When people talk about Andasibe, it is the 8-square-kilometre patch of mixed primary and secondary forest that makes up Réserve Spéciale d’Analamazaotra that they’re usually referring to. Ranging in altitude from 900m to 1250m, Analamazaotra is your first port of call to see and, hopefully, hear one of the several groups of indris that range across the forest.
Starting from the visitor centre, the main trail passes a set of former fishponds that were swamped by a cyclone and never rebuilt, then splits into several trails that climb into the forest: Circuit Indri 1, which passes through the territory of habituated indris and other lemurs around the sickle-shaped Lac Vert or Green Lake (2km, 2hr); Circuit Indri 2, which continues past Circuit Indri 1 and includes more primary forest with big trees (3.5km, 4hr); Circuit Anivokely, with steeper trails and denser vegetation (2km, 2hr); and Circuit Aventure, which includes trails 1 and 2 and also visits wilder areas (6km, 6hr).
For the best chance of having time on your own with a group of indri, get here as early as possible: the paths can get busy with groups of visitors by 8.30am, especially in high season, and indris feed early, usually settling down for a siesta during the middle hours of the day. You may well hear their wailing, done to mark territories, before seeing the family, though they call much less frequently in the cooler season from July to September. The indri is an unmistakeable lemur, resembling a black and white teddy bear with Mickey Mouse ears and piercing green eyes. While feeding, they can sit or lounge without moving for long periods, but despite having only a stump of a tail (this is the only tailless lemur) they bound very rapidly through the trees when they decide to move, using their long, powerful hind legs to catapult from trunk to trunk, arms outstretched.
As well as indris, you will commonly see diademed sifakas (Propithecus diadema diadema), translocated in 2007 from the forests around the huge Ambatovy nickel and cobalt mine north of Moramanga. Some of them wear radio collars. Almost as bulky as indris, but with long tails, these handsome lemurs (called simpona in Malagasy) have a colour scheme of white, black, silver, gold and chestnut, with black feet, hands and faces, and are content to feed, groom and socialize just a few metres above your head. The reserve’s grey bamboo lemurs (Hapalemur griseus griseus) and brown lemurs (Eulemur fulvus) are both easily seen, but are shyer.
Likely bird sightings in the Andasibe parks area include the red-breasted coua, the blue coua and the Madagascar crested ibis. Chameleons, especially the big Parson’s chameleon (Calumma parsonii), and the diminutive horned pygmy (Brookesia superciliaris) and Thiel’s pygmy (Brookesia thieli) chameleons that move through the leaf litter on the forest floor, are relatively common, but collection for the exotic pet trade has seriously depleted their numbers.