Madagascar highlights – part 2

Akory e (pronounced ah-coo- ray or ah-coo-ree) means hello. I tried to learn a little Malagasy while there, but it was quite frustrating as there seemed to be inconsistencies in the pronunciation of many words. Apparently the regional dialects are very different, and in some areas they will drop the last vowel, while in other areas they will pronounce it softly, while in still others they will pronounce it more distinctly. For example when a person wants to say thank you, they will say misaotra (mee-sow-tra) or sometimes the last a is dropped and it becomes mee-sow-tr. In any case, I will study more prior to a return trip!

Before I continue the travelogue, I must give a big thanks to my son Brian for taking the time to put the watermark on the photos so they don’t get stolen off the site. He also reminds me to put in links to more information.

After two really spectacular days hiking in Ranomafana N.P., the four of us (Carol and I, and our friends Jean and Jerry) hop into the van, and with our driver Lina expertly weaving his way around Zebu drawn carts, people on bicycles, pedestrians, and oncoming cars all sharing a road barely wide enough for two vehicles, and headed south to Fianarantsoa for a night, and then down to Isalo N.P.  To find where Isalo is on the map below, follow the road from Fianarantsoa to Toliara, and about midway between the two you can see the name Isalo straddling the road. The southwestern part of the country is where some of the coolest succulents and most arid adapted plants grow, so needless to say, we were stoked about heading there. We were particularly anxious to see Pachypodium rosulatum in all its glory.

Madagascar-physical-map

Along the way, we saw some interesting insights into the lives of the Malagasy people. For instance, carts like the one below were widely used to haul anything and everything. Here we see Jerry who was so fascinated by the carts that he wanted to take one for a spin, but alas, we had to keep moving.

Jerry loved these carts

Jerry loved these carts

We kept seeing this plant pictured below, and our driver, Lina, kept calling it sisal, but I thought it did not look like Agave sisalana and when we finally saw it in bloom, the flowers resembled those of Hesperaloe more than those of Agave. I sent a photo to noted expert Brian Kemble who confirmed its identity as a Furcraea and presumably F. foedita, an introduced species used for its fiber that is similar to that of sisal.

Not an Agave, but a Furcraea!

Not an Agave, but a Furcraea!

Once again I called on my good friend, herper extraordinaire, Rob Nixon for an ID, and he suggested an Oplurus species.

Oplurus species

Oplurus species

While tooling along RN 7 we approach Isalo and see some bizarre looking plants that have upright leaves that are bent about halfway down the blade, so we stop to have a look and see that they are Pandanus pulcher. These have a dimorphic look, young plants being single trunked and lacking side branches, while older plants develop short side branches that are densely packed, giving the plant the overall look of a pine tree. Our guide in Isalo N.P. indicated that there are two species of Pandanus in the park, P. pulcher and P. variabilis. Unfortunately, I have not been able to track down much information on P. variabilis, so that remains a mystery.

Pandanus pulcher

Pandanus pulcher

An older specimen of Pandanus pulcher.

An older specimen of Pandanus pulcher.

After 3 days of air travel and 4 days of actual Madagascar adventure, we finally arrive at our hotel in Isalo N.P. where we will stay for the next 3 days. I highly recommend the Isalo Rock Lodge as it is set near some gorgeous mountains and has good food and a very friendly staff.

We made it!

We made it!

Walk in to the lobby at the Isalo Rock Lodge, and you are greeted by stylish Pachypodium artwork.

On the floor at Isalo Rock Lodge

On the floor at Isalo Rock Lodge

As soon as we reach our room, I grab my binoculars to scan the nearby hills for spots of yellow, and off in the distance, there they are! Pachypodium rosulatum. On the way to Isalo we had crossed the Horombe Plateau, the type locality for Pachypodium horombense which is nearly impossible to distinguish from P. rosulatum without flowers, so I was happy to see flowers which would allow me to make sure which species was out there. It is well known that Pachypodium rosulatum commonly occurs in Isalo, but I did not know if P. horombense occurs outside the Horombe Plateau. Rushing over to Jean and Jerry’s room, I tell Jerry that the plants are out there and in full flower, so in the fading sunlight, we dash out for our first shots of this succulent treasure.

Pachypodium rosulatum

Pachypodium rosulatum

Pachypodium rosulatum

Pachypodium rosulatum

 

Flowers of Pachypodium rosulatum

Flowers of Pachypodium rosulatum

We have two full days of hiking in the national park, and our first day is the Namaza Canyon hike where we see all sorts of cool plants, birds, insects, chameleons and rock formations. To date, the plant below has eluded identification. Our guide gave me a name that I have not been able to find in any resource, so it still remains nameless. I know it’s in the Pea Family, but beyond that it is still a mystery.

IMG_3769_w

Unidentified pea family plant.

Another unidentified shrub found in and around Isalo N.P.

Another unidentified beauty

Another unidentified beauty

An email to Thomas Staudt, one of my birder friends, results in an ID for this faraway shot of Motacilla flaviventris or Madagascar Wagtail.

Madagascar wagtail

Madagascan wagtail

We came across this beautiful red flowered Hibiscus species with flowers that reminded me of the New World Hibiscus martianus (formerly H. cardiophyllus) found in Texas and northeastern Mexico.

Hibiscus species

Hibiscus species

Another request to Rob resulted in a potential ID as Furcifer oustaleti. This could very well be a female Oustalet’s chameleon. Chameleons have an unusual mode of movement. As they move along a branch, they tend to rock back and forth mimicking the swaying or movement of a branch in a breeze. One would think that this rocking motion would make them move sloth-like, but when you try taking a picture, they actually move rather quickly, so the shutter speed needs to be relatively fast.

IMG_3821a_w

Furcifer sp.

The Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) has an interesting method of movement. When on the ground, the animal stands on its hind legs and leaps sideways instead of walking. Check out the video here.

 

IMG_3894_w

IMG_3898_w

The sky was clear and sun was bright, so Carol went out well protected from the sun’s rays.

Carol enjoying the hike in Isalo N.P.

Carol enjoying the hike in Isalo N.P.

This was an awesome looking insect, and if anybody has any thoughts on what it is, please leave a comment.

An unknown, but cool looking, insect

An unknown, but cool looking, insect

Our guide was quite adept at spotting these walking stick insects as we hiked along the trail. If you don’t see it here, check the next picture.

Large stick insect

Large stick insect

A closer view of the stick insect.

A closer view of the stick insect.

There are three subspecies of forest rock thrush (Monticola sharpei) on Madagascar and the subspecies  bensoni is found in Isalo N.P.

A pretty forest rock thrush

A pretty forest rock thrush

Looking somewhat like a cross between a roadrunner and woodpecker, the Madagascar hoopoe (Upupa marginata) is widespread throughout Madagascar.

Madagascar hoopoe

Madagascar hoopoe

Another bird with a widespread range is this Madagascar wagtail (Motacilla flaviventris).

Madagascar wagtail

Madagascar wagtail

The prominent, eerie blue eye of the Madagascar paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone mutata) is just one of the many colorful aspects about this showy bird.

Male Madagascar paradise flycatcher

Male Madagascar paradise flycatcher

These two Ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) look like a couple of juvenile delinquents, just hanging out looking for trouble. More information can be found at the Primate Info Net and the National Geographic websites.

Ring-tailed lemurs.

Ring-tailed lemurs.

The Red-fronted or Red-fronted brown lemur (Eulemur rufifrons) really was a troublemaker. There were several of them at the lunch spot, and if the table was left unattended for even a minute, these guys were bold enough to make their way towards your food.

Red fronted brown lemur

Red fronted brown lemur

I will close out part 2 with a couple of shots of Pachypodium rosulatum, a plant that we saw growing perched on exposed outcrops or tucked in rocky crevices as we hiked along the Namaza trail in Isalo N.P.

IMG_4286_w IMG_4295_w

I have not thought about part 3 yet, but our destination after Isalo was Tulear and the spiny desert. Thanks for looking and reading!

Posted in: Uncategorized

Leave a Comment (3) ↓

3 Comments

  1. Tina the tech November 19, 2014

    I am going to keep checking for part 3. I am enjoying my travel to Madagascar through your eyes and photos! Thank you Greg the Gardner and Candy Carol for the trip

    reply
  2. Ctenosaurian May 31, 2016

    Is your un-ID’ed pea family plant Erythrina madagascarensis?

    reply
    • Greg Starr May 31, 2016

      No, it is not an Erythrina madagascariensis. The flowers are not the right shape or color for E. madagascariensis. Thanks for the suggestion.

      reply

Reply to Tina the tech

*