Places to See Dancing Lemurs
Places to see Dancing Lemurs: One of the best places to see dating lemurs in Madagascar is Berenty reserve in the southwest of the country. The reserve’s most famous residents the Verreaux’s Sifaka can be can be found here. Otherwise known as the dancing lemur because of the way they travel along the ground which is in a distinctive sideways trot. They stand up on their hind legs and spring sideways while their arms waving in the air as they go. This is just their natural way of movement but it one of the most unique ways of getting around I have ever seen.
They live in both tropical and spiny forest in southwestern Madagascar with adults growing up to 45 in length from tip of the head to base of their back and weigh over 3.5kg. The tail and the body are a similar length but in some instances the tail is even longer than the body. They have a lifespan of about 16-20 years and live in family groups of 2-10 individuals.
They have mostly white fur coloured bodies with black faces, head and hands. The tops of their heads are covered in black fur with large green eyes adding to their cute features.
It is possible to get close enough to see them feeding and go about their morning activities in Berenty reserve which is about 90km inland from the coastal city of Fort Dauphin in southern Madagascar. Not an easy place to reach by public transport the journey is no doubt worth it when you see these lemurs.
The way Berenty is laid out is perfectly suited to seeing these lemurs move across the ground because of the wide-open spaces between where they feed in the morning and the forest they return to afterwards, so they must come down from the trees and make their way across to the spiny forest. Couple this with how comfortable these lemurs are with people and getting quite close and seeing this fascinating movement in more detail is relatively easy. It would be next to impossible to find them and get this close in a truly wild environment but like other reserves I have been to in Madagascar the animals have the same size territory that they would have in the wild and are happy which is the most important thing.
As we stood on the wide red path that separates the morning feeding ground of the Sifakas with the spiny forest there was lots going on around us. Feeding was followed by some activity in the trees with the lemurs chasing each other. At first, I thought it had to do with mating season but the guide, Mamy, explained to me that they were having a territorial dispute and this is how they settle things. After a few minutes the chasing stopped and the dispute was over.
At the same time a few families of ring-tailed lemurs passed by as brazen as ever and they had a good look at me as they went. This family had about 20 individuals of different sizes and cruised right on past happy to pause occasionally and take in the action. The Ring-tailed lemurs are much more comfortable on the ground than the Sifakas and spend much more time there depending on their environment. There was also one sifaka sitting on the ground alone and there was no interaction whatsoever between it and the Ring-tailed families because they don’t share the same food sources and so have no territorial problems.
When feeding had finished for the morning the excitement really began because the Sifakas started to cross back into the forest. I had seen videos online of the dancing lemurs but seeing them in the flesh was a different experience altogether. One by one they made a dart for it across the path. Standing on their strong hind legs they propelled themselves sideways towards the spiny forest. At the other side they leapt onto their tree of choice and back through the forest to rest after feeding.
To say it was a special morning watching these lemurs would be an understatement and it was a great reward after some hard travel to get into the area. This was one of the highlights of my time in the country and I would highly recommend making the trip. You won’t be disappointed.