The northeast of Madagascar, with its lush cover of rainforest, receives 20 feet of rain a year and is by far the wettest part of the country. This morning, we went ashore on a small island called Nosy Mangabe, where over the course of our landing, we witnessed a good quarter of a foot of water drop from the sky. The swollen streams, spilling over their banks, were brown from the sediment that had washed down the hillsides into them. This was Madagascar rainforest absolutely in its element!
Draped in rain ponchos, we slowly meandered the trails through the lowland forest, ever watchful for the myriad of amazing creatures whose paths we might be lucky enough to cross. At times, we paused along the trail, each of us scouring a different small area of trees and leaf litter in an attempt to locate some of Madagascar’s spectacular endemic wildlife. Then the call, “Chameleon!”, interrupted the metallic chirping of frogs and the patter of water droplets on the leaves of the understory. A female panther chameleon stood on a narrow branch, motionless except for her eyes, each of which independently surveyed the scene around her. Her prehensile tail was carefully curled up behind her, as she waited patiently for insect prey to come within striking distance of her sticky tongue.
Later, the sound of shrieks from the treetops alerted us to the presence of a group of white-fronted brown lemurs. These unique Madagascar primates were traveling quickly through the canopy, likely en route to a fruiting tree for a meal. They leapt from branch to branch, tree to tree, demonstrating clearly to us how well adapted they are to their arboreal lifestyle. We were amazed at the way they didn’t seem to even notice the rain; and then it occurred to us that we too, lost in the excitement of exploring Madagascar’s lush rainforest, had for several hours hardly noticed the buckets of rain falling all around us.