happy world turtle day


Today is “World Turtle Day”. The day actually recognises all species of turtle and tortoise, despite its name (some languages don’t dfferentiate between the two) and in the spirit of love of all things Testudine I thought I would acknowledge the day and share a picture.

I’ve always loved turtles and tortoises; I find them extremely fascinating from an evolutionary/scientific perspective but there’s also just something about them I can’t quite name that makes me want to just be around them.

Turtles have been around for about 220 million years, making them about as old as the oldest known dinosaur. They were around when Earth looked completely different to what it looks like today; when the land was covered in ferns and grass didn’t exist and the continents were joined together as Pangaea. They survived mass extinctions, continental drift and climate change. Pretty cool huh?


Giant Tortoise, Mauritius

Giant Tortoise, Mauritius

chillaxing with lemurs

Well here we are folks, the moment we’ve been waiting for…We’re hanging out with lemurs in Andasibe (and we have been told the proper way to say this is “an-DAS-ee-beh”), about a three hour drive + traffic east of Tana.

We’re staying at the lovely Vakona Forest Lodge which is great; the lodge encompasses several walking tours as well as the very cool Lemur Island, which is a refuge for many different species of lemur.

Nearby is Analamazoatra Reserve, the part of Andasibe-Mantadia NP that is home to the indri-indri, Madagascar’s largest lemur. Here you can see lemurs in the wild.

The National Park itself is a haven for lemurs, which have suffered due to land clearing. The National Park is now a protected area where the lemurs can hopefully thrive again. There are 10 different species in the Analamazoatra Reserve (four diurnal and six nocturnal) and each species lives in groups/families, but they live in harmony with each other as they have slightly different diets and are active at different times.

I think the most amazing part for us, both in Analamazoatra Reserve and over on Lemur Island, was hearing the lemurs call to each other. The indri-indri have an incredible call (similar to a Siamang I guess, if you’ve ever heard one) and the ring-tail lemurs have several, easily distinguishable calls for different situations. Their “alarm” call is amazing: high-pitched from air danger, e.g a hawk, and low-pitched for ground danger, such as a snake. They stand up on their hind legs to make the call and we were blown away by how loud it is for such a small animal!

Just a note: All lemurs we saw are are endemic to Andasibe, with the exception of the ring-tail lemurs, which are endemic to the South of Madagasar only. We were luckily enough to see them because there is a large family on Lemur Island, which is home to Lemurs that have been rescued from various fates.

Ring-tail Lemur
Baby lemurs hitch a ride on mum’s back
Ruffed lemur having a snooze
Bamboo lemur, one of the smallest diurnal lemurs

it’s our nature

As a massive nature lover, I gravitate towards travel experiences that allow me to explore parts of the world where humans are the minority. I’ve been lucky enough to swim in some at some of the world’s best reefs, dive with the great white sharks and view the big five up close, but here’s my list of the top nature travel experiences I’m dying to have. Note: I haven’t included Madagascar in this list because I will be there in four months’ time!

The Fish of Lake Malawi
Lake Malawi is home to over 1000 species of cichlid… a few of which I happen to have in my fish tank at home. To see them in their natural habitat, and to witness the incredible diversity of the lake’s ecosystem, is a major goal of mine. Here’s a bit of information about just how imporant this lake is, especially from an evolutionary standpoint.

Orcas in Alaska or New Zealand
I have a confession to make… since I was a kid, I’ve always been a bit scared of “killer whales. I have no idea where it comes from bt from time to time I’ve even had nightmares about them. That said, they are absolutely beautiful creatures and I would just love to see them in the wild. Where, I don’t know. There are populations of Orcas all over the world. However, I’m thinking either Alaska or southern New Zealand somehwere like Milford Sound – incredible!). It looks like a great spot to see them is in Kaikoura – find out more here.

Northern Lights – Scandinavia
Forgetting the incredible science behind this spectacle, I can’t think of anything more romantic than sitting and watching the Northern Lights. Forget stargazing, I’ll take aurora borealis any day! Visit Norway has some great information about the lights here.

Galapagos Islands
This has always been my number one dream. Charles Darwin is a hero of mine and many hours during my uni days were spent reading his work and I would love to be able to retrace his footsteps. Unfortunately Lonesome George is no longer around but his cousins are there to visit!

Sand Dunes of Sossuvlei, Namibia
Here you will find some of the highest sand dunes in the world, as well as petrified dunes and forests. I love the idea of how remote and inhospitable this place is; where the life cycle of a beautiful sand dune can be seen uninterrupted. There is also a surprising abundance of fauna here which highlights the fascinating survival instincts of many animals.

The Amazon Basin
The Victoria Water Lily. Yep, a water lily. Big deal you might say… but this water lily is massive and one of its leaves can support the weight of a child. Because I live in Adelaide, I’m lucky enough to live close to the beautiful Adelaide Botanic Gardens which has the Victoria Water Lily on display, and I’ve spent lots of time marvelling at them. But to travel through the backwaters of the Amazon in a little boat surrounded by the Victoria Lily… wow!

Pandas in China
China’s endangered Giant Panda population, mainly found in Sichuan Province, are becoming a big drawcard. Unfortunately, the tourism the pandas are bringing in doesn’t seem to be enough to stop things like this happening… so I’d like to head over to see them sooner rather than later.

Dunes of Sossuvlei, Namibia
(photo courtesy of amazingplacesonearth.com)