Wildlife-watching in the Kirindy Nature Reserve, Madagascar

Posted on August 9, 2011 by

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. 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.

Nocturnal Encounters

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 shone 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. 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.

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 creater 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 360degrees. 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 color 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. As I stepped into the forest, one of them even swang by to inspect me upclose and personal. It was literally two inch 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 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 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!

Essential Information

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 (here’s a link to its expeditions and tours). 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.

Cost: Entry permits to the reserve are priced at 25,000Ar (approx US$12) including local guide services (which is mandatory even if you have a guide with you – this applies to most reserves and national parks in Madagascar).

Thirsty for more? Here’s a link to more of my photos from Kirindy, Madagascar.

About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

4 Responses to “Wildlife-watching in the Kirindy Nature Reserve, Madagascar”

  1. Nancy & Shawn Power August 10, 2011 1:31 am #

    Your pictures are STUNNING! And the trip sounds like so much fun especially arriving at night time to the reserve, what an experience that had to have been!

    Nancy & Shawn


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