Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Madagascar Day 8 - Andasibe

We had another decent night's sleep which was nice.  Our bed was pretty comfortable by Madagascar standards and we only heard nature noises at night.  Vakona Lodge was nice and quite at night.

Amazingly enough, breakfast came on time today and we managed to get out around 7AM as planned.  The morning would be spent at Analamazaotra Special Reserve which is the other part of Andasibe-Mantadia National Park as I explained yesterday.  The road to that park is fully paved so we were off exploring it by 7:30AM.

There is a map at the entrance that shows the two parts:

Usually I am wary of trails named after the target species of that area:
Great trail names

But, it didn't take long for the indris to start calling which made the beginning of the hike magical.  I made an effort to soak in my surroundings and really enjoyed that hike with the indris calling.  Great ambiance.  This was an extremely good moment.

We have been lucky enough to hear some amazing wildlife calls in our travels.  Howler monkeys in Costa Rica and Belize, wolves in Yellowstone, gibbons in Borneo and now we can add indris in Madagascar.  That was an extremely nice start to the hike.

Analamazaotra Special Reserve is only 810 hectares and since it's so easy to reach it's popular.  So, we did encounter a lot of people during our morning traversing the hills of this reserve but they were all well behaved and for once didn't detract from our enjoyment.

Quick insect break:
Dragon Fly

Since the indris continued to call, Thierry lead us right to them.  As we arrived, they were silent.  Were they like howler monkeys that only seemed to call first thing in the morning and then were quiet the rest of the day?  Nope, not at all.  Soon enough the cacophony of indri calls started and it was loud standing right under them.

I took some video that I will share at the end of the report since it's a compilation of clips from the entire trip.  One of those clips is of the indri calling.  I pretty much just stood there and soaked it in until one of the indris appeared in an opening large enough for a photo:
Indri Calling

The calls were truly amazing and one of the few "wow" moments from the trip.

Eventually, they stopped calling and we moved on.

We tracked some diademed sifakas moving through the forest but they didn't stay still long enough for pictures but we were able to enjoy watching them leap from tree to tree with lightning speed.  It's so awesome to watch lemurs bounding through the trees.

There were a few good photo ops from the rest of our hike.

Nelicourvi Weaver and nest:
Nelicourvi Weaver and Nest

Madagascar Tree Boa (Sanzinia madagascariensis):
Madgascar Tree Boa

Crossley's Vanga on a Nest:
Crossley's Vanga on Nest

You may notice that I have a few pictures of birds in nests.  We didn't realize it but October was nesting time so there are more of these photos to come.  But, it did play a part in us seeing less birds since they weren't as active according to our guides.

Outside the park we went to a nearby orchid garden to find chameleons.

Orchid Gardens

We were in luck when we found this gorgeous Parson's Chameleon:
Parson's Chameleon

Parson's Chameleon Up Close

Somehow, Thierry spotted this mossy leaf-tailed gecko for us:
Serious Camo...

After leaving the orchid garden, we walked the main road to go find the Scops Owl we saw the day before.  On the way some Common Brown Lemurs (Eulemur fulvus) made an appearance:

Common Brown Lemur

Common Brown Lemur Snuggle

The Scops Owl was roosting in the same spot but the light was much better today so I was able to get a good picture:
Madagascar Scops Owl

We had lunch at a restaurant in town because anything had to be better than Vakona's food.  I remember my Tandoori Chicken as being pretty good but Karen ordered "Massaged Chicken" and it was pretty tough and there was little meat.  I guess the massage didn't do anything to tenderize it.  Maybe it wasn't a deep tissue massage.  But, more importantly, it was during this meal that I was introduced to "boob rice".

Yup, our lunches were served with two molds of perfectly shaped, firm, and supple rice.  It even came with a garnish on the top that, well, gave it even more of a boob like appearance.  For some reason, I couldn't take my eyes off them...I mean the rice.

After lunch we headed back to Vakona and I wandered the grounds a bit and ventured on the trail system looking for chameleons.  It was very scenic and I had the trail to myself but I struck out when it came to any wildlife.

Vakona Trail

Our itinerary had us scheduled to go to Lemur Island later in the afternoon.  Lemur Island is run by Vakona Forest Lodge.  It started with a few rescued lemurs and has expanded into a full fledged tourist destination.  We can't stand zoos and are typically reluctant to visit any facilities that keep wildlife "captive" but we had already paid for this and there really was no reason not to go since it was so close.

Based on what I read online, the tour consists of one island that you can walk on and then you take a boat ride around to see the other islands but you can't get out and walk on them.  When we arrived it was pretty crowded and we had to wait close to half an hour even though we had a 3:30 PM tour reservation time.  So, we didn't start our tour until after 4 PM.

The initial boat ride to the main island was almost unnecessary.  In fact, I bet an Olympic long jumper could have cleared the distance we covered:

The world's shortest canoe trip

I found the warning sign pretty interesting.
Lemur Island Sign

Looking at the bottom left warning, why would you take this tour if you were afraid of lemurs?

Anyway, once on the main island the lemurs were all around.  Common brown were the most prevalent species but there was also a B and W ruffed as well as a bamboo lemur.  The local guide would rub banana on branches to get the lemurs to pose for pictures.  It was all pretty touristy.

Black and White Ruffed Lemur (Rescued)

Black and White Ruffed Lemur (Rescued)

Common Brown Lemur (Rescued)

Eastern Lesser Bamboo Lemur (Rescued)

Bamboo Lemur (Rescued)

Once we got to the other side of the tiny main island the common brown lemurs got more bold.  I had a couple use me as a spring board to get to a nearby tree and a few others just climbed on the rest of our group and stayed there.  They weren't bitey or begging for food.  They just hung out with us.

On a nearby island we could see both red ruffed lemurs and diamed sifakas.  The guide chucked some banana pieces over to them to get them to come closer for pictures.

Red Ruffed Lemur (Rescued)

Diademed Sifaka

This sifaka was obviously meditating and when the guide threw a banana piece at it and missed, the sifaka had the final laugh:
When  you interrupt a lemur meditating

Unfortunately, our tour started late so we didn't get to take the boat around to the other islands since 5PM was closing time.  So, while everything else seemed to get delayed in Madagascar closing time at Lemur Island certainly didn't.

As I mentioned, seeing captured animals is not really my thing.  So, I could have easily skipped this.  But, the others in our groups were happy to go and I did get some nice photos of these species in case we didn't get a chance to see all of them later in the trip.  Spoiler Alert: we did.

We took another pre-dinner walk around the grounds of the lodge after dark and spotted two more streaked tenrecs and a few frogs.  Boy, it was fun watching those tenrecs forage around.  I am extremely glad we got to see them and we definitely got lucky seeing so many.  Obviously, sometimes we saw the same ones multiple nights but the 3 we had in one night were definitely different individuals.

Our dinner at the lodge was another adventure.  We ordered for a 7PM dinner and they brought us duck instead of chicken so we had to send it back.  Because of that, we didn't start eating until 7:50 PM.  Basically, don't go to Vakona Forest Lodge for the food and service.  Go for the scenic setting and chance to see a tenrec or two.

We were going to do a post dinner walk as well but that got rained out.  Up until that point, the weather in Andasibe had been just about perfect although it had started to get a little smokey in the afternoon today.  Unfortunately, that was a harbinger of things to come.

No comments: