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Wildlife-Watching in the Kirindy Nature Reserve, Madagascar
Because the #Kirindy Forest Reserve is so remote, it offers some of the best opportunities to see #wildlife in all of #Madagascar. Seeing all of the #active creatures so close was an experience in itself. It ended up being the best part of our trip to this unbelievably unique country.
During our trip to Madagascar, the Kirindy Forest Reserve was our first stop and it also proved to be the highlight of the trip. We’d come to Madagascar to see wildlife, and Kirindy definitely did not disappoint.
Located in one of the most remote corners of Madagascar, the Kirindy Forest Reserve is home to various species of endemic animals and plantlife, providing some of the best wildlife-watching opportunities in the country.
The Kirindy Forest Reserve is home to various species of endemic animals and plantlife, providing some of the best wildlife-watching opportunities
But because of its remote location, beyond asphalt roads and tourist infrastructure, Kirindy receives much less visitors than it rightfully deserves. Travelers looking for something a little different will find Kirindy a rewarding place to visit.
We’d arrived at night (after a long day of driving from Antananarivo), just as the howling of fosas began. Fosas are predators that hunt for lemurs and are the country’s largest carnivore. As we crept quietly in the dark, we seemingly entered a different world, one ruled by the animals. The full moon above us provided the light we needed to find our way around the crisp branches and buttress roots of the trees.
Within minutes, our guide Rammy stopped us in our tracks and shined his torchlight towards a log that was etched on another tree. Inside it, a greymouse lemur squirmed under the bright light and watched us with its bright and sparkling eyes. I gasped, barely hiding my excitement at seeing a creature this close.
I gasped, barely hiding my excitement at seeing a creature this close
It was probably one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen: a tiny little mouse-like animal with eyes bigger than pingpong balls and frog-like web feet grabbing the tree branch for its dear life (for those who’ve watched the animation movie ‘Madagascar’, you’d recognise this lemur as one of the cutest characters in the show). The mouse lemur didn’t move one bit; it looked as curious about us as we were of it. We stood and stared in silence for a good fifteen minutes, overwhelmed by this rare encounter.
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It was just the first of the many sightings to come. Continuing along the trail, we spotted a family of red-fronted sportif lemurs, agile furry-tailed creatures that leapt from tree to tree above our heads. In the fallen tree, we found a tiny creature named Berther’s lemur, said to be the smallest primate in the world.
On our way out of the woods, Rammy pointed out a sleepy warty chameleon, one of the rare kind that can roll its two eyes separately, in 360 degrees. Our guide’s night vision was impressive, a skill trained from years of living and guiding in the Kirindy Forest.
That night, we had a simple meal at the Kirindy’s campsite and retired to our simple bungalow for a good night’s sleep. The wooden shed was basic but gave us the chance to be close to nature and snooze under the moonlight to the background music from the forest orchestra.
The Forest by day
The next day, we awoke to sounds of birds chirping on our rooftop and lemurs cooing in the distance. We entered the forest again, this time venturing further in deeper to unexplored grounds. By day, the forest looked like how I’d imagined it to be: dry, crisp and withered.
Our guide for the day, Marcelle, seemed to have read my mind, “The trees might look dead, but they’re very much alive. It’s the dry season now so they’ve shed their leaves. But when the rainy season starts, the forest changes colour completely and turns into a lush, green paradise.”
Marcelle smiled; it was obvious this place was special to him.
While making our way around the circumference of the forest, we found a Chinese family snapping shots of something high up in the tree canopy. Above our heads were a group of furry white Verraux sifakas. I was in awe.
Above our heads were a group of furry white Verraux sifakas. I was in awe
As I stepped into the forest, one of them even swang by to inspect me up close and personal. It was literally two inches away from me.
With limbs longer than their bodies, the sifakas were as mischievious as monkeys, leaping from one tree to the other as fast as lightning. The Verraux sifaka is also known as the Dancing Lemur, due to the way it sashays sideways when walking on land. The sifaka looks nothing like the mouse lemur, not surprising since there are over 81 species of lemurs and all of them have distinctive looks and characteristics.
Soon after, we continued to see many more Verraux Sifaka within the forest, as well as red-fronted sportif lemurs. In Kirindy, it’s also common to see the giant coa, a beautiful peacock-like bird (though much smaller than a peacock) and the paradise flycatcher. We saw several of them flapping their wings through the undergrowth of the forest.
Marcelle told us when the BBC team came last month, he’d guided them into the forest and witnessed the birth of a baby coa. As we stumbled upon a giant coa with an infant in toll, Marcelle smiled with excitement. In his eyes, I could see how much he loved wildlife and being here in his paradise.
Kirindy was truly something special for Marcelle and us. At the end of our trip, we looked back and realized Kirindy was definitely the best part of our trip.
At the end of our trip, we looked back and realised Kirindy was definitely the best part of our trip
If you’re planning a trip to Madagascar, be sure to include this in your itinerary!
How to get There
Most visits are organized as part of a tour. I visited the reserve with Remote River Expeditions and highly recommend it. Getting there independently can be quite tricky; you can possibly take a taxi-brousse from Belo-sur-Tsiribihina and then walk to the reserve office.
Where to Stay
There is a simple campsite at the reserve office where you can pitch your own tent or sleep in basic dorm rooms and bungalows. Dorms and bungalows are in the form of wooden shacks with limited electricity.