Camp of The Month - Sirikoi, Kenya

Camp of The Month – Sirikoi, Kenya


Sirikoi is a privately owned camp, in fact a gem, hidden amongst the fever trees of a stream that drains off the slopes of Mount Kenya. The property directly adjoins Lewa Conservency and all the game dives and walks take place on Lewa.


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The camp is owned and run by Willy and Sue Roberts, whose legendary hospitality and understanding of all things ‘safari’ have created a stunning environment for this lovely tented camp. The permanent tents are on raised decks facing across a treed lawn towards a natural waterhole, and although the camp is fenced (two strands about five feet above the ground allow zebra, rhino, buffalo to the camp) it only keeps elephant and giraffe out!


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Four luxury, tents face out over the lawn. Each is furnished with either a double or twin beds, a Mexican stove for warmth in cold winter months, comfortable chairs and cushions, a thick carpet in the bedroom, and the en suite bathroom and a wardrobe area is at the rear of the tent. A window looks out from the bathroom. Here, twin vanities and a shower, a separate loo and ample room provide enough space and refinement to satisfy every need.


Tables-Lawn Verandah









The main lounge dining area is a short distance away, with a comfortable lounge and gorgeous sitting room and dining room adjoining each other with of course a small service bar too.  The main dining area is out in front on the raised area overlooking the waterhole. This is under a buck sail, strung underneath the fever trees! Absolutely wonderful and most meals are taken here with various wildlife within easy visual reach at all times.


There are another two separate permanent camps here as well, namely

SIRIKOI HOUSE and SIRIKOI COTTAGE.   These thatched camps are only minutes apart by foot, and built out of solid stone and mortar.  Furnished brilliantly with a contemporary colonial style and a degree of panache not associated with safari camps, these are ideal for families or small intimate groups.


The wildlife experiences here are tops!  All of the Big 5 are well represented here, although lions are not always easy to be found as they commonly rest up in thick reed beds and thickets during the day. The conservancy has the highest concentration of Grevy’s zebra left in Africa, Reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, and Beisa oryx are specials that may be seen too. Painted dogs pass through periodically as well.  Only Grant’s gazelle is found here, of the gazelle group, but Lesser kudu, klipspringer, Defassa waterbuck, Plains’ zebra and Coke’s hartebeest are some of the other species found here.


Helicopter flights may be undertaken onto and around Mount Kenya, and into the surrounding plateau gorges like Sekota.  Walks with an armed scout are also good to do.




Some cultural visits may also be taken to the nearby communities which are supported by the camp, and the conservancy too.

Depending on availability, flights in an original bi-plane by Willy Craig may be organized.


The Sirikoi-Lewa association is a familial one and spans decades of association, and are strengthened by marriage too!

The experience here is second to none other in East Africa, and should always be included on a East Africa itinerary.

Camp of The Month – AndBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia

Namibia is a huge land of contrasts. The west coast is Namibias’ only coast, and the Namib Naukluft National Park is essentially to protect the Namib Desert and its unique denizens!

AndBeyond run a unique 5 star lodge on a private concession on the foothills of the Etendeka Mountains, with stark rock escarpments at the east and rust and pink sand dunes on the western edge.









The lodge is sited on the foothill slopes, with all the bedroom units in a semi-circle facing down across the endless gravel plains with the dunes in the far distance.  The main lodge is open, simple and spacious ensuring a smooth air flow at all times through the lounge and dining area. A small gift shop is always open with select local curios and items of interest for sale. The lounge inside is generously furnished with comfortable chairs and settees, and adjoining dining area set out with separate tables and chairs. All of this ensemble faces out across the valley to a distant waterhole which attracts herds of oryx, springbuck and ostrich, with clouds of sandgrouse in the midmorning too!


The sturdy thick-walled cabins are accessed via the paved pathway from the lodge.  10 cabins including a couple of family units are located away from the lodge, cast in a wide semi-circle.

Each has a large queen sized bed, dressing table, settee and lounge area, fully carpeted and air-conditioned too. The en suite bathrooms are spacious, with a shower, vanities and outside shower as well. These are glass walled, but a screening wall ensures complete privacy for guests.

The main dunes are the biggest attraction here, and they are an hours drive away along the main road to the park entrance.


Big-Red Oryx-Dune








The road leads down between the dunes, along the Tsauchab river valley ending up eventually at Sossusvlei itself. Here the main dunes dominate the horizons and ‘Big Daddy’, the tallest dune available to the public stands at 338m/1151feet high!  Early in the morning is the best time to climb a dune here, and it is a mile walk to the base, before starting the long haul up.


Walks can be done through the plains in the cooler parts of the morning and this will uncover an interesting array of creatures, plants and rocks from an era past.  Quad bikes also do a trip through hills and plains to the soft rust-red sand dunes normally where sundowners are taken and the light changes by the minute at the days end.


Oryx, springbuck, ostrich and Black backed jackal are about the only animals commonly seen, but if one is patient phenomenal images present themselves in the early morning with the light on the dunes, and especially if animals are on the dunes as well!


Sossus-Balloon Mountains








Ballooning is another way to see the scale of this dune field, the oldest desert in the world. The early morning light strengthens by the minute, outlining the curvature of the earth above the endless sand sea, and the dunes gradually come to life, like supine sand dragons in the sunlight.


There is no other destination like this in sub-Saharan Africa!

What stops lions from attacking us in an open vehicle?

This is a common question, and in all truth, a good one!  The answer is relatively simple, but requires some understanding of the history of human-wildlife interaction in Africa.

If lions are hunted from a vehicle, they learn to fear and shun them, attacking them if they cannot get away!  Like all animals they learn from experience.



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In all the areas where we take our guests, hunting of lions is no longer carried out.  This means that all national parks, reserves and private reserves that we visit, hunting is no longer carried out. In fact right now, very few areas in Southern Africa or East Africa allow hunting any more, which is a double edged issue, not to be discussed here.


So, where there is no negative association with humans and or the vehicles, the lions have learnt to relax with vehicles near them. However there are definite protocols for guests to observe when on Game Drives when around big cats and dangerous game too.


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  • Remain seated at all times, especially near dangerous animals. **Because: You are already higher than the animal on the ground, and therefore potentially intimidating. By standing up, you exacerbate this advantage and scare the animal. Fear evokes a negative reaction, such as growling, snarling and a possible charge!
  • Do not move around suddenly or excessively ** Because this attracts their attention, and again evokes an unnecessary interest.


Unfortunately, there is another aspect of human-animal interaction which is not commonly regarded, and it relates directly to predators and primates acute sensitivity to visual contact and eyes in general.


Dark glasses, large binoculars and even large camera lenses are regarded as eyes by the cats, being large, dark and shiny.  Lions and leopard take a while to get used to these items and even then lions will blink and look away from constant lens or binocular exposure!


So, as long as one obeys the rules and respects these animals, there is a strong chance that in a lifetime of game viewing big cats there will not be a problem with a vehicle attack!


I do not know of a single attack on a game viewing vehicle by a big cat where guests have caused it, when under the direct supervision of a qualified guide!

Camp of The Month: AndBeyond Lake Manyara, Tanzania

CAMP OF THE MONTH (APRIL 2017): AndBeyond Lake Manyara, Tanzania

Lake Manyara is one of 33 lakes in the Rift Valley system, and the lodge is located at the base of this escarpment in the tall Acacia forests, not far from the lake shore.  The lodge itself consists of a central area on split levels. An open lounge is right under a huge Khaya tree, and under the thatch is another comfortable lounge and bar. Down one level is the dining area with a lovely long solid wood table, where fabulous meals are served. At night the Thick-tailed bushbabies will come down and walk along the upper rails of the lounge, a rare sight indeed.




The 10 tree house suites are located in the forest, scattered around the lodge with enough privacy between each, due to the bush in between. A steep, wide staircase leads up to the lockable front door, and then one steps into a luxury, en-suite bedroom with a view through the forest. The suites are all about 9 to 10 feet off the ground! Fabulous.

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Wildlife viewing is the main incentive to visit here, and as it is the only permanent lodge in the park THIS is the place to stay. Game drives lead one out through the forest onto the lake shore where herds of elephant feed on the grass, as do herds of an unusually coloured wildebeest attract ones’ attention. They are a tan colour, and are the herds are mixed a grey and tan.

Impala, giraffe, buffalo, Defassa waterbuck, klipspringer and of course lion and leopard also live in the forests of the escarpment.  Manyara is famous for the ‘Tree climbing lions’! They do this to escape the biting flies found at ground level where the diminutive DikDik live in pairs in the thickets.

Flamingoes, pelicans and hundreds more species of birds occur here, from the thick evergreen forests near the entrance, the tall Acacia tortilis forests, scrubland and the lake shore shallows and the grasslands. Of note, the Fulleborne’s long claw, a rarity is found here!

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There is an extensive road network and it is worth taking a packed meal with you as the drive distances can be long, so rather spend extra time out before heading home to relax for the remainder of the day.

Cultural visits are undertaken to a nearby community of fishermen, and one may either walk or cycle through the village itself. The guides for this are from the village itself and know everybody and everything about it!

This lodge is a must for visitors en route to either Tarangire or The Crater.









**Certain images courtesy of AndBeyond Lake Manyara

A typical day on safari…

Steam drifts up and away from the mug of tea or hot chocolate in your hands as you sit around the fire, watching the camp cooks lay out breakfast. Deft hands moving plates and stirring porridge, making toast on the coals or offering tea and coffee with big smiles!

Normally, we are woken very early, around 5am in summer, or 5.30am in winter and given 30 minutes to rise, rinse the face, get clothes on and grab day pack with camera, spare batteries and cards, binoculars, sunglasses, cream, lip balm, scarf or buff which might be ‘on’ already, and head out the door. ( With all this stuff, it is easier and smarter to prepare all of this the night before)…ditto your clothes.  To breakfast. If it is still dark, the guides will come and collect you, as you are NOT ALLOWED to walk alone in the dark…lest you disturb an elephant or some other ‘Big & Hairy’ on or near the pathway.

Breakfast in camp


Breakfast is enjoyed, and then you head off with your trusty (State qualified) guide to the open 4WD game viewer, and climb up into the back. Two or three rows of bucket seats may accommodate only six of you, each with a clear ‘window’ view.The guide may then brief everybody on the protocols of game viewing from a vehicle…..for your safety, and the wildlife too, and then settle down to business.







His business is finding spoor…foot prints..which may indicate a predator of interest to track, or some animals that again may reveal action or a chase sometime in the night, and of course just search the bush for any wildlife or birds as he is driving along.  All of it is of interest to him, and he tries to make it interesting to you too. You see the bush through his eyes.

The guides business is to find and describe wildlife seen and interpret behaviours

Wildlife in most areas you visit has achieved some degree of trust in the vehicle and so will frequently stop and stare intently at you all in the vehicle.  This allows you, the visitor to take some great photographs!  Elephant, buffalo, giraffe, lion and other predators are able to be photographed safely and observed quietly from the comfort of the safari vehicle. A huge advantage for most visitors who come to Africa to see wildlife.    In some areas the game will maintain a greater distance between itself and the vehicle, and this in time changes as the game becomes habituated.


One of the protocols of the game drive is that one remains seated at all times, talk quietly, and avoid sudden movements in the vehicle when in close proximity of a large or dangerous animal. Lions and leopard will readily walk past a vehicle full of humans with ‘large’ eyes…..within a few feet in fact, and be completely relaxed about this.

Within the vehicle, still and quiet you are safe…..step out of the vehicle, in close proximity to one of these animals and you cross invisible boundaries which immediately endanger the animal and you! (Slide Cats with vehicle)


Bird calls become real to you as the guide identifies the bird to you, and possibly even why it’s calling. Bird calls often reveal predators concealed in the bush. So do monkeys and baboons. Both of these are eaten by leopard particularly, and their sharp eyes can spot a ‘spot’ literally many hundreds of yards away if the cat is in the open grasslands! Amazing. Animal behaviours are suddenly understood by you as you witness their daily lives, either just interacting or displaying courtship activities.


Different habitats become important, and their reasons for existing too.  After a while, it should become clearer that animals ALL live separate lives, in neighbourhoods like human suburbs, with the killers and the innocent like human society too. Out here, the killers are at least honest!

The vehicle cruises along with everyone in the back searching the bush or staring ahead lost in thought, ready at a moment to look at something the guide may have seen.  Tea is taken sometime midmorning in a suitable shady spot, before wending slowly back to camp for a brunch.

Morning tea in the bush











Brunch is normally a sumptuous affair with a breakfast menu and a lunch (hot or cold) menu being available.  Sometimes it’s a complete surprise in the bush, under a shady tree somewhere.  Tables may be joined and communal or separated according to guests wishes.

Bush brunch somewhere in the bush










After brunch at midday, it is ‘free’ time. Time to exercise, swim, read, write cards and journals or sleep! Most people sleep, despite their best intentions.


Afternoon Tea is served at about 3 or 4pm, and then game drive process is repeated, but normally in a different direction unless there are lions on a kill, or a leopard in a tree with a kill hanging over a branch.

Afternoon tea


You are safe in the vehicle...just obey the rules!















The afternoon drive culminates with sundowners….a popular tradition that involves stopping at a suitably scenic spot in the bush for cocktails.  The guide will commonly pull up the built-in table on the front of the vehicle, spread a small table-cloth and place bottles of various spirits, ice and lemon slices…on view. Snacks of various tastes from biltong to nuts, canapés to chicken satays and similar are arrayed for your enjoyment….dear, oh dear.


Sundowners can be most memorable









After sunset and much fun, we wind our way back to camp, sometimes by the light of a spotlight searching for early nocturnal wildlife like porcupines, hyenas or even white tailed mongoose and bushbabies!

A warm welcome to The Silo Hotel

This fabulous addition to The Royal Portfolio is the latest gem in Liz Biden’s crown. She and her husband Phil together with their team have converted an old grain silo on the Cape Town docks on the V&A Waterfront, into one of South Africa’s most prestigious and innovated hotels to ever open for business!
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The Silo is without equal in the world, and is set to become THE iconic hotel of South Africa. The original building was the main grain silo for South Africa, built in 1924, and the hotel occupies what was the elevator or silo’s themselves, whilst the lower section is an art museum, originally the mechanical and bagging section of old. The old railway tracks are still embedded in the floor now.
The entrance to the hotel is a high-ceilinged off-the-street forum, where one takes a dedicated lift up to the sixth floor to Reception.
The architects very cleverly incorporated the original steel girders into the functional décor of the 28 rooms, and they lend a totally authentic and historical air to an already glamorous décor.
The Penthouse is on the 10th floor, and is the largest of the ‘suites’, covering an area of 187 sq. meters/ 2012 sq. ft. This suite commands a 360 degree view of Cape Town taking in Table Mountain, all the way around to the Atlantic and Robben Island. Certainly unique!
The two Royal Suites are next, followed by Family suites (4), Delux Superior (7), Superior (6), Luxury (4) and finally four Silo rooms.
The top floor boasts a rooftop swimming pool, bar-restaurant and a Terrace, all serviced impeccably in true Royal Portfolio style.
The Silo is central to all of Cape Towns attractions, and therefore the ideal base from which to holiday, whatever the plan for the day.

Floating Luxury on Lake Kariba

On one of my recent trips with guests, we spent a happy few hours aboard a very special ship as we traversed the width of lake Kariba.  The ‘MATUSADONA’ is a luxury houseboat located on Zimbabwe’s largest water body, the famous Lake Kariba. 400km long and 40km wide at it’s widest point, with a lakeshore that nudges the Matusadona National Park, and other wild areas along most of its’ southern edge. Game is visible for much of the time whilst sailing past the extensive grassy plains of the shore.


The Matusadona

Dining area on the middle deck.







Coyly described as an ‘intimate luxury lodge on water’, this beautiful ship is an ideal getaway for high-end families, friends or a romantic interlude for two. All boats are classed as ‘she’….she is 95 sleek feet long, with three decks and takes six guests in three impeccably appointed suites, on the lower deck. A single room is reserved for the Voyage Manager.  The crew comprises a qualified captain of many years standing with the ship, and five trusted ‘hands’, excluding the chef who runs his galley with a magic flair for producing outstanding meals for the lucky few! The topmost deck has a bar which serves two open lounges, and the Jacuzzi with unparalleled views of the lake….or stars!

The Bar on the Top DeckA view from the top deck!







The ship interior was finished in local hardwoods and leather, trimmed with Egyptian cotton and the owners bestowed love and care in the whole construction and it shows!  The middle deck is superbly appointed with spacious settees and comfortable chairs for those ‘lazy afternoons’ when its cooler inside. A discrete office is available with wifi, and a desktop for those who cannot bear to be away from it all, and of course cell phone signal is available on the lake. The galley is located forward, and guests are invited at the chefs beckoning to see what is being prepared for meals.  There is a dining area here too, complete with coffee station and an al fresco breakfast table overlooking the stern.

The downstairs finishes

One of 3 Luxury Suites








Named ‘The Matusadona’ after the national park, she cruises the lake on private charters only, delighting guests with wildlife viewing boat cruises in smaller motor boats along the lakeshore to see herds of elephant, buffalo, zebra, impala and other antelope. Fishing is one of the most popular past times out here too.  Hippo are numerous and pods lurk in groups amongst the stark trunks of trees long dead, but which today create breath-taking scenes in the sunsets.

Lion and hyena are frequently seen along the open shores where the antelope herds live, and there is little to match the sounds of the hunt, against a starlit sky, whilst sipping one’s favourite cocktail in the Jacuzzi!

When we reached our destination it was with a degree of regret that we disembarked casting fond gazes as our palace on the waves slid gently away and became a reflection against the mountains of the Matusadona!

Camp of The Month: Sarara, Kenya



Sarara is a community-based camp, owned by the Nyamunyak Community Trust, way up in northern Kenya, in the Mathews mountain range of Samburuland.

The camp is located at the foot of a granite hill, with all the ‘tents’ facing north towards the horizon over endless Acacia treetops and rounded granite hills.

Each tent is en suite, with spacious and hand-crafted interiors and outside showers as an option.








The public area is centrally located, overlooking the waterhole at the base of the slope, below the infinity pool built into the rock face with stupendous views over the woodlands. The dining room is friendly and enclosed by a low rock wall, beyond which the birds are fed at meal times to keep the hornbills, sparrows and weavers off the lunch table!

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The walks are accompanied by local Samburu guides whose knowledge of the area is born of a lifetime in the region. Activities are always exciting with elephant bulls, Reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, dikdik, and impala to name a few being seen here.

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The main attraction apart from the camp and walking in the hills is watching the tribesmen water their livestock from wells they dig in the dry river bed.  These are known as the ‘Singing Wells’. Read more…

Babakota, the Indri. The worlds’ largest lemur.

The forest was quiet as we walked quietly through the light rain, the drips on the pathway forming little puddles of liquid crystal reflecting the trees around us. The Birds’Nest ferns clung to the straight boles that towered up and away into the green layers above us. We admired a row of bracket fungi that had grown progressively along the angled tree trunk across the path.  A tree frog squeaked anonymously to our left……impossible to trace. We crossed a stream on a wooden bridge, the clear water flow steady and shallow.   Some sounds emanated briefly from the canopy on our right and the guide stood still for a moment his eyes scanning high in the trees. He pointed. We shuffled around trying to get a better view….and a trio of Black and White ruffed lemurs came into sight high in the uppermost branches of a fig.   They swung under the branches of a fig, carefully plucking the ripe fruit with a strong hand, whilst gripping the branches with their feet and other hand. Clearly no fear of heights! Their golden eyes peered down at us briefly, and finding nothing alarming ignored us and continued feeding. They were lovely, and their thick woolly white and black coats were speckled delicately with the rain. We watched them for about 15 minutes before reluctantly moving on.

Our first Black & White ruffed lemur.

Our first Black & White ruffed lemur.





A Cuckoo roller was flying high over the forest, the ringing song so distinctive in the morning air.  Then, far away to our left a series of loud cries echo’ed through the morning. These were Indri making their morning territorial calls.  Their were definitely two different tones to the calls….the high pitched one was the female, the guide told us.

We took a right fork in the path, away from the steep ridges, along the stream, and eventually we crossed over it. I glimpsed a pair of Meller’s ducks shyly slipping away from beneath the shelter of a tree that had fallen across the river, providing a dark hide-away.  They sped away and were lost to my binoculars.




The guide motioned to us to wait a moment for him as he wanted to sprint up a nearby ridge and check a different section. The three of us stood quietly, each of us watching and listening. For what we weren’t sure, but it seemed the right thing to do……..a cathedral air, for sure.  The next moment, from about thirty yards  behind us, a series of ear-splitting whoops and and shrill cries exploded in the forest!  We stood stock still for a moment, and then I grabbed Steve and Camille and rushed them up the steep pathway towards the sound.  I bounded up the hill, and looked back to see how far behind my guests were….”Come on, come on,” I urged them. The indri family consisted of a dominant male, and female, and an assortment of sub-adults and a baby still clinging to its’ mothers thick fur.

The Indri is the most vocal and largest of all lemurs.

The Indri is the most vocal and largest of all lemurs.


Indri like most large lemurs jump from upright branch to upright branch.

Indri like most large lemurs jump from upright branch to upright branch.







It was difficult to get a clear sight of them as the glare of the bright sky made silhouettes out of their teddy-bear bodies and ears. They were quite relaxed with us, so far below them, and periodically one or two would bound effortlessly from up-right branch to branch, and pluck some leaves from a leafy bough to eat. I waited for them to call again, in answer to other groups calling in the distance, but they wouldn’t.  We stumbled around on a steep slope, ankles bound by the forest floor flora, trying the get better views of them. Eventually we left them and carried on, the cries of distant Indri still wafting through the cloud cushioned canopies far away from us.

We did find another group towards the end of the morning, and there was another two groups of guests already competing for space below the family because there was a tiny baby clutching its mother across her belly, and of course it was a big attraction.

A playful trio of sifaka.

A playful trio of sifaka.

We moved on and watched a small group of Diademed sifaka instead. One of them was collared and they sat feeding quietly, just a short distance above us. Then after a few minutes of stuffing leaves into their mouths, it was playtime and they jumped around chasing each other, then settled on a branch where it was time to groom each other. Note the one individual swinging calmly by his hands, feet crossed comfortably!

Mantadia Andasibe Reserves….after running the gauntlet on the main road.

We drove out of town the next morning. The reserves lay about five hours further north-east from Tana, and Vakona Lodge was our destination that day. The traffic was horrendous, and fortunately our driver, Tanzum was a mind-reader (being able to anticipate the on-coming drivers’  intentions) and we made it safely. We stopped at a reptile park along the way, and were able to see and photograph some of the rarer and rarely seen animals and reptiles of the forests.

Male Panther chameleons change into brilliant colors during the breeding season. This is demure by comparison.

Male Panther chameleons change into brilliant colors during the breeding season. This is demure by comparison.




This unique little animal, the Spiny tenrec is confined to Madagascar, foraging on the forest floor at night.

This unique little animal, the Spiny tenrec is confined to Madagascar, foraging on the forest floor at night.





The first Coquerel’s sifaka’s also appeared here, and a host of chameleons, geckos and even snakes. It was an advantage to see these here as in all the reserves it will be hard to find these creatures, so at least we knew more clearly what to look for.  The tenrecs, geckos and Langaha snake in particular were really interesting to me.


Vakona Lodge is located far in the forests near the reserves.

Vakona Lodge is located far in the forests near the reserves.

The lodge was high in the forest belt, and prettily located in a landscaped garden only 20 minutes from the reserves. We went on a night walk and located an Eastern woolly lemur, Goodman’s mouse lemur and a small frog. I was singularly concerned at the lack of life in the forest!   The next morning we walked with our local guide into Mantadia forest reserve, with a tad more success!  Black & white ruffed lemurs were feeding on figs at the very top of a forest fig, high above us, their smart thick-furred coats at contrast with the greenery. Diademed sifakas showed themselves as well. A blue coua briefly flashed his presence at us, a writhing centipede in its’ bill.



A beautiful diademed sifaka.

A beautiful diademed sifaka.

The Birds’ Nests ferns and Pandannis were huge in their presence, each creating safe hiding places for a number of small creatures. Moss and primitive plants coated many of the tree boles, and their massive buttress roots formed sheltered areas big enough even for me to hide behind.


Coquerels' sifaka is a strikingly handsome animal, and we found them in many forests.

Coquerels’ sifaka is a strikingly handsome animal, and we found them in many forests.

A small picnic lunch next to a small body of water in the forest, surrounded by dark, shiny green millepedes in their legions quietly going about eating plant detritus….and then we returned to the lodge.