Watch Out for Drunk Chameleon Crossings

by Sandy Salle on August 22, 2013

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Home to more than 50 endemic species of chameleon, Madagascar is home to almost half the chameleon population in the world.

On the island of Madagascar, chameleons come in all different shapes, sizes, and color varietals. Each chameleon species has pincers attached to their appendages. This helps them to grasp trees, which is where you will often find them basking.

When it comes to changing color, chameleons do not change in order to camouflage themselves, but rather, they change color depending on the temperature, amount of light, and during courting of a mate.  A chameleon’s colors also change depending on its mood. For example, a chameleon might display different colors when its calm as opposed to when it feels threatened.

Two other interesting features about chameleons are their eyes and tongue. Chameleons can look above their heads, practically all the way behind them, and of course, all the way in front of them, all without shifting their body or head position. As for their tongues, chameleons can extend their tongues far out in front of them to catch insects—this length varies depending upon the species of chameleon.

During a trip to Madagascar, you’ll have the opportunity to witness a wide variety of chameleon species during your treks in the northern rainforests, along the roads, and even in the dry and arid deserts such as the central southern region of Isalo National Park.

madagascar chameleons

madagascar chameleons

One of my favorite encounters with a chameleon happened on the road on the island of Nosy Be, which is at the northern tip of Madagascar. As we were driving to our boat for our island-hopping adventures, our guide swiftly stopped our vehicle and we jumped out to observe what was one of the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen in my life. It was a chameleon that was covered in practically every color of the rainbow. He traveled very slowly across the road and had a little sway to his body every time he moved. It appeared that he had a long night drinking and just stepped out of a local bar. We all giggled about his “drunken” state and observed him for nearly 5-minutes as he made his way to a female chameleon who was much smaller and was brown with black spots (not nearly as beautiful as the male!).

As he approached the bushes where the female was we noticed he stopped. Something had caught his eye. After a moment of preparation the chameleon slung his tongue out almost four inches and snatched up a fly! And I caught part of his kill on camera, so see below:

trip to madagascar

madagascar chameleons

Another really amazing encounter with a chameleon in Madagascar happened at the Amber Mountain National Park, also in the northern region of Madagascar. While walking through the rainforest in search of lemurs, our guide stopped us and picked up one of the tiniest creatures I had ever seen—we all could not believe how he spotted it! See below for the picture:

trip to Madagascar

Isalo National Park also boasted some excellent chameleon sightings. In fact, this guy lived in a tree outside my room the entire time I was there:




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