The view from the veranda (complete with chairs and a hammock!) was absolutely stunning, looking out across Antongil Bay to Nosy Mangabe and the forested hills of Masoala - talk about a room with a view! This took the biscuit and dunked it in Baileys!
So much to see, so much to do, that in the end we were very pleased that our stay had been extended to six nights, instead of the 4 originally scheduled. And when rain of biblical proportions came down on what would have been our first night camping on Nosy Mangabe, we were doubly relieved to still be at the Forest Lodge instead!
The staff were fantastic. Always smiling & friendly, and although sometimes a little shy, a thank you in Malagasy would bring a beaming smile, and, much to our delight, in one case a "Yay" which had us giggling every time she said it.
Our Guide for the week, Elysee was also fantastic. So knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and with excellent English we were really able to learn so much from him. When he took us up to the primary forest for our first visit to see the red Ruffed Lemurs they were very high up in the canopy & not such great views. Elysee declared that it wasn't good enough, and that we would come back again another day for a better view. Which is exactly what we did. The second time he took us right up to the top of the ridge, where we were much closer to the canopy tops, and we got far better views of my beloved "rufties". We nicknamed him Mr Chameleon, because he was always spotting them and said they "sang" to him.
We spent one morning looking for the White Fronted Brown Lemurs, with no luck (although we saw an awful lot of other things, including the very rare Berniers Vanga & Pygmy Kingfisher, as well as the Helmet Vanga, Crested Coua and some more of the tiny Brookesia Chameleons) and then lo and behold, on the night walk we saw the White Fronted Browns going to bed! Elysee even apologised for not being able to find us a Tenrec - little did we know then that one would come to find us!
On the nights it wasn't raining we had campfires on the beach & sat around chatting with a Three Horse Beer under a sky so alive with stars I've never seen anything like it. We could even see the milky way very clearly. No light pollution makes it an amazing place on a starry night!
And then chatting into the night, with more beers, with Nico, a young German on a trainee management placement at the lodge. He & Mick shared the same weird sense of humour and we made an instant friend. I knew it was going to be hard to leave Masoala and was trying hard not to cry, but when Nico said that even the sky was crying because we were leaving, that was it, I cried my eyes out!!
If I left my head in Lemurland I left my heart in Masoala! We made friendships with Elysee & Nico that I think will be longlasting and have already been in touch with them both.
We had a very wet ride back to Maroansetra and said our goodbyes to Elysee & Pierre before heading to the airport. Where we discovered that the bag of wet laundry they had done for us after our wet & muddy walk on the last day had been left in Pierre's boathouse. The lady who had taken us to the airport rang Pierre, but he was already on his way with our forgotten clothing!!!
We loved everything about the Forest Lodge! They were friendly but very professional, and best of all eco-friendly too.
Next stop was Toamasina, where we were met by Stephane, our guide for the second week. They dropped us off at the Hotel Sharon & said they would pick us up next morning. We dumped our stuff in our room (which was much nicer than I expected) and went for a walk, but after being accompanied for all of it by a rikshaw driver we couldn't shake off, we gave up & went back to the hotel, where we had a few beers, and a nice chat with a Malagasy barman called Patrick! Mick had the Carpaccio of Zebu which he said was excellent, and I had a seriously good Pizza - sad I know, but I now have a habit of trying a Pizza in whichever country I go too - they generally tend to be better than most in the UK!
Another early start saw us at the jetty for the boatride down the Pangalanes Canal. This was really interesting, seeing all the villages at the side of the river, with the pirogues, big & small carrying all kinds of supplies up & down the Canal.We also saw lots of Kingfishers & some beautiful areas festooned with water lillies in far more colours than we have seen before. Stephane started the trip by giving us some information about the Canal. We enjoyed the sights & sounds til we arrived at the Palmerium.
THANK YOU SHAUN! Masoala and Andasibe were already on my wanted list, but I had never heard of this place and for close up sightings it doesn't get any better!
As we got off the boat and headed for the steps the lemurs appeared. Reds, Blacks, Crowned & Hybrids. They were in the trees all around us, and the Guide with the French Group that came on the same boat as us was giving her group pieces of Banana, and the Lemurs were coming down onto their shoulders to take them. When it became obvious that our Guide didn't have any Banana's for us, the French Guide gave us some of theirs, and so I had my first close up & personal experience with a Crowned Lemur on my shoulder - Yay!!!