Lemurs & Our Small-Game Safari

Day 96 – Cruising the Arabian Sea – Find Insignia on CruiseMapper

For many of our fellow passengers, Insignia was a launch pad for overland safaris to see big animals in Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Since Partout spent a week on safari in Tanzania last summer (courtesy of – gratuitous plug! – our fabulous outfitters at Intent on Safari), we skipped the overlands and contented ourselves with smaller fry in East Africa.

Yes, we are talking very, very small fry, including a few prosimian specimens that were wild about Louis and our canine travel companion Milou. Our sharpshooting friend Dee did a great job capturing their first meeting. 

Lemur Lessons

Lemurs may be small fry, but they pack a huge awwwww punch and the scary distinction of being the most endangered group of mammals on earth. For the last 50 million years or so, they have lived in the wild only on Madagascar and French Comoros, two of our most recent stops. (The situation in the Seychelles will bring us to snails in a minute.) 

Taking no chance of missing our one and only shot at seeing the adorable critters in their native habitat, Louis and Doris took a short boat ride from the port at Nosy Be to a lemur sanctuary on the island of Nosy Komba. It was love at first lemur. 

(Anyone familiar with Louis’s relationship with the common house cat is encouraged to marvel at the irony of his head gear in this sequence of photos.)

We prepped for our lemur safari by attending a lemur lecture on the ship where we learned:

– Lemurs are considered “pre-primates” (prosimian) and forerunners of chimps, gorillas and orangutans, among others.

– Lemurs are believed to have floated to Madagascar from Africa’s mainland 60-50 million years ago.

– Until about 500 years ago, Madagascar was home to 120 species of lemurs. Today, there are 30 species left. Sharp-eyed readers will immediately note the decline in their populations began about 10 minutes after the first Europeans set foot on the island.

– One early lemur species was the size of the mountain gorilla. 

– If Louis would welcome a bamboo lemur onto his head, they are certifiably adorable. 

Seychelles Lessons

North of Madagascar some 2,000+ miles, the wildlife scene couldn’t be more different. The 115 islands in the spectacularly scenic Seychelles are naturally animal-free. A small hedgehog-like creature called the tenrec can be found there, but it was introduced by humans. 

The absence of game of any size made for some pretty comical scenes on the excursion Doris took to Vallée de Mai, a nature park and UNESCO World Heritage Site on the island of Praslin. The park’s fame comes from its primeval jungle of endemic coco de mer palms. The coco de mer famously produces the largest seed of any plant in the world, a giant nut that can weigh more than 40 pounds and looks a lot like … well, you decide.

As fascinating as the coco de mer and its nuts are, tourists being tourists armed with iPhones, there is always a thirst for wildlife to take home on the small screen. This calculus produced a near-stampede when our guide announced she had sighted … a snail.

Ditto for a gecko.

Doris considered herself exceptionally lucky to have sighted a crab on the beach to add it to her own wildlife photographic haul.

Meanwhile, Louis was snorkeling without much more luck elsewhere in the archipelago. After two days in murky water with scattered unphotogenic marine life, he felt fortunate to sight a cooperative turtle.

It was easier finding big game on the savannah!

Another Question Answered

Kathryn asked, “Can you discuss how you pick your activities when you reach a port? Does the boat give you free rein to do whatever you want on land and just give you a time to return to the dock?”

Two straightforward questions, two complicated answers!  

The shore options fall under two headings: ship excursions and personal excursions.

The ship excursions are group outings the ship has contracted with local tour companies to provide. The PDF of options for the entire cruise ran to 313 pages, which Louis and Doris spent three weeks poring over and booking months before the ship sailed. 

In any given port, the offerings typically cover a range of interests and activity levels. That’s how Louis ended up snorkeling and Doris ended up photographing a snail. Some guests probably never set foot on land for anything but one of these excursions, which also include “overlands” like the multi-day safaris passengers took from South African ports.   

Other guests never take a single ship excursion. Common alternatives include booking local guides or tours ahead of time, arriving in port and hiring a taxi or guide on the spot for a private tour, and/or walking or riding the ship’s shuttle bus into the local community and wandering on foot. The ship provides minimal support for these forays beyond the shuttle service, which typically goes to a mall or public market. There’s nothing to stop us from going free range, but there’s not much support for it either. We tend to mix things up, taking ship excursions in some ports and foraging out on our own in others. 

But if you’re on your own and don’t make it back to the ship by sail away? You are on your own to catch the ship in another port.

Where’s Snowy?

Trick question! Snowy is in plain sight, but how could we resist showing her nose-to-nose with a ring-tailed lemur friend she made on the beach of Nosy Komba?

Coming Soon!

Back to the Emirates

4 thoughts on “Lemurs & Our Small-Game Safari

  1. Wow! Doris is not exaggerating when she mentions Louis’s fear of house cats. And to see him capped by a lemur is beyond my knowledge of him. Was this cleverly photo-shopped? No. It is not only the actual beloved Louis; it is Louis enjoying a mammal on his head!


  2. I love the photos of Louis and the Lemurs (good title for a children’s book). Also, thanks for the lemur facts. We are traveling to Madagascar in November for the express purpose of communing with lemurs, as well as birding.


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