Lemurs & Leeches

Lemurs & Leeches

I went to Madagascar with my family for a week. Amazing experience. Beautiful country. And no, we didn’t meet King Julian of movie fame (the awesomely obnoxious lemur from the animated movie Madagascar).

Feeding lemurs

But we did meet some lemurs up close and personal. And boy, do those creatures like to move it, move it! They can certainly leap around. A few even landed on our shoulders (true story).

Hey there, Kermit

We also encountered another jungle resident. Leeches.

Insect vampires about the size of an inch worm. Except not as cute or cuddly or slow. Oh, and here’s a fun fact: jungle leeches can move FAST. They aren’t inching along, that’s for sure.

I’ll wait for you to make a mental note of that fact.

So there we were – husband, daughter and me – hiking through a national park. Minding our own business. Taking only photos. Leaving only footprints and a banana peel.

My daughter screamed.

A leech had landed on her hand.

Before we could act, react or run in the opposite direction, she scraped her hand against a tree trunk. A few attempts dislodged the little bloodsucker.

Disaster averted. Until…

I casually rubbed my hand against the back of my neck.

You know that moment when you realize something nasty? Like you just stepped in fresh dog poop with your brand new shoes on the way to a wedding. Or the electricity cut before you finished boiling water for your morning tea.

Yeah. That feeling.

My fingers brushed against an inch-length, worm-like creature. The leech took the hint and immediately leaped onto my hand.

Wrong hint.

I yanked my hand forward and began shouting, “Leech! Leech!” The word echoed through the jungle as I flicked my hand and tried to brush the disgusting little insect off me.

Remember that factoid about how speedy those suckers are?

It dodged my efforts and wove in between my fingers faster than my eyes could track. (I’ll pause here to let you shudder in fascinated horror.)

My husband shouted at me to come down the path so the guide could help me. The guide was crashing through the underbrush to try to reach me. My daughter was jumping up and down in shared disgust and terror, hopefully crushing other leeches under her boots.

I began hitting my hand against a tree trunk. No way was I walking down the path. Because I knew the minute I stopped pummeling my hand, the leech was going to sink its little fangs into my skin. And I’d take a bruise over a bite any day.

The guide came into view.

The leech paused in its mad dash around my hand.

I took the opportunity to scrape my hand against the tree. The rough bark must’ve snagged the leech. Or maybe the critter got tired. Don’t know. Don’t care. As long as that sucker was off me, I was good. Traumatized. But good.

I compulsively checked my neck and hairline for any other unwanted guests. I made my daughter and the guide check as well. Then I pulled the hood of my rain jacket over my head and tightened the drawstrings.

We continued to hike. Humidity and heat increased. That jacket stayed on, fully zipped up. No way was I exposing any more of my skin than absolutely necessary.

Apart from that, it was a great trip! Here’s a few more photos for your viewing pleasure.

Tomato Toad
Chameleon on steroids, held by my daughter
Stairs into the jungle
Jungle village

44 Comments on “Lemurs & Leeches

  1. Thanks for the fabulous photos! My son and daughter-in-law and I recently joined a trek through the central Vietnam jungle and Son Doong Cave. Our group was very lighthearted–“Hey, you’re bleeding–looks like a leech just got you.”

  2. The leeches in Thailand are also tiny and quick… and creepy. They actually sell anti-leech socks in the national parks there. Can relate to your experience.

  3. Thank you for sharing! It sounds wonderful and exciting! Just hearing the word leech makes me shudder and want to stay inside! I am traveling for the first time to Nairobi next week. I will think of you and all your wonderful stories and adventures! Dawn

  4. Thank you for sharing about your trip!! The photos are wonderful! So glad your family could enjoy a different country to explore. I’m sure you now have some fodder for future books!! Did you do a full body leech check when you got back? If we walk in the woods in Minnesota it’s always good to do a full body tick check.Did you ever find out about the leeches? Where do they live and how can they be out of water? Do they just drop from trees on their unsuspecting victims? There must be enough moisture in the rainforest for them to survive out of water? Interesting to think about.

    • We did a check. My husband had a leech on his thigh. Yuck. Yes there is a lot of moisture for them to live in, and they do indeed drop from the trees.

  5. My comfort zone includes deer, squirrels, baby foxes, bunnies and the occasional black bear. I would never leave the house if it was surrounded by jungle. You are much braver than I am. I stay in the house until the mosquitoes, ticks, gypsy moths, and inch worms have left the area. Snow is my friend. My adventures are with supernatural creatures in books which I read with a cat on my lap!

  6. Thanks for this post with photos. I was hoping for a shot of the leech. The toad and lizard are awesome. And the lemurs and residents, thanks for sharing, your daughter is lovely, growing up too fast? I’ve been fortunate not to have encountered leeches, tho I worried about them in Florida as a kid. Peace and Joy, Jean

  7. Wonderful pictures! I have had a peach on me and boy they clamp on like you would not believe. My cousin used a lighter to get it to call off. I can not imagine them on me moving fast. I would freak out too. (Well I did to Was a city girl from California, moved to Arkansas. Had gone swimming at a swimming hold got to hear plants by and in the water. Took me along time before going back swimming. ). Thank you for sharing your experience and the pictures.

  8. I used to live in Jackson Hole WY for a number of years and my son & daughter would inner tube down Flat Creek all the way through town then get out at the other end and pick the really big leeches off!

  9. Ewwww. I can almost feel the leech on me right now and my stomach is churning with the thought of it! I’m in Manitoba where mosquitoes are numerous (to say the least) and I know to check for leeches when coming out of certain lakes, but when hiking? Yikes! We’ve just had our first snowfall, up to 70cm in some areas and lots of people without power, tree branches or entire trees down all over the place due to heavy snow on the leaves and branches. It’s Thanksgiving weekend in Canada and the snow is quite early. Hoping it melts and power restored quickly so those turkeys can be roasted for dinner tomorrow.
    Happy Thanksgiving Vered!

  10. Hi, Vered! OMG, how gross….I’m so glad you chose not to share photos of those leeches. Jungles differ so much from country to country. As far as I know we don’t have leeches here. Our rainforest is wet and humid, but seems to own more ground critters than tree critters, except of course for the monkeys. I love lemurs! Our local zoo back in AZ had them, and they were so loving, they’d come flying over to me when I went to feed them. Madagascar sounds awesome. Sadly my touristy days are over, but I can live vicariously through my friends who are still young enough and financially able to drop me a postcard when they’re gone! That Chameleon is HUGE! I had no idea they got that big!
    Thank you for sharing the trip and pics!
    Jenni
    (in Belize)

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