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Kirindy Mitea National Park. Here the West meets the South

The park is perhaps best known for the lemurs and birdlife associated with the sacred lakes in the southern part of the park.

Kirindy Mitea (sometimes spelled Kirindy Mité, not to be confused with the Kirindy Private Reserve fairly close by) is a great, varied, extensive and little visited National Park (722 km²) that lies 90 km south from Morondava and next to Belo-sur-Mer, right in the heart of the ancient kingdom of Menabe. It is one the “youngest” protected areas of the island (it was established in 1997 and opened to visitors in 2006) and it's well worth the effort to get here. It includes a wide diversity of ecosystems and claims the greatest density of primates in the world. Due to its location, just at the point where the western and southern biotopes converge, visitors can explore tropical, dry deciduous (the largest of the island) and littoral spiny forest, coastal mangroves, grassy dunes, lakes, amazing beaches and coral reefs, all during the same day!!! It is an amazing place for research and for tourists. It encompasses the transition between three ecosystems: southern spiny desert, western dry forest, and coastal mangrove. Thus, the biodiversity in the park is very interesting. Since it is a very young protected area, you will find a more original tourist system, but the park isn’t easy to get to and you’re likely to be the only visitor.

Kirindy Mitea National Park is a lemur-lovers delight. Those wishing to see lemurs such as the Verraux sifaka (dancing sifaka), red-tailed sportive, ring-tailed and the red-fronted brown lemur will be happy to know they all reside here. Kirindy is even home to the world’s smallest primate - Berthe’s mouse lemur - but this cinnamon-colored little guy is endangered and will most likely be hard to spot. Of the lemur species, only three are easily seen by day: Verreaux's sifaka, the red-fronted brown lemur and the ring-tailed lemur. The nocturnal species include fork-marked lemur, grey mouse lemur, Coquerel's dwarf lemur, fat-tailed dwarf lemur and red-tailed sportive lemur.

The main draw at Kirindy Mitea National Park is the birdlife – 58 species in total, 18 of which are endemic to the region. Some of them are very vulnerable such as pink flamingos, Lesser flamingo, Bernier´s teal and Malagasy kingfisher.

The more than 90 species of butterflies, which can be observed here at certain times of the year, are a particularly beautiful spectacle. Three species of imposing baobabs grow in the dry areas of Kirindy. During the dry season, these majestic plants are leafless and use their thick-bellied stem as a water reservoir. In the coastal, wet regions, however, 7 species of mangroves have their habitat. Apart from that, more than 20 species of reptiles and 10 species of amphibians complete the richness of the land fauna.

The only predator of the lemur (aside from humans) also resides in Kirindy Mitea. The fossa is a cat-like in appearance but is a relative of the mongoose. It has a long tail nearly the length of its body and is primarily a nocturnal hunter. Unfortunately, the fossa is also an endangered species and is rarely seen in the wild.

The national park also includes a marine component. Whales, hammerhead sharks, nudibranchs, and coral reefs are among the many sights within the marine park. The marine area includes 7 small islands, where tourist facilities are currently being improved in order to admire the underwater world and create a both terrific land and sea combination.

Kirindy Mitea National Park is a place of extreme seasonal changes. Same as in Kirindy Private Reserve, there is a hot rainy season (December to February), when temperatures can reach 40°C. During this short wet season the forest turns green and all the reptiles and amphibians become active. After this life-explosion there are nine months with warm temperature and little rain.

Within the park there are some very nice hiking trails. The stroll can be short or long as desired, and an early start is recommended. Circuit Ambondro-Sirave goes through the majestic sand dunes to the Sirave and Ambondro Lakes. Here you can admire the different types of forests and the huge baobabs, spot waterbirds and reptiles and of course take a relaxing bath on one of the wonderful beaches. Circuit Maetsakaloe leads through the dry thick forest. There you will meet lemurs, numerous birds, reptiles and baobabs. Circuit Agnolignoly easy walk through mangroves and coastal estuaries with an emphasis on waterbirds. By canoe you can take a trip through mysterious mangrove forests spotting waterbirds and some bats.

Kirindy Mitea National Park it is unique area, with a very varied landscape of vegetation offers a wide variety of ecosystems with mangroves, grassy dunes, lakes, beautiful beaches and coral reefs which can be admired. Visit this beautiful national park on any leg of your safari to discover a particularly eco-sensitive transition zone for three ecosystems – spiny desert, dry forest and mangroves.  Heaven on earth for anyone with even one photographic gene. Good for those who want exercise and to get close to nature.

There is no lodging within the park and most people get an early start to their day and come from neighboring towns, but it is possible to camp inside the Park. The road from Morondava to the Park is a secondary one not really bad, depending on the season and the last rains. It is only practicable during the dry season. Some people prefer to make this transfer from Morondava by speed boat. The trip lasts from 1,5 to 2,5 hours and it is possible all year round. But most visitors stay at pretty fishing village of Belo-sur-Mer, where provide scenic relaxing holiday options.

Watch more photos about Kirindy Mitea National Park here.