I arranged for a driver through some recommendations from folks on the Lonely Planet website. I asked for an English speaking driver (was told no problem) and of course we got a driver who spoke not a lick of English. Awesome. We had some other issues that left a bad taste in our mouths, so our attempt to support a local business directly backfired a bit.
Anyway, after a bit of nonsense paperwork and such with the driver at the airport we were on our way to Andasibe National Park. Traffic was brutal leaving the bustling (seriously) Antananarivo so it was a nearly 4-hour drive until we reached our hotel–Buffet de la Gare. I tried for 7-months to get a room at Vakona Forest Lodge or Feony Ala but they were consistently booked. So we paid 45,000 ariary for a bungalow here–it was decent enough though we elected to avoid the rather dire shower. Dinner consisted of an omelette and pommes frites–which would become a go to meal for us on the trip.
The plan was to do a night walk with Operation Mitsinjo (hyped in the Bradt guide) but they were all closed up. Our driver scrounged up a “guide” for us instead and she was pretty worthless. She let us know that the chirps we were hearing were “insects”, for example. The one thing we found was without her assistance…our first animal sighting in Madagascar:
I then gave this guide way too many ariary just hoping to never see her again……
But of course when we arrived at the park at 7am the following morning she was waiting for us there to be our guide again. Our driver had already arranged for another guide for us, however. And there was all sorts of awkwardness as this woman was all sad and I had to tell her to bugger off. Thank goodness we’ve been listening to the Crucial Conversations CDs. This proved to be one of our best decisions of the trip as our guide Richard was amazing.
So everyone comes to Andasibe to see the Indri. And before we saw them we were listening to them calling one another while laying in our beds at Buffet de la Gare. These guys were pretty cool and it was thrilling to see our first lemur:
Some of the guides were real obnoxious shaking on the trees to get the lemurs moving around and we saw one guide with a boombox playing recorded indri calls. Our boy Richard kept it real, though.
We were poking around in some pretty thick forest and Richard found one of our most exciting sights of the trip–a wild Parson’s chameleon:
And it was at this point that my camera battery died. But we went on to see a few brown lemurs and most exciting of all the giraffe necked weevil. Go ahead and just punch that into google images and prepare to be amazed. I’m bummed we didn’t get a photo of these guys because they are just unreal. Our 3+ hours at this park was pure joy and I happily hit Richard off with 30,000 ariary for his services.
We then hopped in the car for a 5+ hour drive to Antsirabe. We stopped at a reptile zoo (between Andasibe and Tana) where Lillie fondled some chamaleons, but the primary purpose of the stop was to have some repairs done on our car. Unless you really want to get your hands on some chameleons just keep on driving. The condition of some of the animals here is pretty dubious. They also have some lemurs here but we elected to stay away from those.