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AKA: Kirindy Private Reserve / Foret de Kirindy
Not a national park but an independent reserve created alongside a Swiss sustainable logging enterprise. It held a special allure for German researchers after the significance of its wildlife became apparent and was later made accessible to the public. Most notably it's the only place in the world that you'll find the world's smallest primate, Madame Berthe's Mouse Lemur.
The forest takes on a different characteristic than most reserves and National Parks in Madagascar as it's entirely a dry deciduous forest rather than just sections of it. It also entertains baobabs standing proudly amongst the rest of the trees—a sight not common in the rest of the country as the neighbours are usually felled. The relatively flat terrain and independent status has permitted it to give pretty liberal night walks which are some of the best in the country.
You should note that there is a Kirindy Mitea National Park south of Morondava that is completely distinct from Kirindy Reserve, here, north of Morondava.
Kirindy can be reached from Morondava in under two hours by 4x4 along the [RN8]—a prominent junction off the [RN35] just before the town centre. If strapped for time it's a straightforward spot to visit in a day, should you be willing to sacrifice the excellent night walks on offer here. As the same road also serves Tsingy de Bemaraha and Avenue of the Baobabs most visitors to the area will be seeing all three. I recommend going to the tsingy first and then visiting Kirindy and the Avenue of the Baobabs on the way back—unexpected road conditions are easier to deal with at the start so that you're in a better position to allocate time after. For most the year this isn't a difficult or remote location to reach by 4x4 so you may be able to get a good price with the right person. I've suggested an amount somewhere in the middle, per day, should you only be visiting Kirindy.
A taxi-brousse from Morondava also goes right past the reserve entrance. Timewise, keep in mind that the reserve reception and accommodation is in the heart of the forest and you have a [5km] walk from the outside road to the first moment you can put your bags down.
Though the fossa can be found in isolated pockets throughout the country, it's incredibly elusive and rarely spotted in the vicinity of people. Not in Kirindy Reserve, where they've become one of the main draws to the park after deciding that humans can be tolerated—for better or worse—as you'll tend to find them waiting for scraps from around the camp rather than out on a trail. They are still wild animals and this is enough to excite many who finally see one, but may also feel a little too habituated, with pangs of a zoo rather than a genuine sighting in the wild.
It's a tough task for the reserve as there's pressure to ease the fossa away from depending on the reserve camp, which—among several issues—can encourage reliance on scavenging for scraps or livestock in nearby villages. While there's likely policies in place to encourage an improvement I didn't understand why it was the camp with the largest amount of accessible waste I'd seen when it's the reserve with the most pressing issue of dependency from reserve residents. When we were told we could see a giant jumping rat it was suggested that we don't try to find one on a night walk and just pay a night guardian to wake us up when he sees one in the car park later. Although disappointing (along with our arrival discussion), these were small blips on an otherwise fantastic time here. There's plenty of evidence of a lot of pride and passion in the reserve elsewhere and none of this should deter you from visiting. I just hope it's phased out further once the best method to do so is established.
The difficulty with protecting the fossa population in Kirindy, while preventing chicken attacks in nearby villages and over-reliance on humans, is documented well in some research papers online if you enjoy further reading. Should the sighting of a fossa be one the main reasons for visiting, try and plan your trip around the last quarter of the year, particularly October or November, when the mating season is under way and they tend to be more visible.
Kirindy Reserve offers its own basic wooden cabins that are a little worn but perfectly adequate, comfortable and clean. There's private lodges and ‘dorms’ which comprise of rooms with either 3, 4, or 8 beds. On enquiring, we were only told about the more expensive option and the dorms weren't mentioned until we brought them up ourselves ([MGA35000] per bed vs [MGA130000] per lodge). We visited at a quieter time when the dorm option meant we got a room to ourselves. During busier periods I would imagine that you may be required to accommodate any new guests arriving once rooms begin to fill.
I've heard suggestions that the dorms are intended for researchers and those staying here longer term rather than tourists—perhaps excusing their omission from our accommodation options. I've no further clarification on this yet but would presume that they'll be available for use due to both the fact that we were able to stay in them (once we pointed out their existence) and they're shown as an option under kirindy's tourist-facing listings.
The toilets and showers for the dorms are communal but you're given a key to a toilet that only you will use during your stay. Normally you'd find toilet roll in here but luckily we had some spare with us when we arrived. I think we just got one unenthused member of staff on our arrival. Or perhaps they were short staffed that day and he was covering a position that wasn't his. Our enquiry about options for circuits was met with a response that there was a night walk and a day walk, yes. Not a great start. But our guide fixed that and every other member of staff we met after was cheery and helpful.
Private lodges include their own bathroom facilities, hot water and a free breakfast. All accommodation options include scheduled electricity outlets for charging and lighting after dark until the late evening. The area is not on the electricity grid so power comes from limited solar reserves.
The meals and drinks were overpriced compared to nearby Morondava town prices but you're stuck for options if staying on site. The choices were basic but tasty and filling.
Of all the parks and reserves in Madagascar, Kirindy Reserve offers some of the flattest trails to navigate, which will be of interest to anybody with slight mobility issues who want to see more than the a few trails near the entrance of a park.
As Kirindy Reserve is independent, it sets its own pricing structure that varies a little from the national parks scheme. All guests must pay an admission fee each, that covers them for three days (rather than a national park's single day of coverage). Child rates apply for those aged 5 - 12.
Separately, circuits are grouped into four pricing structures as listed below and the price covers two people. It's not entirely clear if a single person must pay this same price to cover a similar level of work by the guide (I would imagine so).
The reserve states that groups of up to ten people will pay [MGA10000] each per circuit. This is a somewhat ambiguous description so I'm going to hazard a guess that each additional person after two will pay an additional [MGA10000] each, up to ten people. For example, a person doing one circuit on their own would pay [MGA35000] plus [MGA50000], whereas a group of 5 people would pay [MGA35000] × 5, plus [MGA50000], plus a further [MGA10000] × 3. Make sense?
Park Admission Fees
|Any day circuit||up to 2 hours||varies||[MGA50000]|
|Any day circuit||2 - 4 hours||varies||[MGA100000]|
|Any night circuit||up to 2 hours||varies||[MGA100000]|
|Any night circuit||2 - 4 hours||varies||[MGA200000]|