Thursday 1 March – Kirindy Forest and Avenue of the Baobab & drive back to Antsirage on 2 March

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March 2nd 2018
Published: March 12th 2018
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Thursday 1 March – Kirindy Forest and Avenue of the Baobab

Today was going to be another highlight and one of the 2 main reasons for wanting to come to Madagascar, to see lemurs and other wildlife AND to see the Avenue of the Baobab.

We left our hotel at 7.30am with Rivo. This was after a leisurely breakfast gazing out over the beach, watching all the little fishing boats gathering their daily catch. The fresh seafood is lovely in the west.

Driving back through the town, turning left, we hit the dirt road. We had over 2 hours to drive over big road undulations, potholes and varying sizes of water in puddles and across the road. Some were quite deep but the AWD Hyundai and Rivo’s driving worked well together. You wouldn’t go on the trip if you had a sore back though!!! You would also need a 4x4 after a heavy tropical down-pour which was a frequent evening event.

On arrival we arranged a local guide who was an animal spotter. He only spoke French and Malagasy however, we went with another couple of tourists. The girl was a Malagasian who could speak French, and the boyfriend was French, who could speak a little English, and they both living in the Reunion Islands. So, the guide spoke to the girl in Madagasian language, who translated to the boyfriend in French, who translated for us in English. It worked – sort of!!

Kirindy Forest or Kirindy Private Reserve is a private park situated in the western Madagascar, 50 km northeast of the town of Morondava. The forest was earlier operated as an experimental sustainable timber harvesting scheme, which has not left indelible scars on the region. Most of the canopy top is about 14 meters in height, but in wetter parts it may almost triple in vertical extent. There are three species of baobab trees present: Adansonia grandidieri, Adansonia rubrostipa and Adansonia za.

Kirindy Forest, approximately 100 square kilometres in area, may be best known as the only location where the endangered giant jumping rat (Hypogeomys antimena) occurs. We saw a poster of one which is the closest we got to it as they are more nocturnal. This animal can hop like a miniature kangaroo, but it also walks on all four limbs. The Reserve has the greatest density and diversity of primates in the world. It is also the best western-reserve for seeing Madagascar’s endemic dry forest species.

Our bush walk was very productive. We saw the common brown lemur but also the white fluffy Verreaux's sifakas. We saw a family of 4. They were so cute. We saw many birds and many ‘water snakes’ on the road.

After our walk, we returned to the park headquarters. As usual, I go for an extra walk around the area with my camera. Suddenly I spotted a long, slender, short furred, long tailed animal and it was the Fossa, in fact there were 2 males. They were heading behind the buildings so I ran ahead of them, gathering other tourists as I went. They turned around and looked at us with their sharp teeth exposed then walked away. What a find!!

As the park restaurant was closed, we drove back to a lovely resort where there were 2 other tables in the restaurant taken by tourists, one by the couple we did the bushwalk with and the other by American grandparents and 20 something granddaughter who we had seen on Lemur Island. We learned the granddaughter was doing 12-months volunteering in Tana and her grandparents were visiting her.

Roast chicken for me and pork for Tom . . . with old beer. It was very humid, but a breeze was blowing. We chatted to the other tourists then headed to our next highlight, the Avenue of the Baobabs. Located 17 km northeast of Morondava, the Avenue of the Baobabs, is a widely popular attraction. The ‘Avenue’ is an extra-ordinary stand of huge Avenue of Baobab trees, Adansonia grandidieri, and includes trees that are over 800 years old and reach a height of over 30 meters. The world famous Avenue of the Baobabs is photographer’s paradise and especially beautiful at sunset. It was only 3.00pm but I told Rivo we were coming back at sunset!!!!

Before we got there, Rivo turned off the road several kilometres before the Avenue of Baobabs ("upside down trees") to see some interesting sights such as Les Baobabs Amoureuse (amorous baobabs) where two trees have grown intertwined with each other. Ladies can cuddle the amorous baobabs and this is said to improve fertility! This was not for me!!!! Some local villagers had set up stalls to sell wooden baobab trees and other souvenirs, and also charging 2000 Ar for parking.

Next stop - Avenue of the Baobabs is a candidate as one of the 7 Wonders of Africa; efforts are underway to protect this unique grove of more than a dozen trees.

We drove back to the village of Morondava and found a bar/café to sit and sip beer, watching the life of Malagasians, waiting for 5.15pm to drive back to the Avenue of Baobab.

We arrived back at the Avenue which is about 15 minutes from the edge of the town. There were over 50 locals playing music and one at a time, one of them would get up and dance while they were being filmed. Apparently, this is what they always do which was very entertaining whilst waiting for the sun to set.

The large, trees, in their glory, took on many different appearances and colours as the sun set. It was majestic. The shadows of the trees made them look almost mystical. Their silhouette with the sun behind them WAS a photographer’s dream. After 250 photos between Tom & I, I hoped we had a good enough one for an A2 wall painting.

Thanking Rivo for taking us out, he drove home in the dark, a task that was not easy in the very low light village environment where the 100s of ‘cyclo-push’ bikes didn’t have lights or reflectors.

Rivo dropped us off at a restaurant for a lovely fish meal. We noticed a pedestal fan so as soon as a family who were using it left the restaurant, we organised the fan so that it could be used by several tables of guests, especially us!!! I ate a whole grilled fish and Tom had a ginger fish dish, both very tasty. We then walked back to our airconditioned bungalow.

Friday 2 March – drive from Morondava back to Antsirabe

It was an early start in the morning, but we had to wait for the staff to cook our omelettes and give us the long French stick which is certainly one of those carry-overs from the French occupation day. Tom was enjoying his fresh milk in his tea and coffee also.

We were in the car by 7.15am and after driving through the very busy town with its markets and breakfast in full swing, dodging all the taxi busses and cyclo-pushes and people, we were on our way. Tom and I had fun trying to take a photo of the young girls who paint their face with crushed plant material made into a mud pack to protect their faces from the sun – apparently!

We had already travelled on this road so it was ‘sit back and enjoy the scenery’ until we returned to the Hotel Royal Palace in Antisirabe.

WE stopped to have a coffee on the way and bathroom stop (one holer – no system in rural Madagascar). When Tom bought out his powdered milk the 4 non-speaking local girls were interested in tasting it. Two were very pregnant. They enjoyed the experience.

We arrived at Antisirabe round 5.00pm and had a very pleasant evening, including a lovely meal at the hotel’s restaurant. I had medium rare kudu skewer and crunchy vegies and Tom had Beef Biriyani.

Additional photos below
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