Kirindy Reserve, in western Madagascar, is a dry deciduous forest, the most endangered type in the country. We set off from our accommodation, Camp Amoureux, at 6.30am for the 20-minute drive. It was fascinating watching our driver’s arms pump like pistons, as he steered along the bumpy, dusty track to keep a straight line at speed. This road can be unpassable during the rainy season.
All Madagascan parks and reserves require you to have a local guide, even if you already have one, and as these all need to be tipped, it was a constant battle to obtain a supply of the right denomination Ariary Ariary.
On arrival, fees were paid, paperwork completed, and a local guide, Bravo, assigned. We were promised a treat: a sighting of the usually elusive fossa (the islands largest carnivore). Although we found three of them rummaging in the rubbish behind the park entrance, rather than in the reserve, it was, nevertheless an exciting moment and the only sighting during our six weeks in Madagascar – Kirindy is said to be the best place to see them. We took lots of photos and at one point got a little too close, and as the fossa growled and bared his teeth, Bravo bravely shooed him away with a stick.
On our two-hour walk we spotted the red fronted lemur, red tailed sportif lemur and verreaux sifaka. The latter was large, white and furry and a group of them swung from tree to tree, only stopping to poo and we heard the droppings rustle on the dry leaves below them. We were advised never to stand under a tree looking upwards for lemur with your mouth open.
The bush was thick, but the paths were relatively flat and easy to navigate. Amongst the many trees we saw was the baobab (species Adansonia rubrostipa) with its distinctive red bark. Malagasy people called it the ‘foreigner’ baobab as red is the colour white, foreign bodies turn when sunbathing.
As the day got hotter, we appreciated our early start and returned to our vehicle when other groups were just starting out.
On leaving we spotted brightly coloured orange and blue beetles stripping a tree which we later identified from our guides old and battered book as agaeus bicolour, a stink bug found in dry western forests.
On our return journey, we stopped at the sacred baobab tree in a cordoned off, shoe-free area. Local villagers visit the tree to ask for advice or give thanks. For example, if you want a baby boy and you then give birth to a boy, you may take honey to the tree.
There is little accommodation in the area. We stayed at Camp Amoureux, but other options are the nearer Relais de Kirindy, a large resort-style hotel or Kirindy Camp which according to our guide was slightly run down.