Saturday, October 26, 2019

Madagascar Day 3 - To Amber Mountain

We woke up pretty sore the next morning which was to be expected after the previous days hiking.  But, that didn't mean I was looking forward to getting back in the car for a full morning drive which was the plan.  Karen's foot had swollen up over night and it was rather painful to walk on it.  So, unlike me, she was just fine sitting in a car for a while.

The drive back on the "RN Sick" towards Diego Suarez was no better than the first time.  We heard a lot of bell ringing and did end up with more bruises.

Originally, our itinerary called for a stop at the red tsingy which is a different kind of tsingy but we all decided to pass on that since we saw enough tsingy yesterday to last a lifetime and it meant going down a side road for about 18 km of even more bumpy driving.

The drive to our lodge (Nature Lodge) at Amber Mountain was 4 hours and we arrived in time for a later lunch.  Their menus were all in French and they were out of a lot of items but we managed to find some decent chicken stir fry to eat.

The lodge itself is quite picturesque with nice looking grounds:
The Nature Lodge

Nature Lodge Grounds

Here is a view from the outside dining room taken the following morning:
View from the breakfast table

We stayed in cabin #6:
Outside view of our room

Our Room

Notice the two food staples for the trip; water and bananas:
Uncomfortable Sofa

The bathroom

The lodge ending up looking a lot better than it was.  It had many quirks and the first one we discovered was that our room key was attached to a huge round metal ball.  It was the size of a grapefruit and we had to leave it at the front desk every time we left our room since it certainly wouldn't fit into my pocket.

Here is a shot of "the old ball and chain":

We had agreed to meet at 3:45 PM to do some birding around the property and later we would go on a night walk.  But, I was antsy to stretch my legs right after lunch so I wandered the property by myself looking for critters.  Karen stayed back in the room to ice her foot.  The lodge was very good about providing ice for us a couple times.  Anyway,  I found quite a few cool critters.

Giant Day Gecko (Phelsuma grandis):
Giant Day Gecko Eating

I was also proud of myself for finding this Panther Chameleon (Furcifer pardalis).  It was in a bush and pretty well camouflaged:
Panther Chameleon

I spent a while just watching it move since I find them extremely interesting.  The eyes swiveled about independently while it swayed back and forth on the branch slowly moving towards me.

At first, it didn't appear to see me:

Then, it sort of half saw me:

Finally, we made "eyes" contact:

Not far away was another chameleon.  This one was an Oustelet's Chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti) and it was pretty well camouflaged so finding it wasn't easy either.  Look at those cool "hands":

Despite the chameleon's coolness factor, the giant day geckos had extraordinary coloring that I couldn't get enough of:
Giant Day Gecko

Plus, I figured the more time I spent with them the greater the chance that one of them would stand up and say "15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance."

Anyone?  Geico?

As I was wandering the grounds, the wind started to pick up again and was howling by the time 3:45 PM rolled around so our bird watching walk was called off.  We did have to order our dinner in advance again at that time which is a bit of a pain especially when the lodge was out of half of the menu items.  However, we kept our plan for a 6PM night walk which was good.

At around 6PM we headed out of the lodge gates and towards Amber Mountain National Park for our night walk. Unfortunately, for absolutely no good reason, the Malagasy park system won't let you do night walks in any of the national parks.  So, the only option was to do it outside the park on a nearby road. Luckily, we were sheltered from the winds on this road.

Unfortunately, the road was well populated so we had locals walking around us for most of our hour night walk.  But, that didn't stop it from being a very productive walk.

I immediately found some eye shine which ended up belonging to our first mouse lemur.

Amber Mountain Mouse Lemur (Microcebus arnholdi):

It was extremely fun to watch the little guy leap around in the bushes but it just wouldn't stay still for a really good photo.  Seeing these little big eyed creatures almost makes up for striking out on Tarsier in Borneo twice...almost.

A local guide had joined us for this walk and he soon found a really cool Leaf-tailed Gecko (Uroplatus finiavana).
Leaf-tailed Gecko (Uroplatus finiavana)

We ended up seeing 5 different mouse lemurs (all the same species) but most were just eyes bounding away.  However, the last one we saw stayed still for me and I managed to get a decent photo of it:
Amber Mountain Mouse Lemur

We saw lots of chameleons along the road including this sleeping Panther Chameleon:
Sleeping Panther Chameleon

Other chameleon species encountered were the Petter's (Furcifer petteri) and many Northern Blue-nosed (Calumma linotum).

So, while it only lasted about an hour, it was an extremely productive night walk.  I can only imagine how much better it might be in the park away from civilization.  It absolutely killed me that they didn't allow you into the parks for night walks.  What a stupid rule and no one I asked knew why they made it.

You will notice that I am including the scientific names for all mammals and herps we spotted.  That is because there are many species with multiple common names and I went on the trip prepared with a species list by park so that I could talk using scientific names with the guides.  This turned out to be key since I discovered that many of the guides got IDs wrong once in a while much to my chagrin.  But, I was able to correct/confirm IDs with them using my cheat sheet.  They were much better with birds than mammals or herps though.

While there wasn't much time spent looking for wildlife today, the time that was spent was really fun.  Hopefully, Amber Mountain has more critters to reveal for us tomorrow.

We returned to the lodge for a so-so dinner and my two favorite bottles...

What a lifesaver

Drank too many of these

In that order...

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