Cabins at Kirindy Forest Lodge, Madagascar

September 29, 2016

This post is part of a 10 day trip with Remote River Expeditions.

Kirindy Forest

The compound at Kirindy Lodge is comprised of simple wooden bungalows set in the forest.

Kirindy Forest

The only furniture in our room was a bed with mosquito netting. However, there were no screens on the windows. With the windows closed at night for security there isn’t any air movement. Thankfully it was not as hot here as at the Tsingy de Bemaraha or Morondava.

Kirindy Forest

The cabin is equipped with a basic bathroom with a toilet and shower, however there is not enough water pressure for a decent shower. There is only one outlet in the room and the electricity is only on for a short time in the evening, making charging electronics difficult.

Dining Room

Kirindy Forest Lodge

Meals are served in a pleasant open-air dining room. For dinner the camp offers a choice of starters – soups and salads – and for mains meat or spaghetti with a choice of sauces. We started with the tomato tapenade – sliced tomatoes topped with grated cheese – and the Chinese soup – a big bowl of ramen noodles with vegies.

Kirindy Forest Lodge

For mains we tried the grilled chicken, one with black olives in a tomato sauce and the other with a mushroom sauce. The chicken was rather tough. For dessert a pineapple caramel and a fruit salad. No cold drinks were available as the refrigerator was broken.

Kirindy Forest Lodge

Alex joined us offering to share a Madagascar rosé wine – drinkable and not too sweet We tried the guinea fowl that he had had cooked by the camp kitchen for a 2000 ariary (67 cents USD). It was quite tasty and more tender than the chicken.

Breakfast

Kirindy Forest Lodge

Kirindy Forest Lodge

On the path to the dining room for breakfast a number of tourists were watching a fossa root around the camp. Not the most attractive animal, made less appealing by its weasel like movements. We watched for a little while but then decided coffee sounded more enticing.

Kirindy Forest Lodge

Breakfast is a modified French style with bread, jam, Laughing Cow cheese and condensed sweetened milk for the coffee.

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Kirindy Forest Morning Walk, Madagascar

September 29, 2016

This post is part of a 10 day trip with Remote River Expeditions.

We Met Gervas  our guide at 8AM and from camp walked along a forest road and then down a maze of narrow paths through a deciduous forest. The area was heavily logged in the late 70s and has very few big trees.

Kirindy Forest Morning Walk

The dense tangle of saplings and bushes, now bare in the dry season, is surprisingly light and airy. Dappled sunlight filters through the foliage creating a pleasant environment.

Kirindy Forest Morning Walk

Gervas knows the habits of the lemurs and where to find them. We found this red-tailed lemur still mostly in his hole

Kirindy Forest Morning Walk

Kirindy Forest Morning Walk

Kirindy Forest Morning Walk

and a few groups of sifakas feeding high in the trees, the last group had babies.

Kirindy Forest Morning Walk

Kirindy Forest Morning WalkKirindy Forest Morning Walk

It is difficult to see babies, just a dark blob seemingly attached to the side of the mother.

Kirindy Forest Morning Walk

Long-billed Tetraka

Kirindy Forest Morning Walk

Rufous Vanga

Kirindy Forest Morning Walk

Malachite Kingfisher

Birders have plenty to look at. You have to be fast with the camera though and know where to look when Gervas points them out. I’m not particularly skilled at either.

Kirindy Forest Morning Walk

Green-capped Coua

Kirindy Forest Morning Walk

Madagascar Crested Drongo

Kirindy Forest Morning Walk

Angolinala

Kirindy Forest Morning Walk

Sandalwood Tree

Gervas also talks about the plants and their medicinal uses, such as sandalwood used as a face mask to block the harsh rays of the sun and a vine that he calls a vanilla plant that gives you energy but is also an aphrodisiac – don’t drink too much! “One family drinks it, 10 babies.”

Kirindy Forest Morning Walk

Tree with Penis

The walk took about 2 hours.

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Kirindy Forest Night Walk, Madagascar

September 28, 2016

This post is part of a 10 day trip with Remote River Expeditions.

Kirindy Forest Night Walk

Arriving at the Kirindy Forest we met our guide, Gervas, for a briefing of the area. We decided to skip the afternoon walk and just do the night walk and the morning one the next day.The night walk begins at dusk, just after 6PM. We take the car a few minutes down the road and head down a narrow trail in the woods.

Kirindy Forest Night Walk

Almost immediately Gervas points out a mouse lemur. I don’t see it at first but then I make out the eyes glowing in the dark and then the blur as they scurry across the tree limbs.

Kirindy Forest Night Walk

The grey mouse lemurs and Madam Berthe’s mouse lemur are the most numerous.

Kirindy Forest Night Walk

Fork marked lemur

Kirindy Forest Night WalkKirindy Forest Night Walk

The peak moment of the evening was a mouse lemur hanging out on a low trunk, so close I could almost reach out and touch it. Gervas tries to light it for me without blinding the poor creature.

Kirindy Forest Night WalkKirindy Forest Night WalkKirindy Forest Night Walk

On our way out this Western tufted-tailed rat scurries across the trail.

Kirindy Forest Night Walk

Later, as we are driving back to camp, a fossa, a cat-like predator, appears on the road. We stop, get out and follow him a ways down a side trail before he disappears into the forest.

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Drive from Tsingy de Bemaraha to Kirindy Forest, Madagascar

September 28, 2016

This post is part of a 10 day trip with Remote River Expeditions.

We depart at 7AM as we have a long drive towards Morondava with an overnight stop at the Kirindy Forest for evening and morning walks to see the local lemurs.

Drive from Tsingy de Bemaraha to Kirindy Forest

The road is flat and slow, not as rough as previous roads but still plenty of slow sections.

Tsingy de BemarahaThe ferry crossing outside of Tsingy de Bemaraha is quick and easy quick. They load 1 to 3 cars on a motorized barge. Alex says they’ve only had the motor a couple of years. Before that they poled across the river.

Children by the side of the road wave but are more aggressive than we saw in the hinterland – dancing and posing, some with their hands out expecting something from the tourists.

Drive from Tsingy de Bemaraha to Kirindy Forest

We pass through a few villages with the same style of straw and mud wall construction that we saw in Bekopaka, very little brick.

Drive from Tsingy de Bemaraha to Kirindy Forest-1-3.jpg

There was some traffic in both directions but not enough to slow us down.

Belo Tsiribihina

We reached Belo Tsiribihina at 10:30 where we stopped for lunch at the Mad Zebu before taking the ferry across the Mania River. Alex points out that this restaurant is locally owned and not the Pakistani place – the other restaurant in town.

Belo Tsiribihina

The dining room has an open-air tropical vibe. The food is well prepared and much nicer than we’ve had since we’ve been in Madagascar.  As it was only mid-morning and we weren’t very hungry we skipped the appetizers and dessert. They brought us a cherry tomato and smoked fish amuse bouche.

Belo Tsiribihina

For mains Don had the filet de capitaine – a local fish –

Belo Tsiribihina

and I had the queue de camoron – large fresh local shrimp.

Crossing the Mania River took the 1.5 hours Alex said it would. We didn’t have to wait long as we were the last vehicle on the ferry that was waiting when we arrived.

Drive from Tsingy de Bemaraha to Kirindy Forest

However it’s a slow process loading up the vehicles followed by a ride up river to reach the dock on the other side.

Drive from Tsingy de Bemaraha to Kirindy Forest

Drive from Tsingy de Bemaraha to Kirindy ForestDrive from Tsingy de Bemaraha to Kirindy Forest

Quite the scene on either end – the loading and unloading of vehicles, tourists and locals hanging about, snack shops, kids playing in the water.

Drive from Tsingy de Bemaraha to Kirindy Forest

Drive from Tsingy de Bemaraha to Kirindy ForestDrive from Tsingy de Bemaraha to Kirindy Forest

Past the river is more dusty, red road through the flat lands.

Drive from Tsingy de Bemaraha to Kirindy Forest

Alex buys two live guinea fowl for 5000 ($1.50USD) each. He sticks them in the back of the vehicle with the other supplies.

According to Alex this area has been burnt out by tribes to the south who want to cultivate the land. As we get closer to Morondava we start to see rice paddies.

Drive from Tsingy de Bemaraha to Kirindy Forest

Tombs

Kirindy Forest

We reach the Kirindy Forest just after 2PM.

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Orchidée du Bemaraha Hôtel, Tsingy de Bemaraha Nat’l Park, Madagascar

September 26-28, 2016

This post is part of a 10 day trip with Remote River Expeditions.

Orchidée du Bemaraha Hôtel

Front of Chalet

This higher end establishment is a compound of chalets and open air common areas, including a swimming pool and bar, set in a pretty tropical garden.

Orchidée du Bemaraha HôtelOrchidée du Bemaraha Hôtel

While nice compared to where we have been staying in Madagascar it still has a dusty third world Asian feel.

Orchidée du Bemaraha Hôtel

The wooden chalets are comfortable and quite dark with the windows closed yet light and airy with them open. The spacious high-ceilinged room has wood floors and dark wood furniture.

Orchidée du Bemaraha Hôtel

Hotel Visitor

There is no air-conditioning, but a great fan inside the mosquito netting above the bed keeps you cool enough at night. Unfortunately, the second night of our stay our bed was made up with badly pilled sheets. The bathroom is clean with an adequate shower and toilet. However, there is no safe, hair dryer or Wifi in the room. A laundry service is available.

Set-menu meals are served in the high-ceilinged open-air dining room. Service is friendly and efficient.

Orchidée du Bemaraha Hôtel

The first night’s dinner started with a squash soup followed by fried fish with a side of vegies and bread pudding cake with chocolate sauce for dessert.

The next day’s lunch was a cooked vegie plate, spaghetti Bolognese and banana caramel for dessert.

Orchidée du Bemaraha Hôtel

Our second dinner started with gazpacho, goat with potatoes for the main dish and coconut flan for dessert.

Orchidée du Bemaraha Hôtel

The French style breakfast includes bread products, assorted jams, honey, the local Nutella, a lemonade juice drink and coffee with sweetened condensed milk.

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Lemurs at the Grand Tsingy de Bemaraha, Madagascar

September 27, 2016

This post is part of a 10 day trip with Remote River Expeditions.

Grand Tsingy de Bemaraha

 

We woke at 5AM for a 5:30 departure. Alex was already waiting for us and had collected our breakfast box – a bag containing 2 rolls with butter, 2 cakes and a package of toasted bread, and a lemonade type juice in water bottle.

It’s a bumpy 1.5 hour drive through dry rain forest to the parking lot of the Grand Tsingy. Other drivers may do this route faster as our driver, Dominque, seems particularly cautious.

We reach the parking lot at 7AM and are the first to arrive which I highly recommend. The first kilometer of the 4K walking route is through the forest. The shade is very welcome as the day is already heating up.

Grand Tsingy de Bemaraha

Our first lemur sighting is eyes peering out of the top of a high tree stump.

Grand Tsingy de BemarahaGrand Tsingy de Bemaraha

A little while later Robert, our guide, points out white lemurs jumping through the trees. Their long bodies, graceful yet powerful, leap with keen precision.

Grand Tsingy de Bemaraha

As we approach the Tsingy sharp boulders begin to line the trail. Near the entrance the trail passes through a narrow cave just wide enough to walk through.

Grand Tsingy de Bemaraha

Grand Tsingy de Bemaraha

A dark passage way climbs a slippery slope, ending at a large area open to the light. Past here starts the climb up to the view point. There is nothing too technical and the climb isn’t a problem for those used to light scrambling. Some guides provide harnesses to clip onto the cables that line the steeper sections, really overkill in many areas.

Grand Tsingy de Bemaraha

A narrow ladder helps traverse the steeper slabs. Other aides include stone steps bolted in the side of the rock face. Good shoes are a must on the jagged stones.

Grand Tsingy de Bemaraha

At the viewpoint we immediately see a group of red fronted brown lemurs, playing or fighting on the jagged pinnacles. The males are the duller brown color. The reddish brown females sometimes have babies wrapped around their middles.

Grand Tsingy de Bemaraha

Grand Tsingy de BemarahaGrand Tsingy de Bemaraha

Grand Tsingy de Bemaraha

We hear a group of tourists below us and descend to give them a turn at the small viewpoint. Just below and a little further along the trail we get a better up-close look at the lemurs. According to Robert it’s rare to find the lemurs on the tsingy.

Grand Tsingy de Bemaraha

Grand Tsingy de Bemaraha

Fascinating to watch these creatures – the stripe down the center of their face, piercing eyes, curious feet, amazing grace on the stone, babies clinging tightly.

Grand Tsingy de BemarahaGrand Tsingy de BemarahaGrand Tsingy de Bemaraha

Alex pours water on the rock to attract them. When the show ends we continue through the pinnacles to the second viewpoint.

Grand Tsingy de BemarahaGrand Tsingy de BemarahaGrand Tsingy de Bemaraha

The views are similar to those of the Petit Tsingy only larger both in scale and in the area covered. If you like scrambling it’s great fun to climb through the labyrinth of formations, up and down to the suspension bridge.

Grand Tsingy de BemarahaGrand Tsingy de Bemaraha

There is another great view from here that might have better light in the afternoon sun when a larger expanse of formation would be lit.

Grand Tsingy de BemarahaGrand Tsingy de BemarahaGrand Tsingy de Bemaraha

Past the suspension bridge the route winds back down steep craggy sections with cables to clip into, again overkill in my opinion.

Grand Tsingy de BemarahaGrand Tsingy de BemarahaGrand Tsingy de Bemaraha

Some narrow passages require crouching down or crawling on all fours.

Grand Tsingy de Bemaraha

Back out in the forest we find one last lemur lounging on a branch just above us. He seems relaxed and used to people.

Grand Tsingy de Bemaraha

Ringed-tail mongoose.

Grand Tsingy de Bemaraha

We arrive back at the parking lot at 10AM. It’s now full and the sun is hot; so glad we started early.

We are back at the hotel at 11:30AM with the afternoon free to rest for the journey to Morondava the next day.

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Manambolo River Trip, Madagascar – Arrival at Tsingy de Bemaraha Nat’l Park

September 26, 2016

This post is part of a 10 day trip with Remote River Expeditions.

Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-1

We wake at 6AM to a still calm morning. Yesterday’s wind is now just traces in the sand.

Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-2

The guys prepare breakfast and pack up. They are not in much of a hurry. Breakfast is a collection of what they have left which seems like a lot – a local Nutella, a fresh box of muesli and milk.

Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-3

Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-7

We’re on the river at 7:30. Calm and deeper with fewer shallow sections, the paddling is easier. The cliffs become more dramatic as we head towards the gorge.

Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-4Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-5Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-6Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-8Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-9Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-10

We pass more locals this morning – groups of children, net fishermen, locals in 2 pirogues tied together, a group of boatmen poling the canoes from previous tourist group back upstream.

Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-11

 

We are in the lead and head down a side channel to wait for the others. Alex mentioned to us this morning that we would be stopping at a swimming hole. We don’t know if this is it or it’s further up. The water looks cool, clean and deep so we decide to try it. The water is much colder than the river but refreshing.

The others show up around 11:30 and Alex tells us that Vunje will take us up the channel to a swimming hole while he stays back to prepare lunch.

Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-12

It’s a wet, sandy, muddy and rocky walk up the channel, in and out of the canoe a few times before walking the rest of the way in. The pools are clear, deep and inviting. We stop at the #1 swimming hole (still don’t know why they are named #1, #2, #3 and so forth). It’s a deep pool with a small waterfall at one end. We’ve already had a dip and changed into dry clothes so hesitate to get wet again. But the pull is too great. Don gets in and then me – carefree for 40 minutes, jumping off the eight foot bank into the deep pool and then back around again.

Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-13

The water is a perfect cool temperature.

Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-14

Great back massage in the white water of the cascade.

Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-15

When we get back to the lunch spot it’s after 1PM. I ask Alex how long it will take us to reach the park office. He replies, “two and half hours”. I’m surprised because we are supposed to do the Petit Tsigny this afternoon. We eat quickly and Alex decides to go with us in our canoe so we don’t have to wait for the others. I’m a bit perplexed because it seems that we are still behind schedule. Leaving at 1:40 with 2.5 hours to the park office and still a 2 hour visit before dark just doesn’t add up.

Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-16

I help paddle. The water is deeper here with no need to get out and push the canoe, but like every other afternoon the wind has picked up. Still with the 3 of us paddling we make good time.

Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-17

The limestone gorge is washed out in the mid-day sun, but as the light softens their majesty becomes apparent. Eroded by millennia of heavy rains the cliff face resembles the carved lace work you would find inside a cave.

Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-18

Only a few locals are on the river. Alex continues to prattle on about this or that giving us the typical Asian fact spin unaware that we are short on time. I’m annoyed as I paddle in the hot afternoon sun.

Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-19

Finally, about 2 hours in, the ferry taking the 4X4s to the office can be seen up ahead. We’re almost there. It seems crazy to see 4X4s and white people in a sudden clump after days of the near empty river.

Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-20

We bring our gear to shore and change into our hiking shoes for the Petit Tsingy walk while Alex buys our tickets. It feels great to have my feet once again snug in my hiking boots after days spent with sand and pebbles in my Tevas.

As we wait for Alex I notice the sign on the office door says their hours are from 6Am to 4PM. I wonder if Alex is aware of this. It seems the Malagasy way of thinking is things will work out or not. I’m still too type A for this county.

We meet Robert, our Tsingy guide for the next two days, and our driver Dominique.

Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-21

The Petit Tsingy is an easy walk through a labyrinth of lime stone pinnacles situated in a rain forest – albeit dry at this time of year. It’s warm and humid. Don and I are both sweating profusely but I’m happy just to be walking on solid ground. Most of the way is shaded. We cross no other tourists for the 1K hour plus walk.

Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-22Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-24Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-23

The trail has some tricky moments climbing or descending the sharp rocks and squeezing between the rock formations but is a gentle introduction to the tsingy. We stop at the two viewpoints – a sea of sharp limestone pinnacles in the late afternoon light. Robert uses my camera to take photos of us at key points. He’s obviously well practiced and has an easy going funny manner.

Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-26Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-27Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-28Mamambolo River Arrival Tsingy de Bemaraha-29

We finish at 5:15 and find our vehicle already loaded with the rest of our belongings for the short drive to the hotel passing through the village of Bekopaka.

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