{Madagascar}

LOKOBE

National Park

The Réserve Naturelle Intégrale de Lokobé (Lokobé Strict Nature Reserve) is Nosy Be’s last area standing of pristine lowland rainforest. Considering how easy it is to walk up its eastern flanks, accessible on several footpaths, you’d be forgiven for not appreciating that on its western side, which rises vertiginously from the port at Hell-Ville to the highest point on the island (430m), this 7.4 square-kilometre rainforest is almost inaccessible. Lokobé is home to a diverse range of Malagasy fauna and flora, including a particularly fine range of palms, notably an extremely rare endemic species, Dypsis ampasindavae (kindro in Malagasy), of which only thirty trees exist, most of them here.

You’re almost certain to see the dramatic-looking, whiskery-eared black lemur (Eulemur macaco) and the very cute Nosy Be sportive lemur (Lepilemur tymerlachsonorum) on a day walk. Sexually dimorphic black lemurs (only males are black; females are chestnut with white beards) are easily encountered as they forage for fruit through the low canopy, unintentionally dispersing seeds as they go. And sportive lemurs are easily spotted in their customary tree holes, staring curiously at camera-wielding visitors at a convenient height for photography. The minuscule, endemic Nosy Be mouse lemur (Microcebus mamiratra) is another matter: you need to go for an extended after-dark walk, take a good head torch, and listen for high-pitched squeaks.

In the cold-blooded line, you’ll be treated to the brilliant turquoise-green Nosy Be panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) and, if you’re lucky, the arboreal, skink-like, emerald-green zonosaurus lizard (Zonosaurus boettgeri; thought extinct but rediscovered here in the 1990s), as well as countless small species of frogs and geckos.

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