In Search of Fossas, Tsingy, Baobabs & Dancing Lemurs
Extend to 8 days to include Tsingy of Bemaraha
Kirindy Mitea National Park is an excellent place to see some of the wildlife associated with the dry deciduous forests of western Madagascar. This 722km2 park claims to have the highest density of primates anywhere in the World, so for lemurs it is a worthy target. It is almost certainly the best place to try to see the country's apex predator, the Fossa; and the only place you are likely to see Madagascar's Giant Jumping Rat!
Kirindy Mitea lies on the western coast of Madagascar and is one the 'youngest' protected areas on the island; being established in 1997 and opening to visitors in 2006. The park is home to highly diverse ecosystems, with multiple contrasting habitats lying side by side. Sitting at the point where the western and southern biotopes converge, Kirindy Mitea boasts both tropical dry deciduous forests and littoral spiny forest habitat, along with coastal mangroves, grassy dunes, lakes, offshore coral reefs and sandy beaches. It is the only place in Madagascar where large areas of dry forest are actually regenerating, due in no small part to its remoteness, lying more than 100km from the nearest paved road.
Amongst the estimated 31 species of mammal found within the park, highlights include one of Madagascar's most attractive lemurs, the Verreaux's Sifaka; and the world's smallest primate: Madame Berthe's Mouse Lemur (Microcebus berthae), whose average adult body mass is a mere 33g and average body length is 9.2cm. Makis (Ring-tail Lemurs) also exist here, but in low densities.
Of greatest mammalian interest to many visitors here is the elusive Fossa - Madagascar's apex predator. This park is the best site anywhere in Madagascar to see this animal, with encounters with these stealthy predators most likely during their breeding season between October and December, when they come together for noisy and often aggressive courtship.
Madagascan Jumping Rats (Hypogeomys antimena) are also of interest here. They weigh about 1kg and look something like a miniature kangaroo. These are a prime target for fossas and boa constrictors, from which they protect themselves by making extensive burrows. They dig as deep as 16 feet with up to 6 entrances which they cover at night with leaves and soil.
Several species of bats, tenrecs, rodents and mongooses help complete the mammal population there. The local fauna list also includes 50 species of birds; more than 50 reptile species and 15 amphibian species.
There are some magnificent baobab trees at Kirindy Mitea, of which the Grandidier's Baobab (Adansonia grandidieri) is the largest, reaching 30 metres in height and 3 metres in diameter. Baobabs are believed to be sacred by local people, with tradition saying that they were the first trees the gods planted. Alas, they planted them upside down by mistake, which explains the bizarre appearance of these iconic trees.