October 2, 2016
For our visit to Amber Mountain National Park (Parc National Montagne d’Ambre)
(we opted not to have a car and driver as we were staying at the Litchi Tree, about 4K from the park office. On the way to the park we lucked out and got a ride with a young Swiss couple staying at the guest house who had a private driver.
At the park office we got an English speaking guide, Joel, for the walk through the park. Joel explained the map of the park and helped us select a route. With Don’s faltering knee we didn’t want to do too much and selected a medium 3-4 hour route that included a lake and a couple of cascades.
Once the route is selected we go back in the office to pay the fees – 55,000 ariary per adult park fee, 4,000 ariary miscellaneous and 60,000 ariary for the guide, about $53 USD total for 2 adults.
The first 3K of the walk is up the road to the campground making it 7K from town to the trail head. It would be an advantage to have a private driver so you could drive rather than walk the road portion.
Along the road Joel spots some chameleons, several blue noses. One had an actual blue nose signifying that he is happy.
Even in the dry season the park is quite green and pretty and was not as rainy as Lonely Planet indicates. According to Joel it hasn’t rained in the past 4 days. Today there is a mix of clouds and sun and windy with lots of cloud movement. It’s warm but a comfortable hiking temperature.
Joel explains about the plants’ uses and local culture, pointing out birds, insects, spiders and chameleons. We see only one group of lemurs high in a tree, much too high for me to get a good photo.
It takes just under an hour to reach a steep 1.5K path down to the lake. The last 400 meters is the steepest.
We see a few birds on the way down and Joel demonstrates a strangler fig tree.
We stop for a break at the lake, a natural pool that is part of the water storage for Antsiranana (Diego Suarez). It’s not that pretty at this time of year.
Hervé, the owner of the Litchi Tree, packed a generous lunch for us – 4 bananas, crackers, sweet biscuits and 4 sandwiches – Swiss cheese with butter and liverwurst with cornichon.
Back on the road we take a shortcut to the cascade path, another pretty forest walk with interesting plants and a few birds.
At the Sacred Pool Joel explains that when a full moon falls on a Saturday locals come to wash away the bad juju.
Out past the campground we run across another group who has spotted a leaf chameleon with the most impressive camouflage I’ve seen.
The camping area looks clean and pleasant, however, I wouldn’t say gorgeous as described in Lonely Planet.
Down the alley of exotic trees planted by the French we stopped to look in the leaves for the smallest chameleon in the world. The same color as the leaf litter you wouldn’t spot (her), the male is smaller, unless you know what you are looking for.
Past the top of the second cascade there is a steep drop down. Just past here is a viewpoint.
We wind through more forest and back out to the road. It’s 3K to the office. From the office it’s 3.5K back to town taking us about 35 minutes.
While greener than any place else we’ve been in Madagascar, Joffreville feels shabby with metal shacks and worn out traditional construction. Locals seem more jaded, like they’ve seen too many foreigners. Not the easy “salama” (hello) we experienced in the West.