Behind the bar of a hotel called La Banane on the island of Sainte Marie off the east coast of Madagascar can be found a very rare species, the rum drinking geckos. The hotel is barely a stones throw from the port and these geckos certainly drink like sailors.
I first saw them when I sat at the bar in La Banane and tried a few of the flavoured rums lined up along the shelf of the bar. Sat there in thunderstorm conditions I was studying the coloured bottles with handwritten labels trying to figure out what was in each bottle.
Rum soaked Banana, Coconut, Coffee, Lychee, Orange, Mango and Cinnamon bottles lined the bar making for a sweet but potent mixture. This sweetness masked the true strength of each mixture and when I asked the barmaid the strength she simply said “I don’t know.” What is sure is that each gives a good kick of alcohol to the taste buds through the aforementioned sweetness.
While I worked my way logically through the coloured bottled from left to right I felt my senses had left me when I saw what appeared to be a gecko appear from behind one of the bottles and make straight for the bottle top. Curious as to what was going on I kept an eye on him as he climbed to a point where there was a drop of rum adhering to the side. When he got to the desired spot he began to lick at the rum drop with him long pink tongue, eyes bulging.
Not so hard to make the connection to what was going on here, clearly this gecko liked his rum. I sat on my barstool and he sat at the entrance of the bottle, both of us sipping rum and enjoying the afternoon rain. After he had finished his drink he disappeared back behind the bottle he had come from, a bit more unsteadily than he arrived but seemingly happy enough.
On finishing my rum I proceed to the next one along the line and all of a sudden another gecko appeared. I’m not sure if it was the same drinker or another one but the same thing happened, lapping up a drop of rum disappearing behind the bottle again.
When I pointed out what was happening to the barmaid she just looked and laughed but if one seemed to be hanging around the same bottle for too long she shooed him along, a kind of you have had enough for now sir.
Luckily most of the week I spend on spent on Ile Sainte Maire involved seeing these rum drinking geckos as it rained heavily near every afternoon. The behaviour was always the same. After a rum had been poured a gecko appeared shortly afterwards to mop up any left on the top of the bottle before going back to the comfort of a space behind the bottle.
When it rains on Ile sainte Marie there isn’t much to do but the rum drinking geckos in La Banane proved good company and are very sociable drinkers.