We tried to pick an easy hike in Isalo National Park because our muscles were still aching from our big trek. Surprised by the price of park fees, guides, and mandatory car transfers to the trailhead, we were glad we were only staying for one day of hiking.
Our guide, Jacquelin, was nice, and had worked in the park for 25 years. He had recommended the Cascades de Nymphes trail which took us along a trickling river, past, up, and over big boulders to two natural swimming pools each fed by a lovely waterfall. Craig took full advantage and went for a dip!
We saw the same female chameleon that we'd seen in a few parks, but this time got a treat when we saw the gigantic male next to her - up in a tree! (He's in the bottom right of this photo).
Along the way we were delighted with a private viewing of two beautiful Verreaux's sifaka. They gave us quite the show bouncing from tree to tree, and even along the trail in front of us. We sadly didn't have our videocamera, so a series of pictures will have to do!
In the afternoon we met back up with Heather and John and took a taxi to the nearby town Illaka, which is known for sitting on the world's largest supply of sapphires. The timing of this seemed especially fortunate because of Craig's recent proposal and our previous discussions about a sapphire engagement ring! In the end, we were pleased to see that the working conditions were not as horrific as we had made them out to be in our heads, so we can buy one reasonably guilt-free if we find one we like.
Mining for sapphires is an interesting endeavor. They first dig down in search of smooth river rocks to indicate an underground stream. If any are found in the initial test pile, they continue expanding the open pit mine, digging down to the bedrock. Workers carry bags of sand up to the surface to later sift through, while they pump out the water that's deep in the hole. Sapphires, rubies, and emeralds are all apparently the same type of precious stone, just in different colours, so technically sapphires come in a whole range. The traditional deep blue ones are the rarest, thus the most expensive, and the most exported. So in their tiny store they only had a few (none in any settings that we liked). But we'll keep our eyes open for the rest of the time we're in Madagascar!