Definately one of the coolest and most interesting creatures I saw in Madagascar was the leaf-tailed gecko. They are nocturnal, and during the day they sleep on a tree, head down, and perfectly camouflage themselves against the tree bark. This is easier said than done because every tree has a lot of various colored lichen on it and the bark colors vary also.
During the day these geckos are very hard to spot. There is a photo of one plastered against a tree trunk above. The second photo is taken at night, when the gecko is awake and going hunting. You can see that the color of the animal changes.
The head of the leaf-tailed gecko has a little ridge around it that looks like its serrated. The ridges help the gecko blend against the tree, so there is no hard outline. The tail is very flat and can look perfectly like part of the tree bark. The toes are little suction cups that are glued on to whatever surface the gecko is against. The top of the gecko extends almost like a shell, so the body is sort of tucked underneath. At night their eyes glow red in a light.
On my nocturnal walks I really enjoyed watching these geckos. One even let me lightly stroke his back, so I could feel the cool, smooth surface. They are pretty fast when they want to be. During the day it is also fun to see them, but much, much harder! Although I didn't get superb photos of them, I immensely enjoyed my time with these marvelous little creatures. I am normally a mammal person, but these geckos, the frogs and the chameleons were all so much fun that I have to admit my interest base expanded during the trip.
I saw leaf-tailed geckos in the rain forest up north on the east coast, on the island of Nosy Mangabe and on the Masoala Peninsula. After Andasibe, we drove east to the coast to Tamatave (which was a dive of a town, extremely noisy and not at all pleasant to spend time in). We caught a plane from Tamatave north to Maronsetra, stayed in the lovely Coco Beach Hotel, and then took a boat to Nosy Mangabe and another boat to the Masoala Peninsula. More about those destinations in future posts, but Nosy Mangabe was the highlight of the trip.