Day 10 - At leisure in Toliara
Today was the first in a long time that we had nothing scheduled (and no guide feeling like he wasn't doing his job if he didn't spend the majority of daylight hours showing us the sights:) ). Actually, our guides have been great and have managed situations for us that would have been hard to navigate on our own, but as we have apparently over-scheduled ourselves this trip, it was really nice to get a full day to ourselves without any agenda.
Down the street from the hotel is a small "Musee de la Mer" run by the University of Toliara's marine science institute. The museum was very old school, mostly preserved specimens (dried or in jars) with accompanying text in French and Malagasy plus scientific names. Between Nathan's limited French and Christy's science background we managed to piece together a good portion of the signage.
They had some nice diagrams interpreting how coral reefs form around islands, in addition to having many local specimens of fish and invertebrates in addition to whale bones and, oddly, an entire ostrich skeleton! Among the fish, they had several coelacanth specimens, as this is one of the places (the Mozambique Channel of the Indian Ocean) that the coelacanth (considered a "living fossil") was rediscovered in the mid-1990s. Since this modern discovery, local fisherman have continued to catch coelacanth specimens, averaging about one each year.
After visiting the museum, we continued walking south of the hotel and came to the Port of Toliara. The guard at the gate to the Port allowed us to walk out on the jetty as long as we agreed to only walk out only about half-way. Most of the activity was out at the end of the jetty, but walking out just a bit got us past the mangroves and able to have a bit better views of passing boats, not to mention pigs (!) foraging in the mudflats.
After the port visit, we walked back north, past our hotel and found a small handicrafts booth. At another small stand we bought a Coke and a Fanta (one of Nathan's childhood favorites which somehow tastes very different on the island than it does Stateside) and drank them as we walked. We soon had a local girl approach us, asking for our empty bottles. On our agreement, she followed us until we finished and then went on her way (presumably to recycle).
As we got back to the hotel, it started to rain and continued to rain off and on the rest of the day. It was a good day to hunker down, so we did! We got a few pictures in and around the gardens and grounds of the hotel and the lovely sunset but mostly just tried to rest.