew together across the centuries. Baobabs found themselves after an impossible love between a young man and young woman of the nearby village. Both youths already had designated partners and had to marry separately in their respective villages. However, the impossible couple dreamed of a life and child together and asked the help of their god. Both baobabs were born and now live there for eternity as one as the couple always wished. One wonders who made up this rubbish, and when.

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Planting Baobabs

Silversea had bought about 100 baby trees for each of us to plant. Mind you I was not that convinced that the local infrastructure was organised enough to keep the saplings watered until they reached adulthood in many years time

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The Fossa

The fossa is a cat-like, carnivorous mammal endemic to Madagascar. It is a member of the family of carnivorans closely related to the mongoose family.

Its classification has been controversial because its physical traits resemble those of cats, yet other traits suggest a close relationship with viverrids (most civets and their relatives). Its classification, along with that of the other Malagasy carnivores, influenced hypotheses about how many times mammalian carnivores have colonized Madagascar. With genetic studies demonstrating that the fossa and all other Malagasy carnivores are most closely related to each other (forming a clade, recognized as the family Eupleridae), carnivorans are now thought to have colonized the island once, around 18 to 20 million years ago.

The fossa is the largest mammalian carnivore on the island of Madagascar and has been compared to a small cougar. Adults have a head-body length of 70–80 cm and weigh between 5.5 and 8.6 kg, with the males larger than the females. It has semi-retractable claws (meaning it can extend but not retract its claws fully) and flexible ankles that allow it to climb up and down trees head-first, and also support jumping from tree to tree. The fossa is unique within its family for the shape of its genitalia, which share traits with those of cats and hyenas.

The species is widespread, although population densities are usually low. It is found solely in forested habitat, and actively hunts both by day and night. Over 50% of its diet consists of lemurs, the endemic primates found on the island; tenrecs, rodents, lizards, birds, and other animals are also documented as prey. Mating usually occurs in trees on horizontal limbs and can last for several hours. Litters range from one to six pups, which are born blind and toothless. Infants wean after 4.5 months and are independent after a year.

The fossa is listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It is generally feared by the Malagasy people and is often protected by their taboo. The greatest threat to the species is habitat destruction.

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Gecko protecting its egg

Snakes prey on lizard eggs, and this little one had seen a snake nearby. So decided to dig up her eggs, and then rebury them deeper down, hopefully beyond the smell range of the snake

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On to Island of Mozambique

Silver Discoverer from Maputo to Seychelles