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Kirindy: Journal | Pictures

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We leave Bemaraha at 7:45 AM. The road passes through mostly deforested scrub and there is evidence of recent fires. We see some Andansonia fony baobabs along the way. We stop for lunch in Belo de Trisihibina before taking a car ferry across the Trisihibina river. Getting the car off the ferry proves to be a gut-wrenching experience but we get through it OK.

Kirindy is a privately run area of forest. The accomodations consist of simple open bungalows with mosquito nets and electricity. I camp in the forest near the bungalows. Kirindy is a one-day stop for most visitors -- actually many visitors only stop here for a night hike on their way to somewhere else. Having four days here gives me more time to explore some of the outer reaches of the reserve but I'd recommend a shorter stay for most people. This time of year (the cool dry season) much of the wildlife (especially repitles and amphibians) are hibernating. The forest is also very dry whereas during the rainy season much of the area of flooded and bright green leaves cover most of the plants. Kirindy is not accessible from mid-January to late March due to the rain.

There has been a considerable amount of research done at Kirindy and there is a center for visiting scientists and students. Several helpful posters list resident species and explain local culture and there is a display describing medicinal plants in the area. Kirindy also has replicas of erotic wood carvings that were once found in the area before they were pillaged in the 1970s. These sculptures are typically placed atop tombs.

Red-fronted brown lemurs are very tame at Kirindy. It appears that the group found around reserve headquarters is fed by tourists. Most evenings several Boky boky mongooses (Mungotictis decemlineata) will descend upon the refuse heap while squealing at one another and picking through leftovers.

Kirindy is known for night hikes where you might see nocturnal lemurs (especially Cheirogaleus medius, Phaner pallescens, Microcebus murinus, and Lepilemur ruficaudatus), reptiles (Paroedura geckos, snakes, sleeping chameleons), and if you're lucky, the fossa (behind the kitchen around the chicken coop). The best time of the year to see Giant Jumping Rats is in September. Hiking in the dry forest at night features a chorus of lemur and insect sounds from the vigorous chirping of mouse lemurs to the banter between Phaner pallescens lemurs.

During the day the melody of sounds shifts to near complete domination by the ear-splitting call of cicadas. On day hikes you are likely to see a number of bird species along with sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi) and Red-fronted brown lemurs (Eulemur fulvus rufus). These lemurs are used to humans and can be approached within about 5 meters for the sifakas and 2-3 meters for the brown lemurs.

At this time of year (mid October) it can get quite cool at night so be sure to bring some warm clothes. During the day it may be quite hot but there are relatively few mosquitos between dawn and dusk.

As an independent travler one of the biggest drawbacks to Kirindy is the group-nature of visitors to the reserve. If you stay more than a day or two your visit will be punctuated by the arrival of groups with 8-25 people who quickly occupy space and alter the atmosphere of the place. They can also be noisy at night scaring away wildlife.

Gregoire is my local guide at Kirindy. He speaks French and Malagasy and while not a regular guide he is quite willing to go for unusually long and rough hikes and poke through the mud in search of frogs. There is a slight bit of miscommunication which leads him to believe for about a day that frogs are my motivating focus for all hikes and we spend quite a lot of time in Kirindy's wetter areas which are dispersed this time of year. We hike on some trails that appear to have not been used in quite some time.

My last night in Kirindy I try out one of the bungalows. In the early morning (around 4) I am awaken by the sounds of aggressive squeaking. As I shift into a sitting position an 8-10 inch bat falls on top of my mosquito netting, gives me a bewildered look, then flies out the window. Still hearing some noise I peak out from under my net and shine a light on the beam above my bed. Looking down at my is a very disturbed looking owl. Apparently the two were battling for a place to roost for the next day.

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Almost all pictures on this site were taken with a Konica Minolta

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