The next morning we bused from our hotel to the small village of Ambatozavavy where we would take pirogues (wooden canoes with outriggers) to the Lokobe Nature Reserve, the last remaining rainforest in northwest Madagascar. Since it was low tide, we had to walk quite a way to get to water deep enough for the pirogues, which we paddled for nearly an hour through a calm, pretty bay to reach our destination.
Mangrove swamp at low tide
We entered Lokobe through the small village of Ampasipohy, where the inhabitants depend on tourists for most of their livelihood. I paid this woman a euro (probably less would have sufficed, but that's the coin I had in my pocket) to take her picture making mango pickles.
Black lemurs (the females are dark brown) are in the trees around the village, ready to be tempted into photographic poses by pieces of banana.
A ground boa in a tree.
A tiny frog
and an almost equally small gecko
One of Madagascar's major exports is vanilla, and this village - we were assured - grows high-quality stuff. Here's a young plant.
In the rainforest itself we saw strangler fig vines
and a leaf-tailed gecko, which is almost perfectly camouflaged against the gray tree trunk.
On the beach about to start paddling back, we saw this boat unloading logs.
As we paddled into the Ambatozavavy harbor (now at high tide), kids were frolicking in the water.
On our ride back to the hotel, we passed a kapok tree (whose fiber used to fill life jackets and is a substitute for down in mattresses, pillows, and stuffed toys)
and a ylang-ylang plantation, a plant used as a base for perfume.
We also encountered a funeral procession with hundreds of celebrants. Death, funerals, burials, and exhumations are a very big part of Madagascar life.