Madagascar: Island of Endemics 2019


Velvet-Asity-by-Diego-CalderonThe island of Madagascar is simply a world apart, with totally unique flora and fauna, it is a place where evolution has run wild and has such a high degree of endemism that it is truly like nowhere else on Earth. Situated 430km from the east coast of Africa it currently hold around 120 species of endemic birds including six completely endemic families. Nowhere else in the world can you see Ground-Rollers, Mesites, Vangas, Couas, Cuckoo-Roller and Asities. It is also famous for its remarkable selection of Lemurs and we are sure to see around 20 species ranging from the huge and noisy Indri to tiny Mouse-Lemurs. This is a thorough tour of the island taking in a wide variety of often unique habitats ranging from high rocky escarpments, vast grasslands, dry deciduous woodland, spiny Didierea forest, sandy off shore islands, mangrove, and lush rich rainforest. With more and more pressure on the islands wildlife from intense farming and forest destruction now is the time to visit, literally before its too late. By joining our tour where we make use of expert local guides you will be doing your part in helping protect what is left of this most wonderful and unique country. With transport including internal flights, a variety of vehicles and exciting speedboats, we will explore the best of what the famed island of Madagascar has to offer. Please note that this itinerary includes a new site where we will look for the sought-after Helmet and Bernier's Vangas during our main itinerary without the need of an extension to the Masoala Peninsular. This makes for an amazing tour to the island of endemics.


Targets: 
 

  • Bernier's Teal
  • Madagascar Flufftail
  • Madagascar Crested Ibis
  • Madagascar Fish-Eagle
  • Madagascar Harrier
  • Madagascar Sandgrouse
  • Red-tailed Tropicbird
  • Collared Nightjar
  • Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher
  • Scaly Ground-Roller
  • Short-legged Ground-Roller
  • Pitta-like Ground-Roller
  • Long-tailed Ground-Roller
  • White-breasted Mesite
  • Sickle-billed Vanga
  • Long-tailed Ground-Roller
  • Cuckoo-Roller
  • Brown Emutail
  • Torotoroko Scops-Owl
  • Helmet Vanga
  • Bernier's Vanga          
  • Van Dam's Vanga
  • Nuthatch Vanga
  • Blue Vanga
  • Red-shouldered Vanga
  • Velvet Asity
  • Schlegel's Asity
  • Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asity
  • Coquerel's Coua
  • Red-fronted Coua
  • Giant Coua
  • Appert's Greenbul
  • Sub-desert Mesite
  • White-breasted Mesite
  • Crossley's Babbler
  • Cryptic Warbler
  • Indri
  • Up to 20 species of Lemur
 

Main Tour: Sunday 27th October - Saturday 16th November

Pre-tour Masoala Extension: Monday 21st October - Sunday 27th October


Day 1   UK - Antananarivo   27th Oct
Following our international flight to Antananarivo or “Tana” as it is more commonly known we will be met and transferred to our comfortable hotel on the outskirts of the city. Night in Tana.

Day 2   Antananarivo "Tana" - Majunga
After breakfast we will visit Tsarasoatra Lake in Tana. Here we should have the amazing spectacle of thousands of waterbirds including Red-billedTeal, White-faced Whistling Ducks, Hottento Teals and with luck we have a chance of seeing the rare Meller's Duck. There should also be plenty of Black Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Herons, Dimorphic Egrets, Squacco Herons and
possibly White-throated Rail. Once finished here we will then.
drive to Tana Airport and then take a flight to Majunga on the north-west coast of Madagascar, and here after settling into our hotel we will have a little time to bird the local area. Night at Majunga.

Day 3   Majunga - Ampijoroa
Our day begins with our adventure with a motorised boat trip up the Betsiboka River Delta. This quiet back water is seldom-visited and as such is home to two of Madagascar’s rarest and most endangered birds, Bernier’s Teal and the recently split Malagasy Sacred Ibis. As we search for these special species we should also come across a variety of other species including African Openbill, Greater Flamingo, Madagascar Harrier-Hawk, shorebirds such as Terek Sandpiper and possibly the superb Crab Plover, both Lesser Crested and Saunders’s Terns and if we are lucky Humblot’s Heron. After our boat trip we will drive to Ampijoroa, a forest station situated in the extensive deciduous forests of the Ankarafantsika Reserve. This huge area protects a plateau that is covered in deciduous forest as well as areas of wetter moss laden woodland, interspersed with streams and is indeed a very rich habitat for wildlife. En route to the reserve we will search roadside ponds for Malagasy Pond, Squacco, Striated and Black Herons. On arrival at the forestry station we should encounter numerous species such as Lesser Vasa Parrot, Madagascar Green Pigeon, Malagasy Turtle Dove, Crested Drongo, Madagascar Magpie-Robin, Madagascar Hoopoe, Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher and Sakalava Weaver. One of our main target species here is Van Dam’s Vanga in one of only two sites in this part of the island. Another target species will be the strange and similarly restricted White-breasted Mesite and we hope to come across small groups of this secretive bird as we make our way along the quiet forest trails. There will be plenty of other specialities to keep us busy and our search may reveal the superb Schlegel’s Asity, plus Rufous Vanga, Red-capped and Coquerel’s Coua. This area also holds numerous other endemics and a good selection of lemurs. We hope to find the striking Coquerel’s Sifaka, Common Brown Lemur and the rare Mongoose Lemur during the day, while a night walk could prove very interesting with species such as Milne-Edward’s Sportive Lemur, Western Woolly Lemur, Grey Mouse Lemur and maybe even one of the world’s smallest primates the rare Golden-brown Mouse Lemur.  Night at Ampijoroa Lodge.

Days 4 - 5   Ampijoroa
From our ideal base we have 2 full days to search areas of dry forest, and moist woodland for a great selection of regional and country endemics. The Madagascar Crested Ibis will be in our sights, as will Madagascar Buttonquail, France’s Sparrowhawk, Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher, and Rufous, Hook-billed, White-headed, Chabert’s and Red-tailed Vangas, Long-billed Greenbul and Crested Coua,. No less than eight species of lemur occur here and many interesting and exquisitely marked Chameleons, including the world’s largest species the Rhinocerous Chameleon. No need to worry about snakes as there are no venomous snakes in Madagascar. We will spend the afternoon birding one of the nearby lakes in search of the critically endangered Madagascar Fish Eagle one of the rarest raptors in the world with a population of around just 100 pairs. With possibilities of Sooty and Eleonora’s Falcons over nearby fields, and a variety of waterbirds such as Little Grebe, African Darter, Glossy Ibis, Comb Duck, Yellow-billed Stork, Dimorphic Egret, Greater Painted Snipe, African Pygmy Goose, Allen’s Gallinule, the localised Madagascar Jacana and White-throated Rail. If we are lucky we may even find a Malagasy Kingfisher ending what should be a fabulous stay. 2 Nights at Ampijoroa Lodge.

Day 6   Ampijoroa – Tana
After a final morning birding where we will check forest edges for Sickle-billed and Blue Vangas, as well as Madagascar Bush Lark, Madagascar Munia, Broad-billed Roller and around the wetlands and we may get another chance for White-throated Rail. On our long drive back to Tana we will keep a look out for Madagascar Harrier over the endless grassy plains. At stop at the Betsiboka Bridge will give us a chance to look for the attractive Madagascar Pratincole before continuing our journey back to Tana where we will overnight. Night in Tana.

Day 7   Tana - Tulear - Ifaty
This morning we will transfer to Tana airport and fly to Tulear. Once here we can explore this wonderful area. With salt lagoons, mudflats, and sand flats we should find a variety of wading birds including Greater Sand Plover, Terek and Curlew Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Common Greenshank, Black-winged Stilt, White-fronted Plover and amongst the many Kittlitz’s Sandplovers we can hope to find a few Madagascar Plovers. Terns and gulls may be present, and we will again search for the endemic Humblot’s Heron and Madagascar Swamp Warbler. We will make an excursion to a flat-topped mountain aptly known as La Tabla. On the way we may find Madagascar Sandgrouse before reaching a desolate area known as coral-rag scrub that consists of dense thorn scrub, Euphorbia’s and Baobabs, and which is home to two highly restricted endemics namely Red-shouldered Vanga, a species only discovered as recent as 1997, and the elegant Verreaux’s Coua. There should be few other species present and we will look for Madagascar Buttonquail, Lesser Vasa Parrot, Madagascar Kestrel, Grey-headed Lovebird, Chabert’s Vanga, Lafresnaye’s Vanga, Common Jery, Souimanga Sunbird and possibly Running Coua. This is a great area for reptiles and we have chances to find several lizards, Dumeril’s Boa and the rare Radiated Tortoise. Night in Ifaty.

Day 8   Ifaty
Situated on the beach and backed by coastal scrub we have birding right on our doorstep. Today will see us concentrating our efforts on the “Spiny Forest” and its very specialised wildlife. As we set foot amongst the huge bloated Boabab Trees surrounded by thorny scrub we will go in search of spectacular endemics such as the strange Sub-desert Mesite and amazing Long-tailed Ground-Roller two birds very unique to this incredible area. Other sought after species include Banded Kestrel, Madagascar Harrier-Hawk, Madagascar Bee-Eater, Greater Vasa Parrot, Grey-headed Lovebird, Running, Crested and Red-capped Coua, Archbold’s Newtonia, Thamnornis Warbler, Sub-desert Brush Warbler, Lafresnaye’s, Red-tailed and White-headed Vanga, as well as the superb looking Sickle-billed Vanga. At night we could find Madagascar Nightjars circle around our lodge, while a variety of reptiles including Three-eyed Lizard and Spider Tortoise will be sought. The tropical ocean immediately in front of our cabins is alive with marine life and we may get some time to either relax or appreciate the variety of colourful coral reef and fish. Nearby an area of wetlands and salt pools should attract plenty of shorebirds and here we will lok for the endemic Madagascar Plover alongside Kittlitz’s, White-fronted and Ringed Plovers, Black-winged Stilt, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and possibly seabirds such as Caspian Tern and both Greater and Lesser Frigatebirds. Later we will make our way back to Tulear where we overnight. Night in Ifaty.

Day 9   Ifaty - Tulear
After a final morning's birding at Ifaty we will drive back to Tulear where we will spend the night. Night at Hotel Victory.
 
Day 10   Tulear - Anakao - Nosy Ve
We can spend a few hours looking for any species we missed on our previous visit to TulearThis morning we will board a speedboat for an excursion to the small uninhabited islet of Nosy Ve. The main attraction of Nosy Ve is its colony of Red-tailed Tropicbirds, and we should be able to get fantastic close views of birds in the air and also sat on nests under low bushes. We can check the shoreline for White-fronted Plover, Sanderling, Terek Sandpiper, Dimorphic Egret and with luck the rather nomadic Crab Plover. Seabirds could include Lesser Crested, Common, Greater Crested, Caspian and Saunder’s Terns and there is always the chance of something unusual. We have even had very close views of Short-finned Pilot Whales! Leaving this idyllic island behind us we will cross to the mainland and the small fishing village of Anakoa where our targets will be the localised Littoral Rock Thrush and Sub-desert Brush Warbler both of which could be seen right around our accommodation. With a nice beach-side restaurant and bar looking out over clear blue waters this will be a relaxing place to unwind. 
Night at Hotel Safari Vezo. 
 
Day 11   Anakao - Tulear - Isalo
After breakfast we will set off towards Zombitse Forest National Park, a relict patch of woodland that holds the extremely localised Appert’s Greenbul. There should be plenty of other goodies to keep us busy including Coquerel’s Coua, Giant Coua, Cuckoo-Roller, Madagascar Spinetail, Common and Dark Newtonias, Blue Vanga, Rufous Vanga, Red-tailed Vanga, Madagascar Cuckooshrike, Madagascar Hoopoe, Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher, Madagascar Starling, Madagascar Harrier-Hawk and Madagascar Ibis. The very elusive Fosa lives here as well as Hubbard’s Sportive Lemur but we would consider ourselves luck if we saw either of these. Moving on we will drive across grassy plains of the Central Plateau, to the isolated limestone Isalo Massif. This remote area is fairly devoid of birdlife but we will make strategic stops to search for Madagascar Partridge, Madagascar Buttonquail, Pied Crow, Namaqua Dove, Madagascar Lark and the attractive Malagasy Harrier, now split from the Reunion and with luck Madagascar Sandgrouse. Nearer to the Isalo National Park with its sandstone gullies and watercourses we can expect flocks of Grey-headed Lovebirds, Madagascar Coucal, Madagascar Cisticola, Madagascar Bee-Eater, White-throated Rail, Stripe-throated Jery and eventually around our fabulous lodge Madagascar Nightjar and the region’s special bird the Benson’s Rock Thrush.  Night at Hotel Jardin du Roy.
 
Days 12 - 14     Isalo - Ranomafana 
Today we set off on the long drive to Ranomafana passing small villages, barren rocky hills and open grasslands where we will keep a look out for Malagasy Harrier, as well as Mascarene Martin, African Black Swift and other roadside species. We then have three full days to explore this superb national park which was set up to protect the Golden Bamboo Lemur discovered here in 1985. There are of course plenty of other lemurs present and we will search for Greater and Grey Bamboo Lemur, Red-fronted Brown, Red-bellied and Small-toothed Sportive Lemur, Eastern Woolly Lemur and the impressive Milne-Edwards’s Sifaka. Ring-tailed Mongoose are also present, alongside Common Tenrec, Red Forest Rat and Fanaloka, while chameleons and an incredible variety of frogs can also be sought. Once again though we will be in an area that is simply brimming with endemics and speciality birds and our days will be filled searching for Brown Mesite, Henst’s Goshawk, Madagascar Cuckoo-Hawk, Madagscar Blue Pigeon, Forest Rock Thrush, Pollen’s Vanga, Pitta-like Ground Roller, Rufous-headed Ground Roller, Madagascar Yellowbrow, White-throated Oxylabes, Crossley’s Babbler, Red-fronted Coua, Ward’s Flycatcher, Grey-crowned Greenbul, Brown Emutail, Madagascar White-Eye, Madagascar Magpie-Robin, Madagascar Brush Warbler, Common Sunbird-Asity and the highly localised Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asity. We also have the chance to find a few skulkers such as Madagascar Flufftail, Madagascar Snipe, Madagascar Wood Rail, Grey Emutail and Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher. 3 Nights at Ranomafana.
 
Day 15   Ranomafana - Antsirabe 
We can spend the morning looking for any species missing from our lists before setting out on the 255km drive to Antsirabe town. Night at Antsirabe. 
 
Day 16   Antsirabe - Andasibe/Perinet
We will spend most of the morning driving to Andasibe and then we have the rest of the day to go birding. Overnight Andasibe.  

Days 17 - 19   Perinet - Mantadia
This morning we will drive to the famous reserve of Perinet (otherwise known as Analamazaotra). These 3 full days will see us search both Perinet Forest Reserve and Mantadia National Park, two areas that protect some of the richest east coast forest in Madagascar. The latter only recently being opened is now a must visit site on any trip to this fabulous country. In true Madagascar style we could soon be listening to the unbelievable sound of the handsome Indri, the largest of the lemurs, and once heard never to be forgotten. In fact if we come across a close group of these superb mammals, you just wouldn’t believe how loud their wailing cries can be. In the evening and close to the restaurant we may be fortunate enough to a family of Furry-eared Dwarf Lemurs that are sometimes seen in and around the gardens. The rich, moist rainforests here hold a wealth of Madagascar specialities including no less than four species of the much sought after ground-rollers. We will spend time looking for the beautiful Scaly Ground-Roller, as well as Pitta-like, Rufous-headed and Short-legged, the latter surprisingly found in trees. Many of the species here are poorly known and several species impossible to see elsewhere. Flocks of Vangas may hold the strange Nuthatch Vanga, as well as White-headed, Chabert’s, Tylas, Blue, Red-tailed and Hook-billed, and skulking coua’s could include Red-fronted, Blue Coua and with luck the rare Red-breasted Coua. The bizarre Cuckoo-Roller should be found alongside a host of other species such as Madagascar Flufftail, the elusive Madagascar Wood Rail, Madagascar Blue Pigeon, Madagascar Sparrowhawk, Greater Vasa Parrot, Madagascar Nightjar, Madagascar Cuckoo, Madagascar Spinetail, Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher, Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher, Madagascar Cuckooshrike, Ward’s Flycatcher, Forest Fody, Madagascar Starling, Long-billed and Spectacled Greenbul, Crossley’s Babbler, Rand’s Flycatcher, Forest Fody, Madagascar Starling, Long-billed and Spectacled Greenbul, Crossley’s Babbler, Rand’s Warbler, Cryptic Warbler, Common and Dark Newtonia, Green, Stripe-throated, Common and Wedge-tailed Jery, White-throated Oxylabes, Madagascar Wagtail, Nelicourvi Weaver and Souimanga Sunbird. Many of the species we will be looking for are either rare, local or very elusive and we will be making special efforts to see as much as we can. The superb Collared Nightjar if not found in the evening may well be found on a day roost, allowing unprecedented views of this elegant looking endemic. We will try for both Common Sunbird-Asity and Velvet Asity, Brown Emutail, Madagascar Long-eared Owl and Rainforest Scops-owl. Of course the area also abounds with many other forms of wildlife and we should have chances for a good selection of lemurs such as Diademed Sifaka, Grey Bamboo Lemur, Weasel Sportive Lemur, Eastern Woolly, Black-and-white Ruffed, Furry-eared Dwarf the diminutive Goodman’s Mouse Lemur and as mentioned before the superb Indri. Nocturnal outings add a touch of something special to this wonderful area and a short stroll could find us many bizarre and striking species such as Leaf-tailed Geckos, colourful frogs, chameleons and other geckos. On our last full day we will be making a special excursion to Iaroka Forest a new area about 1.5 hours away where we will then take a trail for about 2 hours to an area where we can look for the mythical and much sought-after Helmet and Bernier's Vangas, two species that would normally involve an expensive excursion to the Masoala Peninsular to see. This is a very exciting new addition to our already fabulous itinerary. 3 Nights at Indri Lodge or a nearby hotel.  

Day 20   Perinet - Tana - 15th Nov
We will visit Torotoro Fotsy Marsh this morning where key targets will be Slender-billed Flufftail, Grey Emutail, Madagascar Snipe and Madagascar Rail amongst others. After lunch we will drive around 150kms back to Tana where we have use of day rooms and our final dinner together prior to our evening international flights and conclusion of a wonderful tour.

 

MASOALA PRE-TOUR EXTENSION: 21st October  - 27th October

 

Day 1   Arrival in Tana - 21st October
Plan to arrive in Tana, where you will be met and transferred to a nearby hotel for the night.  Nights in Tana.

Day 2   Tana – Maroantsetra 
After breakfast we will fly to Maroantsetra town, where we will be met and transferred to our accommodation. The airstrip at Tana is sometimes good for Madagascar Partridge. In the afternoon we will make our first birding excursion on the Maroantsetra River, whilst there are options during our stay to enjoy swimming in the sea or spending some time relaxing around the pool. But intiially we will all be excited to see some birds such as Madagascar Malachite Kingfisher or Madagascar Red Fodie. Overnight at Masoala Resort.

Days 3 - 6   Masoala Peninsula  
Following an exciting boat ride to the Masoala Peninsula we will head straight to Arol Lodge where we will spend the next 4 nights.  Shortly after arriving we will head out to explore the surrounding area. With 4 full days we will have plenty of time to thoroughly explore the whole area in search of our main targets of Helmet and Bernier's Vanga. This is a fantastically beautiful area where the tropical rainforest covered slopes meet the beautiful waters of the Indian Ocean. Species to expect include Madagascar Harrier-Hawk, Madagascar Pratincole, Rainforest Scops-Owl, Dusky Tetraka, Spectacled Tetraka, Long-billed Tetraka, Blue Vanga, Madagascar Red Fody, Madagascar Bulbul, Madagascar Starling and Nelicourvi Weaver amongst others. As well as exploring the area on foot we will use some local boats to go further afield, adding a sense of adventure to our stay here! Non-birding highlights could include Eastern Avahi, Hairy-eared Dwarf Lemur. Nights at Arol Lodge.

Day 7   Masoala Peninsula - Tana  - 27th Oct
Following another nice breakfast we will board our speedboat for the journey back to Maroantsetra, where we will take the short flight back to Tana and join the rest of the group for the start of the main tour. Night in Tana.

 

 

Leaders:  Nick Bray plus local guides.

Ground Price:    
Main Tour: £5550.00 - Tana/Tana
Extension: £1750.00 
- Tana/Tana  

Airfare: £750.00 - 850.00 (Approx) - UK/UK

Single supplement: 
Main Tour:  £395.00
Extension:  £150.00  

Deposit: £500.00 

Group size: Minimum of 5 and maximum of 10.

Included in cost: Accommodation on full board in twin rooms, mostly en-suite, all meals from dinner on 27th Oct to dinner on the 15th Nov, all ground transport, and all transfers, all domestic flights and taxes, boat trips, entrance fees, local guides salaries, entrance fees to parks and reserves, luggage services, English speaking local guide, daily bottled water, services of all leaders and local guides.

Not included: International airfare, visa fee, insurance, drinks, tips, and items of a personal nature.

Accommodation: Our hotels and lodges vary in quality from excellent to medium, but all are within easy reach of the areas we wish to bird. 

Tour Code: This is a standard birding tour with all day birding. Most walks are generally easy although some including looking for Helmet Vanga involve longer walks with will require some degree of fitness as you can expect to be walking for up to 4 to 6 hours. To see a good amount of endemics and specialities you need to be prepared for fairly long days, and we have several long driving days which we will try and break up with en-route stops. All in all this works very well and maximises our birding at the right times of day, which will allow us to maximise our chances of seeing a good amount of the endemics and specialities. Road transport is by small coach or minibus and roads are variable in quality, although mostly improving. Climate is rather variable with lower altitudes mostly being hot, dry and sunny, but can be overcast and rainy. At higher altitudes the weather is similar but temperatures are cool to warm. In the east it can get a little humid. Opportunities for photographing both birds and Lemurs are quite good.
 
 
 

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Previous tour reports:
:
Madagascar Birding Tour Report 2012 

Madagascar Birding Tour Report 2013

Madagascar birding Tour Report 2015