Given today’s justifiable flak surrounding the keeping of pet lemurs or the existence of lemur “petting zoos” that rely on capturing lemurs from the wild, Madagascar’s “Lemur Island” (officially “Vakona Private Reserve”) near Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is seen by some as controversial. The reserve consists of several different islands (lemurs don’t cross water) criss-crossed with canals, and each island houses a small group of lemurs rescued from pet or captive situations. The animals can’t live on their own in the wild, and their density is too high for the islands without augmenting their food. So tourists help pay the bills.
This reserve also gets a bad rap because some species of lemurs, already quite trusting of humans, have gotten quite aggressive and will jump on visitors to get at bananas and other fruit. Which has made some of them a bit chubby. But while some species are difficult to keep in captivity, all of the lemurs at this attraction are pretty hardy types, and among the more common of Madagascar’s 107-ish species of lemurs – some of which are endangered or threatened.
So on our final trip in Madagascar, we decided to make one more stop at the popular tourist attraction. You can buy tickets at Vakona Forest Lodge, near lemur island in the southern edge of Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. We first visited this place in 2012 with our kids, back when we had no idea we’d end up living in Madagascar for three years (2016-2019). Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to do a full visit of the national park – if you are reading this as travel advice, we strongly encourage you to visit for 2-3 days and see the lemurs in the wild, hear the indri’s call, and do a night walk to see some of the smaller wildlife and nocturnal lemurs. In the meantime, here’s a short clip of what you can expect to see/experience on Lemur Island: