Mad about Madagascar

This item appears on page 16 of the March 2022 issue.
The ring-tailed lemur Tobi being carried in a sling. Photo by Nili Olay

“Mad about Madagascar” was the topic of ITN’s last essay contest, and the winning essay (as judged by ITN staff) was that of NILI OLAY of Naples, Florida, who will be sent an ITN mug.

The current topic in the contest is “Captivating Cairo.” If you are an ITN subscriber and have been to Cairo, Egypt, pen an essay, in no more than 300 words, on the topic “Captivating Cairo.” Express the mood of the place, what it felt like to be there, or get across what the local people were like, or describe a meaningful encounter you had, or share any insights you gained into the culture. Paint verbal pictures of things you saw.

Email your essay to or send it to Essay Contest, c/o ITN, 2122 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Include your mailing or billing address. The deadline is July 31, 2022. A prize will be given for the winning essay, which will appear in the March 2022 issue.

Now here is this month’s winning essay.

Madagascar, the land of lemurs, baobab trees and the Tsingy, is unique.

Of the lemurs, the most friendly were the ringtailed lemurs, who were not afraid of people and kept us company at breakfast at Berenty. A waiter shooed them away, but they only moved a few feet and sat in the sun.

Le Domaine d’Ambola, a white-sand-beach resort, had a pet ring-tailed lemur, Tobi, who had been rescued when his parents died. He was very young and playful and had the run of the place. One night, Tobi managed to pry open our bathroom window. He jumped on my husband, Jerry’s, head, woke him up, then jumped on my head. Jerry chased him out. (This is only hearsay because I slept through it all.) At mealtimes, Tobi was “locked up” in a baby sling so that he wouldn’t steal our food.

The indri lemurs, high up in the trees, make a loud, unearthly call, to mark their territory. But my favorite lemur is the white Verreaux’s sifaka. It hops like a kangaroo, only sideways, and then just jumps up into a tree. It’s as if a string is pulling it up the tree.

We stayed in rainforests, deserts, white sandy beaches and the Tsingy. Each was wonderful, but the most memorable was climbing the Grand Tsingy, using carabiners and crawling around the sharp edges. Also memorable were the 1,000-year-old baobab trees.

And then there were the villagers, who were happy to show us their way of life and to sing and dance for us. We learned to make biodegradable spoons from leaves; they do not need to be washed, since they are only used once. We also had the privilege of hearing local singing during a church service. I brought home many wonderful memories of lovely Madagascar.

Nili Olay
Naples, FL