Today Rado had a big day set up for us. First we had a guided tour of Andasibe-Mantadia National Park in the morning, followed by an afternoon at Vakona Lemur Island and Crocodile Park, and ended with a night hike in Orchid Park.
We drove to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park and met up with our guide Patrice, whom Rado had set up for us. We spent the entire morning (5 hours) hunting lemurs, bushwhacking through rainforest, learning about the plants, and birdwatching.
The hike started with Patrice spotting a Scopes owl that was sleeping in a tree. He was about eye level and barely opened an eye as we snapped pictures of him (or her).
We also saw several geckos including a mossy leaf-tailed gecko that is so well camouflaged, it was difficult to see it even after being pointed out. This gecko also has an interesting evolutionary adaptation. If a predator such as a bird comes to eat it, the gecko will disconnect its tail. The tail will fall to the ground and continue to move which distracts the predator away from the gecko. The gecko is able to regrow its tail if it loses it.
The highlight of the tour was seeing the lemurs. Neither Jay nor I had seen a lemur in the wild. We got very lucky and saw all five of the species of lemurs that existed in the park: 1) common brown lemur – don’t have territories, just roam and eat leaves 2) eastern wooly lemur – nocturnal 3) bamboo lemur – small and shy 4) indri lemur – biggest lemur native to Madagascar 5) golden sifaka lemur – called dancing lemur because of how he jumps through the trees and walks on two legs.
After seeing all the lemurs, Rado took us to a nice restaurant for lunch. We tried some of the local dishes. I had Ravitoto which was pork smothered in a sauce made of cassava leaves (local crushed greens). Jay had Ro-mazava which is basically a soup made from local greens with chicken, pork, and zebu (a type of local cow).
Next Rado took us to a resort lodge called Vakona Lemur Island and Crocodile Park. We went to lemur island first. Lemurs are afraid of water, so there is a moat around the island and that keeps all the lemurs from escaping. However, it required us to cross the moat to reach the island. This entailed about a 20 foot canoe ride in about a foot of water. It was pretty funny to get in a canoe when we could literally have taken our shoes off and walked. But, we took the canoe.
The island was very fun. They had the common brown lemurs, bamboo lemurs, and a type of lemur we hadn’t seen yet, the black and white lemur. The fun part of this island was that the lemurs were tame. You could pet them and they were surprisingly soft. We fed them some carrots and bananas and they would grab the pieces out of your hands. Their hands were very soft too. The common brown and the black and white lemurs would also jump on your back which was fun to get pictures of. The bamboo lemurs were more shy and didn’t get that up close and personal.
We also saw a red lemur which was not on lemur island, but on another island across the river moat.
After taking the canoe back off the island, Radu took us to the crocodile park. There were over 30 adult crocodiles, 1 teenager croc, and about 15 baby crocodiles. They were surprisingly lazy while we were there only occasionally opening their mouths or adjusting their position. They only ate (were fed zebu) on Saturday, so they weren’t very motivated to do much.
Not only did the park have crocodiles, but they had an endangered species of turtle, geckos, chameleons, and birds.
We finished our afternoon tour and headed back to the lodge to grab our headlamps and prepare for our night walk. Rado had set up another tour guide for us, who was actually Patrice’s younger brother. He wasn’t a certified guide yet, but Patrice was so good, we trusted his brother too.
During our night hike we saw many chameleons, frogs, and two kinds of lemurs. One was the eastern wooly lemur which we had seen in the park during morning. The other was the smallest lemur in the area which was the mouse lemur. It was the cutest little guy with giant eyes.
After our night tour, we were exhausted from our day and headed back to the eco lodge for another night’s rest before a big driving day tomorrow.