Tuesday, October 25, 2011

We did not sleep well. There was some sort of bird right outside that started chirping at 2:48, then the sun came up just after 5am (not exactly like Paris), and we couldn't get back to sleep after 6:30. Thankfully we did get up then, as our 7am wakeup call never came. We got ready, got packed (we didn't really get unpacked), and checked out. We realized what the smoky smell in our room was - it was smoke. The whole sky was gray and thick of smoke, presumably from the large fires set to clear forest - very depressing. We had a nice breakfast by the pool, and then headed over to the airport.

Check-in at the airport was easy, but they told us that our backpacks couldn't be brought on along with our carry-on bags - i.e. no "personal items," just one bag - so we had to do some reshuffling and check our carry-on bags. Our flight was scheduled to be just one hour, so we hoped it would be a non-issue. In the waiting area, we recognized a number of people from the night before, but since most of the memorable people from the night before were people trying to cut in line or whack us with bags coming off the conveyor belt, we wished we wouldn't have recognized anyone. Crying babies were back too - we couldn't tell if they were the same ones, but it didn't really matter.

There were only about 25 people on our plane to Morondava. We were on a fairly small turbo prop plane, which wasn't that surprising for a 55 minute flight. When we took off, the smoke was very noticeable, and stretched for as far as we could see. Most of the land west of Antananarivo was dry, and looked a bit like the land between San Diego and West Texas. We saw a number of Baobab trees sticking up as we were descending - they looked enormous, even from the air.

Our driver Richard met us after we grabbed our bags, and then we headed off North to the Kirindy Forest, about halfway between Morondava and the Tsingy. We stopped in several places to take pictures of the Baobab trees, including the "Avenue of the Baobabs," which was incredible. There are several types of Baobabs in Madagascar, and the ones near Morondava are A. grandederi.

The road between Morondava and Kirindy was supposed to be horrible, but it really wasn't that bad, and Richard was able to drive 40-45 mph for a good deal of the way. We thought it would take 3-4 hours to get to Kirindy, but it only took about 90 minutes, including all of our stops to take photos and purchase souvenirs (we grabbed a carved Baobab tree).

We got to the Kirindy Lodge a little before 1pm, and weren't sure exactly (or at least couldn't remember) why we were stopping here or what we were intending to see. We had thought it was a necessary stop because we couldn't make it all the way from Kirindy to the Tsingy in one day, but given the road conditions that seemed unlikely. We checked our itinerary, and it indicated that this was one of the best places to see Fossa, one of the few Malagasy predators. We had lunch, and at lunch we overheard a British couple indicating that they had seen a fossa while out walking in the morning.

So after lunch, we asked whether we could go out for a walk ourselves. The owner called over a guide - Marcellus - and we headed out with him and a guide-in-training to see what we could see. This ended up being a big bonus, as it was all unexpected. We saw Virreaux's sifakas and red-fronted brown lemurs, several groups of each. We also saw the two different Baobabs endemic to the Kirindy area, A. fony and A. za. We also saw the Malagasy iguana, which we had seen earlier just outside our window. Finally, we saw a couple species of bird, including a black bird with a sort-of crown, the Crested Drongo. We were out two hours, and it was definitely worth it.

Back at the lodge, Crystal took a nap while Justin updated the diary and transferred photos. The people working at the lodge were playing bocce ball, and Justin thought about joining them until he saw how good they were. They obviously play all the time. Just before our night walk was set to start at 6:15, Marcellus told us that a fossa was in the camp. We hurriedly walked over, as fossas are extremely difficult to spot. It was actually drinking water from a leaky spigot, not exactly jumping out of a tree after a lemur. Justin crouched down to take to the perfect photo - and then realized his camera wasn't working. The auto-focus was broken, so the fossa stayed woefully out of focus as Justin wondered what was wrong. By the time he switched to manual focus, the fossa had moved. We got some (fuzzy) video of the fossa rolling around and marking a tree, which is better than nothing. And we actually did see the fossa, even if we don't have the best evidence of it.

Between being tired, worrying about a broken camera, and generally walking around in the dark, the night walk was not nearly as enjoyable as the day walk. We did see a large number of lemurs. We're not sure whether it was coincidental or not, but the night-time lemurs were much smaller than the day-time lemurs. Most of what we saw were sportive lemurs, but we also saw dwarf lemurs, mouse lemurs, and fork-marked lemurs.

By the time we got back, we were exhausted, but wanted to eat dinner before crashing. While waiting for dinner, Crystal messed around with the broken camera lens and fixed it. She's not sure what she did, and she pointed out that what she think fixed it seems like it would have broken most lenses, but the camera started working again, so huge kudos to her. Dinner was very good, grilled chicken with pommes frites. The chicken was one of the best we've ever had; alas, its a bit far to go for dinner from either Vista or Pahoa. We also shared a Three Horses Beer, which at the very least was cold. We were asleep within 5 minutes of hitting the pillow.