Expert Reviews – Kirindy Forest
Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.
Fossas and baobabs
Not to be confused with the more southerly national park of the same name, this small privately managed forest reserve and research centre 65km north of Morondava is widely billed as the most reliable site for seeing the fossa, Madagascar’s largest carnivore. Based on our one visit, the reputation is more than justified. We were not there during the mating season of September to November, when these handsome nocturnal hunters are most active, but we still had a few excellent and photogenic daylight sightings of fossa around the low-key camp. We also did a short forest walk that rewarded us with some good lemur sightings, but we missed out on seeing the alluring and highly localised Malagasy giant rat, a rabbit-sized endemic that can leap a metre into the air to escape predators. A must-see en route between Morondava and Kirindy is the so-called Avenue des Baobabs, a strikingly photogenic site that comprises around 20 Grandidier's baobabs that stand up to 30m tall and are thought to be up to 800 years old.
Anthony is a photographer and writer for travel magazines and Lonely Planet, including the guides to Kenya and Botswana & Namibia.
Madagascar’s home of the fossa
Everyone who comes to Madagascar wants to see the fossa. This strange, cat-like predator is Madagascar’s largest wild carnivore and lives all across the island. But only here in Kirindy Forest (not to be confused with Kirindy Mitea National Park) are sightings not so much possible as highly likely. Fossa are frequently seen around the Ecolodge de Kirindy, the main gateway to the park. I enjoyed five different fossa sightings on the first day I visited, and one even fell asleep under my hut. The forest also protects eight species of lemur, including the fork-marked lemur, Coquerel’s dwarf lemur and Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur; the latter is the world’s smallest primate. Birds are another highlight with 45 species, including the much-sought-after Madagascar pygmy kingfisher. But what I really love about Kirindy is the overall package of the place and its backstory. This relatively compact island of community-protected, wildlife-rich forest is a last refuge in a sea of deforestation.
Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.
Fossas in love
I went to Kirindy Forest in the hope of seeing Madagascar’s largest predator, the fossa. Although widespread and present in most of the island’s parks and reserves, this secretive creature is rarely seen. I was told that Kirindy would be my best bet as there are several individuals there that have become habituated to humans. The rumors proved to be true. I had only just arrived when a cheeky fossa strolled past my cottage in broad daylight. Unlike the national parks, Kirindy is privately managed, so you are allowed to walk around unguided. This was a nice change from the packaged activities elsewhere and it gave me an opportunity to follow the fossa doing fossa-things for the whole day. I would love to come back here sometime during their mating season from September to November. At this time, a female occupies a suitable ‘mating tree’ for about a week during which she mates with many males for extended periods of up to two hours at a time. Males congregate beneath the trees calling for the female’s attention.