Madagascar: Island of Endemics 2019
The 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.
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Main Tour: Sunday 27th October - Saturday 16th November
Pre-tour Masoala Extension: Monday 21st October - Sunday 27th October
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
Day 8 Ifaty
Day 9 Ifaty - Tulear
Night at Hotel Safari Vezo.
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 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.
Main Tour: £5550.00 - Tana/Tana
Extension: £1750.00 - Tana/Tana
Airfare: £750.00 - 850.00 (Approx) - UK/UK
Main Tour: £395.00
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