Wildlife at your doorstep, by Anne

When I arranged my university-related trip to Honko, I spent a lot of time organising all the transport, vaccinations and travel essentials in advance. After 5 flights and 3 days of travel – all the way from Berlin – I finally made it to the reserve. I was more than delighted to find 3 other volunteers, 3 dogs, the other Honko employees and all the animals crawling on the roof and the walls.

You never feel alone and instantly we all became friends. Even me, the wall frog and the geckos. You start to appreciate the creepy crawlies, as they help get rid of the mosquitos or are just enjoyable to watch. We volunteers share a wooden hut with two bunkbeds and a big land-crab under our doorstep. In the morning, I enjoy the first bits of sun coming through the planks and the bird noises from the top of the reed roof. In the night, a small breeze chills the air and the sound of the mosquitos is not as bad, lying under a mosquito-net.

On the way to the bathroom, some land crabs vanish into their holes and the dogs happily greet the early-birds passing by. In the shower, wood-boring bees buzz around my head. No worries; they always look a bit drunk and do not attack anyone.

During the day, Sally the cat has a nap in the Centre and occasionally meows away some sun birds hanging round in front of the windows. Ants welcome the litchi-season just as we do and crawl on their never-ending food quest into our fruit bowl. Sitting in the Centre, while working and chatting, we always hear some birds singing. During dinner time, occasionally a cockroach sneaks in or a spider walks by.

Walking into the mangroves, mud-skippers splash away on both sides of the woody path. One of the dogs, Mum, is always very happy to chase them. If you sit down and keep quiet, fiddler crabs and mud-crabs come out of their holes and you see them fighting and munching away biomass from the mangroves. You hear their weird clicking-noises, as they dig holes and mix the soil. Early in the morning, spider webs hang over the wooden path, hoping for some mosquitos.

If you are lucky, you see colourful birds like the red Foudi and the green sun bird sitting in the upper branches of the mangroves. Whimbrels and other birds walk through the mud, digging with their long beaks. Kites and other predator birds circle close to the abandoned salt plains, searching for some small rodents.

Shepherds from the local villages walk their goats and their zebus close by, freaking out our dogs if they cross our land. In the local village, Ambondrolava, swines, hens and ducks stroll around without any fence keeping them in one place.

Anywhere you walk, always animals are around. I have a splendid time here, while back home in good old Germany grey rainy winter arrives, keeping every last human being inside their flat. In the German capital, I never meet as many animals already before breakfast and it will certainly be something I miss going back in February!

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