Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Madagascar Day 7 - Andasibe

The plan today was to leave the lodge at 6:30AM and spend the day in Mantadia National Park.  However, if you haven't figured out by now it wasn't wise to make plans in Madagascar.  We had to wait 30 minutes to get our breakfast so we didn't depart until after 7AM.  We did hear some distant Indris calling while we waited for breakfast and I really hoped that we would have a chance to hear them much closer.

Mantadia National Park is 155 square kilometers of protected forest.  It's actually called Andasibe-Mantadia National Park and is divided into 2 sections.  One is Mantadia National Park and the other is now called Analamazaotra Special Reserve.  This causes a lot of confusion on the Internet (Trip Advisor reviewers I am especially talking about you!) so beware.  There are really 3 main "parks" to visit in the Andasibe area.  V.O.I.M.M.A, Mantadia National Park, and Analamazaotra Special Reserve.  They are separate entities and I think require separate entrance fees.  Here is a map to show you their locations relative to the Vakona Forest Lodge.

A benefit of staying at Vakona Lodge is that it is on the way to Mantadia National Park as you can see from the above map so you save a lot of time compared to people that stayed in the more touristy areas around V.O.I.M.M.A.  However, the road is 4x4 only so we had new drivers and vehicles for today only.  I don't remember the name of our driver and I don't care to for reasons that will become apparent.

The road to Mantadia NP is extremely HORRIBLE!  There is no way to mince words.  It is truly a 4x4 road only.  It took us 90 minutes to go 14 km!  During that 90 minutes I can't count the number of times my body banged against the side of the vehicle (I am 6' 4" and don't fit well in most cars anyway).  More bruises were on the way.

Mantadia National Park

We did see a distant Indri from the cars which provided a quick break:
Distant Indri

The first stop was a trail that was typically good for ground rollers.  Before we started out I noticed that Bruno rolled his socks over his pants.  I looked at him and said "Leeches?" and he said "Yes".

Ah, man.  We have had our fair share of leech encounters on our two trips to Borneo and while they are completely harmless the "ick" factor is high for both of us.  It turns out we needn't have worried since the leeches were tiny and we only saw a couple the whole day.

Anyway,  the word "trail" should be used loosely when describing the path we started out on since we pretty much made our own path following the ground roller calls we heard in response to Bruno's playback.  At one point we went straight up a slippery and muddy hill but creating our own path did result in some nice views of the ground rollers and other birds.  Thierry and Bruno did know what they were doing.

Blue Coua:
Blue Coua

Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher:
Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher

Short-legged Ground Roller:
Short-legged Ground Roller

Scaly Ground Roller:
Scaly Ground Roller

Karen's ankle was still bothering her but she was a trooper and kept up with the rest of us the best she could. Thank goodness we brought walking sticks with us "just in case".

Tylas Vanga:
Tylas Vanga

This hike lasted about 2 hours and was pretty tough so when we were done we were ready for lunch which was a short drive and hike away.  We ate on the shores of a small lake. Unfortunately, the pricey pack lunches provided by the lodge left a bit to be desired. It was the same dry ham and cheese sandwich we had the day before along with hard boiled eggs that didn't fair too well on the drive so once again we relied on the food we brought from home.  We were quickly making a dent in that suitcase and a half.

After lunch, we took a 2 hour hike expressly looking for Black and White Ruffed Lemurs but we struck out.  We did have a brief look at an Eastern Bamboo Lemur but it moved on too quickly for photos despite us scrambling up a hillside to try to get a decent look.

On the way back to Vakona, as we were bouncing along the road, I spotted a diademed sifaka and baby ahead of us just off the road.  They were on a bare tree and posed perfectly in good light.  I yelled "stop, stop, stop" but the driver didn't stop!  Finally, he stopped but it was way too close and the act of opening the doors scared the sifakas off into the jungle. Ahhhhh!!  The mental picture I took was perfect.  It's too bad I didn't take an actual picture.  I think the driver wanted to get closer because he is used to catering to the cell phone crowd.

Luckily, the sifakas didn't move too far away so I did manage to take a couple photos.

Diademed Sifaka (Propithecus diadema):
Diademed Sifaka

Diademed Sifaka

Since the lodge doesn't start serving dinner until 7 PM we decided to do a night walk around the grounds before hand.  The Vakona Forest Lodge has really nice grounds and it was fun to explore them.  We found some cool frogs but not much else until towards the end of the walk when I spotted movement.  It was another streaked tenrec!

Holy crap!  What were the odds?  Could I actually redeem myself with a decent photo this time?

But, it had buried itself in a bush and wasn't coming out. Damn, I thought.  Another missed opportunity.

So, we started to head back to our room when Karen spotted another freaking streaked tenrec.  Karen ran off to get Bill and Peggy since they really wanted to see one.  We all ended up getting to see the tenrec.  At one point I think we saw two different ones.  On the way back to our room before dinner I found a bigger tenrec in the gutter along the driveway.  It was like a tenrec highway.  Couldn't believe it - 3 tenrecs!  And, I finally got good pictures.  Redemption!

Lowland Streaked Tenrec

Lowland Streaked Tenrec Closeup

We were hoping that our food would be delivered fairly quickly since we had pre-ordered for a 7:00 dinner.  However, our food did not arrive until 7:45. But, at least it should be good since I ordered the Wok de boeuf again.  Right?  Wrong!  The beef was so tough I could barely eat it so I mostly ate the rice and vegetables.  I guess they killed a different zebu today...

Interestingly enough, the table next to us was empty so when they started to bring out some plates of food and headed in our direction we figured it was for us.  Nope, that would make too much sense.  Instead they put the food down on the empty table.  Yes, that's right.  An empty table was fully served their dinner before we were.  If I had one more beer in me I probably would have gotten up and moved tables.  A few minutes later the occupants of that table arrived to their waiting food.  Wow, what a nice luxury that must have been.

After dinner we all did a little night walk around the property.  We walked out to the white insect sheet the lodge lit up nightly to see what bugs we could find.  We also spotted more Goodman's Mouse Lemurs in the trees bounding around but none got close enough for pictures.  So, the day did end pretty well and it was great to see how excited Peggy was to see the tenrec.  I think that was her favorite mammal of the trip.

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