Whilst staying at the “Andasibe Hotel”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/accommodation/193223 in eastern Madagascar, we visited what we initially thought was the strangely named V.O.I.M.M.A. Reserve. On arriving, we found it was the acronym for ‘Vondron’olona Miaro Mitia Ala’ which in English is ‘local people love the forest’. This 28-hectare, community run forest, is managed by a newly created group of local guides.
At 2pm, we thought the morning’s rain had passed, but nevertheless packed rain ponchos in our day packs. Dezy, our guide, suggested tucking our trousers into our socks. I assumed it was to combat leeches, which I’d read about in the guidebook, but he said it was to prevent our trouser bottoms getting muddy!
We set off up a short flight of steps onto a path made from flat square stones. It was well designed and was still being constructed as we were passed by a group of men carrying the stones. Having told Dezy we wanted to see Indri (the largest lemur), he was on a mission and set off at a brisk pace plunging us off piste through the wet foliage. We quickly spotted an indri high in a tree, but it sat motionless as Dezy said it would be cold and wet.
We saw a magnificent green Parsons Chameleon, one of the biggest in the east and fortunately it was not obscured by foliage. Whilst the male lives up to 18 years, the female dies after only 5 to 6 years. She lays one set of eggs in her life (up to 40) which are incubated over 2 years and survival rate is 35% as they are eaten as eggs and young chicks by a variety of predators.
By now the rain had come on heavily and we donned rain ponchos: bearing in mind we’d carried them around for six weeks without wearing them, we didn’t mind. We passed huge fungi and headed towards the river and a bridge where Dezy pointed out a sacred place on the other side with Malagasy flags, a tree which hadn’t been identified and lots of red ribbon wrapped round it. Sacrifices are made here of zebu and chicken and the blood is poured into the tree stump as an offering and the meat is cooked and eaten. Parallel to the bridge two huge golden orb spider webs stretched from one side of the river to the other. The spiders were swinging in the rain in the middle.
At one point, I found a small black wiggly thing on my hand which I was unable to brush off, so Roy bravely removed what I learned was a leech.
We continued and climbed up some steps onto a clearer path high up the tree line. We had to constantly look underfoot for branches and roots, and at head height for low hanging trees which wasn’t easy with a hood up. We went into a bird watching phase and saw a couple of species of the vanga bird, there are said to be 32, and also giraffe necked weevil and leaf-tailed gecko which were heavily disguised on a tree.
Before we knew it, we were back at the entrance. Having walked for 3 hours, much of it in the rain, hot showers were required back at the hotel.