Madagascar Part 2 of 8: Kirindy Forest.
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I woke up early for the forest walk in Kirindy which was about 30 mins drive from the camp. Due to its more remote location it is not visited as much as some of the other parks in Madagascar. The walk started from the Kirindy Lodge where I met the naturalist for the walking safari. The forest is known for being one of the best places to spot the fossa, the largest predator in Madagascar and endemic to the island. Just as we were entering the park one crossed our path in the opposite direction, heading to the lodge looking for food! It is dark brown, almost black in colour and not as large as I expected it to be – it resembled some kind of cross between a cat and dog with large ears and probing eyes. I have been made to work so hard on other safaris to spot big cats often without any luck so it was a welcome relief to spot one of Madagascar’s unique mammals so soon.
We ventured further into the forest and before long a peculiar sound came from the trees. My guide ushered me to a better vantage point, and it was a group of three brown lemurs dancing through the trees intermittently munching on the leaves. They were just as I’d seen on various documentaries with piercing orange eyes and long tails. Their tails were probably as long as their bodies giving them excellent balance for leaping great distances between trees. Kirindy has eight species of lemur, two are active during daytime and the others are nocturnal. The vegetation was very dry so it was impossible to be quiet whilst walking as we crunched our way on twigs and dry leaves announcing our presence. However, this didn’t seem to put off the animals or bird life. Although I was travelling out of the main birding season which I was told is September-November (in Kirindy), I was able to spot many species of birds, including the endemic blue vanga, white vanga and distinctive blue-faced caucau which spends much of its time on the forest floor foraging for food. I almost stepped on a nightjar which was sitting motionless camouflaged in the ground! I can only imagine what the forest must be like during the main birding season as my guide told me that there are birds everywhere flitting between trees and the forest is alive with the constant birdsong.
We continued on where we came across some excited wildlife enthusiasts clicking away at another species of lemur, Verreuax’s Sifaka, an elegant black and white lemur. It was stretched out along a branch looking as if it was soaking up the sun whilst simultaneously chewing on leaves. I was told that this species of lemur was unique in that it does not drink water. Then all of a sudden two more leapt directly above our heads into a neighbouring tree. They are incredibly agile and were truly magnificent to watch.
After spending almost two hours in the park we started to head back to the lodge. On the way my guide somehow managed to spot a large chameleon expertly blending into the bark of a tree and two mongooses rummaging in a hole for some food. All in all it was a thrilling start to my wildlife experience in Madagascar. I now look forward to the late night walking safari which should reveal more of the forest’s secret inhabitants.