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The Anja Community Reserve, Madagascar

Over the last several autumns when it’s grey and wet at this time of the year in Finland, I have been lucky enough to manage to head somewhere warm and exotic. This year I thought I should remind myself what it’s like to stay at home. But it’s also nice to remember that a year ago exactly I was in Madagascar.

With an English journalist friend Fran Weaver and colleague and a representative of the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation FANC, Titta Lassila, I ended up at the Anja Community Reserve in the south of the island, close to Ambalavao, after visits to the Andasibe and Ranomafana national parks. We knew it would be our best chance of seeing Ring-tailed Lemurs.


Football tricks in Anja village.


Villager with natural clay skin treatment.

We arrived by car in the late afternoon as the light started to become interesting.


The lake at Anja Community Reserve.

mad-7069To wash away the dust, we visited the village bar – just a simply-furnished room in a clay house, where we could see the light changing to an eerie blue outside.

mad-7100mad-7097The fading light set off the sad face of the villager and her baby. I was amazed at how much light remained in the darkening room. In Anja, members of community are chosen to manage the natural resources on the reserve. The Anja Miray Association also contributes to local development by participating in community projects.

mad-7104…and when we emerged from the bar the spectacle of the evening light reflected off the mountains surrounding the village astounded us.

mad-7132In the night a storm descended and the frogs were queueing up to get into our rooms. In the morning, the hills and bush were shrouded in mist.

mad-7179 mad-7156We walked into the hills and around the lake, passing Betsileo tribal tombs in the caves in the steep rocky hills, known as the Three Sisters. It didn’t take long to come across one of Madagascar’s most iconic animals, the Ring-tailed Lemurs, of which there are about 300 in the reserve area. The animals are used to human visitors here and come right down from the trees to pose for the cameras.


Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur Catta) in the Anjay Community Reserve.


I’ve had enough long flights recently, and the creative introspection of the Finnish autumn can be quite productive and cosy. But when I return to these pictures I remember why I endure all the security hassle at the airports, the sometimes seemingly interminable flights and the not-always-brilliant in-flight food.


These shots were taken using a Canon EOS5D mkII with a variety of lenses, mostly two L zoom lenses, 24-105 and 100-400.

Copyright for all pictures in this blog belongs to Tim Bird. Please gain permission before re-using in any media.