Friday, October 25, 2019

Madagascar Day 4 - Amber Mountain

Well, the wind howled all night shaking our cabin.  So, between that and dogs that barked most of the night we did not get out of bed very refreshed in the morning.

Breakfast was very small and only included a crepe, rolls, and some fruit.  We only ate cooked food this entire trip so the fruit went to waste even though we told them not to bring it out.  Needless to say we took advantage of the suitcase and a half of food we brought.  Yup, you read that right.  A suitcase and a half.

We made it to the park entrance at 8AM and met up with our local guide Manoot again.  While Bruno was inside paying, Manoot asked if we wanted to see a mossy gecko.  Heck yes!

So, he leads us over to some branches and asked if we could find it.  Can you?

Let's play

I was able to find it after a bit of searching. It was on the lower end of the left most vertical branch.  Here is a close up.

Mossy Leaf-tailed Gecko (Uroplatus sikorae)
He's hiding in plain sight of course

And here are a few shots of the entrance to the park.

Amber Mountain National Park

Amber Mountain NP Map

Amber Mountain Entrance

As you can see, the forest was pretty thick but we ended up starting out our hike on a dirt road which made things a bit easier to see.

Amber Mountain Hike

It didn't take long before we spotted some cool birds like the Pitta-like Ground Roller (the picture was lousy) and some cool reptiles.

Karen found this Amber Mountain Chameleon (Calumma amber):
Amber Mountain Chameleon

Manoot spent some time digging around in the leaf litter and I knew what he was looking for but I was still shocked at how extremely small and cute this was:

Full Grown Montagne d'Ambre Leaf Chameleon

That is a full grown Montagne d'Ambre Leaf Chameleon (Brookesia tuberculata).  How freaking cool is that!

Later we found another new chameleon the Arthur's Chameleon (Calumma ambreense):
Arthur's Chameleon

Bill saw this little guy crossing the road.  Thank goodness he did since it might have gotten stepped on.  It was only a few inches long.

Antakarana Leaf Chameleon (Brookesia antakarana):
Antakarana Leaf Chameleon

Our guides found another tiny chameleon that they ID'd incorrectly for us.  But, thanks to a very cooperative herpetologist I found online after the trip, I found out that this is another Montagne d'Ambre Leaf Chameleon.  But, it's cool none the less.

Another Montagne d'Ambre Leaf Chameleon

What a great morning for reptiles!

Later on in the hike, we found a completely wild crowned lemur that was a little curious of us at first but then took off:
Crowned Lemur

While Madagascar doesn't have a huge amount of bird species (low 100's I think) they do have some VERY cool looking birds.

Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher:
Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher

Female Cuckoo Roller:
Cuckoo Roller

An Amber Mountain endemic the Amber Mountain Rock Thrush:
Amber Mountain Rock Thrush

We spotted a Northern Blue-nosed Chameleon and in the day time and it was obvious how it got its name:
Norther Blue-nosed Chameleon

Amber Mountain was quite scenic and towards the end of our hike we passed a pretty waterfall.

Amber Mountain Waterfall

While we were looking at the falls, Karen decided it would be a good time to "check the tires".  So, she asks Bruno if it's OK to go in the bush and he says "#1 or #2?".   "#1" was the reply but he still had to ask the local guide.  I guess you aren't supposed to go in the bush in some if the parks.  If true, that's another rule that makes little sense especially since most parks have no restrooms or have no restrooms you would actually want to set foot in.

Anyway, while Karen was gone, the guides found a really colorful Panther Chameleon:

Panther Chameleon

Panther Chameleon

We pretty much had the hike to ourselves except for a few locals that passed us on the road.  One of which was carrying a large stick across his shoulders from which dangled a half dozen chickens.  Since we had all ordered chicken for lunch prior to the hike from a nearby restaurant I joked "there goes lunch" and I was probably right.

At one point when we hit the main trail we were inundated with cell phone wielding tourists so it was hard to get good angles to take pictures and we pretty much gave up and waited for the groups to move on.

Other than that, it was a very pleasant hike and we saw some, wait for it... extremely cool wildlife.

Before leaving the park we went to the picnic area since our guides mentioned that the ring-tailed mongoose can be seen there occasionally.  So, we waited around for a while but nothing showed up except people.  As we were leaving it started to rain a bit.

We went back to the restaurant outside the park for lunch.  We were seated outside in their very nice garden.  Once the food came, so did the entertainment.  First it was a dog or two begging for scraps then it was a cat or two or three or five!  They all seemed to sense that Bill was the "softy" in the group and he obliged by throwing some of his chicken on the ground.

I should have done the same since the chicken was just about inedible. This was the first of many experiences with what they call "chicken" in Madagascar.  It looks like you are getting a thigh and leg combination but when you actually cut into it you realize this is not the chicken you are used to assuming you are used to chicken with actual meat on it.  I called this particular chicken "Griswold Chicken" since it was so dry you had to chew for 5 minutes then use water to wash it down.  I ended up eating very little of it but the fries that came with it got devoured.  Note: Bill, Peggy, and I had all ordered the same chicken.  Karen had ordered the coconut chicken.  However, they served her curry chicken by mistake (luckily it was not spicy) and it was super tasty including the chicken which was all breast meat.

We finished eating around 2PM and I finished chewing sometime after that.  We decided not to go back into the park since the weather was a bit iffy and we were not prepared for rain.  Back at the lodge the winds were howling again.  Karen took the opportunity to ice her foot again.  We didn't have a night walk included in the schedule so we just had to hang around the lodge all afternoon and evening which was quite boring.

I did manage to get a parting photo of my favorite gecko.  They are endemic to the northern part of Madagascar so we would not be seeing these big guys again.

Giant Day Gecko

I had mentioned that the Nature Lodge was a bit quirky.  Besides the "old ball and chain" key, French only menus, and the insistence on ordering dinner hours ahead of time, they also wouldn't serve breakfast early.  Bruno had to really talk them into serving us at 6:30 AM since they didn't want to serve us before 7AM.  I have to think that most people staying there are there to visit the park and see wildlife so why they didn't server earlier or even offer "to go" breakfasts was beyond me.

They also  had "waffle" like towels that were the opposite of soft and really lumpy pillows.  To be fair, we found most of the lodges had flat, firm, lumpy pillows so that must be a Madagascar thing.  Because of that, and the noisy night life at most lodges, we pretty much only survived on 5 to 6 hours sleep the whole trip.

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