Roland came whistling at our door just as we were lacing up our shoes for the night walk in the forest. “Come quick,” he said, “the guide has found something.” After struggling to find the largest of the lemur species in the morning, we wound up seeing the smallest one before we even set foot on the trail. The aptly-named mouse lemurs are nocturnal and small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. They are shy creatures and spook easily when illuminated with a flashlight. Two of them were nesting in the thatched roof of one of the bungalows and we were fortunate enough to snap a few pictures before they scampered away into the thicket.
We only spent an hour on our night walk, barely entering the forest, but we saw a completely different world, which had been hidden during our morning foray into the woods. Our guide acquitted himself admirably, astounding us with his ability to spot tiny animals despite the complete darkness that enveloped us. What made the feat all the more impressive is that nature had endowed many of these creatures with the ability to camouflage their presence by blending in with their surroundings. We saw frogs and dozens of tiny, green chameleons, no bigger – from the head to the tip of the tail – than our pinkies.
Madagascar is home to half of the world’s chameleon species and in addition to the little green ones, which abounded in this forest, we came across a much rarer large one, whom our guide spotted sitting on a vine a dozen feet off the trail. Unlike its little cousins, which stayed stubbornly green even when S transferred them from their leaves to the palm of her hand and later to her black jacket, the large chameleon was true to its name and attempted to blend in with his surroundings. Brown on the side that faced us, his other side turned white to match the light from our flashlights. When we switched places, his white side turned back to brown in a matter of seconds.
We would have happily wandered around the forest for hours, but Roland told us that we had seen everything we could reasonably hope to see so we turned back, mindful of the fact that we’d have to be up early again as a long drive awaited us the next day.