Friday, October 11, 2019

Madagascar Day 19 - Masoala

It was actually a bit chilly in the tent overnight so I was up early and decided to walk the green trail before breakfast but I saw absolutely nothing.

Back at the lodge, the sun was well up and the locals were on their way to work.

Masoala Commute:
Going to Work

I enjoyed some coffee on the sea deck again watching the waves roll in and out.  Very relaxing.
View from the sun deck

Karen gets the gold star today because she spotted a panther chameleon hanging around a tree outside our tent before breakfast.  It was giving us "the eye":

After another delicious breakfast and ample digest time, we decided to stay around the lodge and hike their trails since we had pretty much seen the diurnal mammals available in the national park. Peggy and Bill did go back with Felix to the park on a quest for the helmet vanga though.

So, it was just the two of us and we took the orange trail which is relatively new.  Here is a map of MFL including all the original trails which are across the river from the lodge complex.  They have since added the orange trail in the forest south of the lodge complex and they plan on adding more trails.

The orange trail winds through some nice forested areas and over a few make shift bridges.

Masoala Private Reserve Hike

We ended up seeing a small troop of white-fronted brown lemurs on the way out and on the way back.  We also had a Gold-collared Snake (Liophidium rhodogaster), some decent bird action, and a new mammal; the Lowland Red Forest Rat (Nesomys audeberti).  But, nothing held still for any decent pictures.

The highlight of the hike though was a skink that we found that could be a new species.  I took a quick break to "check the tires" and looked down to see that I was peeing on a skink by mistake.  So, naturally I apologized and swiveled a bit to the right.  Well, the skink followed the stream and actually seemed to like it.  It did a few circles and stuck his tongue out a few times lapping up the moisture.  Wow, I don't think that behavior is known to science. So, until I am proven wrong I am saying this a new species and calling it the kinky skinky (Goldenia showerus).

We were gone for about 2.5 hours but when we got back to our tent our new neighbor was still around.

Panther Chameleon Outside our Tent

Today's lunch was a greek salad followed by fish tacos and was finished with banana cake.  It was all delicious and received an "Alan star" in my notes.  By the way, this is the first "Alan star" restaurant in all of Madagascar.  So, I should share some additional pictures.

The dining area is really nice with a great view of the ocean. It's here that you can get filtered water to refill your bottles (no plastic, YES!), coffee and tea, plus a plethora of numbing liquids including many bottles of home made flavored rum.

Dining Area

Here's a view of the main bar area:
Free Booze!

Notice the "Blue Menu" in the photo above. That's what we had for lunch and is the international option.  For most meals they also had a "Green Menu" for anyone wanting to try genuine Malagasy cuisine.  They were very flexible when it came to meals and many of us did a bit of pick and choosing from both menus.

Here is the rest of the bar with the green menu:
More free BOOZE!!

After lunch we split up again since we decided to walk the trails around the lodge.

So, from 2 to 4PM we walked the blue to the red to the yellow trail and all we saw was some white fronted brown lemurs.  We got a bit closer to this troop and they came to check us out and let us know that this was their territory:

When you have to go...

I wonder if there were any kinky skinkies down below it...

Today was Friday and on Friday the lodge does a genuine malagasy feast.  They provide malagasy sarongs (called lambas) in your room and invite you to wear them to dinner.  Of course we had to do that so we showed up to happy hour in our lambas.  I wrapped one around me and headed to happy hour.  Peggy and Bill were already there so I made myself a strong gin and tonic and sat down opposite Bill with only a short coffee table between us.  After my drink was pretty much drained I asked Bill if he ever saw the movie Basic Instinct.  As soon as he said "Of course", I proceeded to do an exaggerated uncrossing/spreading of my legs to be sure that he got my point, if you know what I mean.

Thankfully for Bill, I actually had put my lamba on OVER my pants but we (OK, just I) still got a good laugh out of it.

Anyway, the lodge goes all out on this traditional meal.  This includes a table covered in leaves that would become both our place mats and plates.  They served rice in a huge mound in the middle of the table and you just pretty much had to drag what you wanted over to your leaf.  In addition, we had an eating utensil that was a cross between a fork and a spoon also made out of leaves.

Unfortunately, I didn't have my phone so I didn't take any pictures of this feast which I now regret.  However, I was able to get permission to post a picture taken by another guest that shows the leaves on the table as well as a few of the "leafy" eating utensils (There is one just next to the plate of tomatoes).

The whole experience was fun but most of us did end up switching to forks.  The food itself was OK but I didn't enjoy it as much as the other food served at the lodge.  However, there were triangular Malagasy empanadas that you can see in the above picture that were delicious.

A very popular drink among the Malagasy is ranovola which is burnt rice tea.  I had some and it is actually a lot better than it sounds.  It is made by burning rice and then adding water to the pot to soak up all that burnt flavor goodness.

After dinner, we did another night hike with Felix.  I haven't mentioned this before but our #1 rare animal to see on this trip was the aye aye.  It's such an interesting and strange lemur.  In any case, of all the places we visited our best chance to see one was here at Masoala.  This is because we are actually allowed to do night walks here unlike in any of the national parks.  There are actually better places than MFL to see them but most involve camping out which we just don't do.

In any case, the aye aye was the unspoken goal of every night walk (Everyone knows you can't talk about a specific target or you will jinx yourself).

We ended up staying out for a couple hours but only the first hour was with Felix.  We had a woolly lemur, sportive lemur, dwarf lemur, and we heard but didn't see a scops owl.  Once Felix left and we headed out on our own we found a very cooperative mouse lemur that actually stayed still for a photo.  The mouse lemur at Masoala has been identified as a separate species but it not yet named.

Masoala Mouse Lemur (Undescribed Species)

What a nice way to end the day.

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