Kalambatritra Special Reserve – It is one of the most impressive forests
Nature adventure aficionados will definitely be enticed by the allure of Kalambatritra's richly blessed lush virgin jungles. In this nature delight, one can expect nothing less than to have one’s breath taken away. Located in the southeast some 50 km east of Betroka, the very important Kalambatritra Special Reserve nevertheless remains poorly known. It is situated to the north of the Andohahela National Park, south-west of the Manombo Special Reserve and to the west of the Midongy du Sud National Park.
The Kalambatritra Massif in south-east Madagascar comprises the most westerly of all remaining rainforest in Madagascar. In order to conserve the endemic Wright’s sportive lemur (Lepilemur wrightae) and other threatened (and in some cases probably undiscovered) lemurs in the massif, in 1959 the Kalambatritra Special Reserve was created.
About half the forests of the Kalambatritra massif, comprising a surface of 285 km², occur in the Kalambatritra Special Reserve, managed by Madagascar National Parks, whilst the remaining forests are unprotected. The fairly extensive expanse of forest ranges in altitude from around 1000 to 1750 m, and is reputed to contain some of the oldest and largest trees of any rainforest on the island. Some of the forest areas on the massif are virtually pristine and are considered to be amongst the most impressive forests to behold in the entire country.
The Reserve includes different types of humid forest, which range from dry deciduous forests to the 1600 m high mountainous rainforests, covering the slopes of the Kalambatritra massif, which constitutes the most important water reserve for the whole region. Many clear and permanent tributaries of the Mangoky and the Ionaivo have their sources in the reserve.
The humid evergreen forest is little disturbed, and has a canopy 15–25 m high with trees reaching 30 m. Characteristic trees include figs Ficus, Dalbergia and tree-ferns Cyathea. The humus layer is 10–25cm thick. Savannas of coarse grass (Aristida, Imperata) divide the forest into blocks, and a strip of bracken Pteridium borders the forest. The border of the protected area includes large areas of savanna. The location of Kalambatritra between the eastern tropical forests, the central highlands and the western grasslands makes its biodiversity very rich, since species from these different areas are found within the Reserve. Among the 699 species of plants so far recorded on the reserve, two families are endemic; the Torricelliaceae, including Melanophylla alnifolia and the Sarcolaenaceae including Leptolaena pauciflora, which, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is an endangered species on the IUCN Red List.
The reserve boasts a great diversity of fauna. So far 75 birds species are known from the site (65% endemic to Madagascar and 15% local endemic to the region), such as the Madagascar Red owl, Pitta-like ground-roller and the Meller's Duck. The species, Rufous-headed Ground-roller, Velvet Asity, Madagascar Yellowbrow, Nuthatch Vanga, Forest Rock-thrush, found in the reserve are characteristic of humid forest, despite the site being located at the edge of the Eastern forest area.
The Kalambatritra Special Reserve is the only site currently known for the recently-described Wright’s sportive lemur (Lepilemur wrightae), one of the most distinctive members of the genus. Larger than any other known sportive lemur species, it is also unique in being sexually dimorphic, with the female easily distinguishable due to its contrasting grey head.
Other five lemur species occurring there include Southern bamboo lemur (Hapalemur meridionalis), Red-fronted lemur (Eulemur rufifrons), Ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta), Red-collared brown lemur (Eulemur collaris), and Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis).
The red-collared brown lemur, Eulemur collaris, is relatively isolated geographically from other Eulemur species in southeastern Madagascar. Like many other lemur species, the red-collared brown lemur is particularly threatened due to habitat loss and human activities.
There are various nocturnal lemurs for which species identifications have not yet been adequately determined (mouse lemurs, dwarf lemurs, woolly lemurs). Of course a good number of reptiles and amphibians live in the reserve too.
The Bara is the dominant ethnic group of this region. They conserve their ritual traditions concerning funerals and ancestors intact since thousands of years, and have built several impressive tombs around the Reserve. Especially rewarding are the ones at a village called Andriambe.
The destruction of forest areas in order to grow rice and to get wood for fire and construction is the main threat of the area. Some rivers have their sources in the Kalambatritra range, so the conservation of these forests as a water reserve is both indispensable for human and wildlife.
The tropical climate secures a warm temperature all year round. During the rainy season from October to April heavy storms are frequent, and it is not possible to access to the Reserve. The best time to come here is from June to September, when it does not rain and it does not get so hot.
There are no established circuits currently inside the Reserve, but NDAO-i-Travel can arrange small hikes through this less known and isolated forests with a local guide to come with us. Camping is permitted, we can bring our own equipment and supplies. In Betroka there are some basic accommodations too.
Access is very difficult. If we are driving from Tana or Tulear, we must leave the RN7 and take the poorer R13 until Betroka and we need a jeep to reach the Reserve. Once here, drive to Ivahona along a ground road (20 km), last 30 km are on a narrow communal path.
Watch more photos about Kalambatritra Special Reserve here.