After breakfast, fresh croissants of course, we checked out of the Hotel Colbert and headed for the airport.
We had met Dennis, our Malagasy guide, the day before but today we started to get to know him better. His English is good, his smile is almost permanent. I will tell you more about him in due course but today we fly.
We fly south to Fort Dauphin aka Taolagnaro – the Malagasy, just like us in Oz, are busy replacing the names bestowed by recent colonists with those bestowed by previous colonists, the flight is delayed and we travel not by the direct route indicated in the itinerary but via Toliara on the west coast. We had been warned that Madagascar Airlines schedules were more provisional expressions of intention than rigid timetables. We got to Fort Dauphin a couple of hours later than was intended, climbed into a bus and travelled 80kms to Berenty. The journey took three hours, we arrived after dark. The alleged road was shared with trucks some of which had trailers (B-doubles in Australian terms) coming from Antananarivo 1100 kms or four days rugged driving away. It had once been sealed, the remaining tar stood up like table top mountains surrounded by potholes and muddy swamps. I do not wish to be reincarnated as a Malagasy bus.
Berenty Reserve is an island of residual forest in a sea of sisal plantation. Or even an ocean of sisal. I imagine it was set aside to assuage the conscience of the plantation owners as they annihilated the environment. It is now home to some readily accessible lemurs and a tourist hotspot. The accommodation is excellent and you always know the food is good when you see the locals dining there …
Over the next few days we walked in the gallery forest and in the spiny forest and made the aquaintance of Ring-tailed Lemurs, like the guy with the croissant, and Verraux’s Sifaka,
and the Red-fronted Brown Lemur.
We also got to see the White-footed Sportive Lemur and the Reddish-grey Mouse-Lemur and some nice birds.
And lament the loss of habitat. Sisal is grown for fibre which can be made into string or cloth. If you have abandoned plastic bags for the benefit of the environment and take along a sisal bag ponder on the habitat that existed before the sisal plantation was established.