Madagascar - The Island of Endemics!

Main Tour - Saturday 29th Sept – Friday 19th Oct 2012
Masoala extension - Friday 19th Oct - Tuesday 23rd Oct 2012

Madagascar-Pygmy-Kingfisher by Steve BirdThe 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 expensive speedboats this is not a cheap trip, but we invite you to compare with other companies where once again you will be surprised just how good value this Zoothera tour is to the famed island of Madagascar. If you want the complete adventure then why not join the extension to the remote Masoala peninsula where we will search for one of the most enigmatic of birds the bizarre looking Helmet Vanga.


  • Scaly Ground-Roller
  • Madagascar Flufftail
  • White-breasted Mesite
  • Sickle-billed Vanga
  • Long-tailed Ground-Roller
  • Bernier's Teal
  • Giant Coua
  • Slender-billed Flufftail
  • Short-legged Ground-Roller
  • Brown Emutail
  • Nuthatch Vanga
  • Torotoroko Scops-Owl
  • Pitta-like Ground-Roller          
  • Van Dam's Vanga
  • Madagascar Fish Eagle
  • Red-shouldered Vanga
  • Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asity
  • Collared Nightjar
  • Coquerel's Coua
  • Appert's Greenbul
  • Bernier's Vanga
  • Helmet Vanga
  • Indri
  • Up to 20 species of Lemur
Day 1     UK - Antananarivo  Sat 29th Sept
Following our international flight to Antananarivo or “Tana” as it is more commonly known we will be met and transferred to our hotel on the Beniers Teal by Steve Birdoutskirts of the city.

Day 2     Tana – Mahajanga 
Today we fly to Mahajanga on the north-west coast of Madagascar, and here after settling into our hotel we will begin 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.
Night at Mahajanga
Day 3     Mahajanga – Ampijoroa
After breakfast we will depart this sleepy town, and drive to Ampijoroa, a Madagascar scenery by Steve Birdforest 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.

Day 4     Ampijoroa
Madagascar Crested Ibis by Steve BirdFrom our ideal base we have all day 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 day. Night at Ampijoroa

Day 5     Ampijoroa – Tana
Madagascar Pratincole by Steve BirdAfter a final morning birding where we may check forest edges for Sickle-billed and Blue Vangas, as well as Madagascar Bush Lark, Madagascar Munia, Broad-billed Roller and around the wetlands we may get another chance for White-throated Rail before returning to Mahajanga and our flight back to Tana where we will overnight.
Night at Tana.

Days 6 - 7     Tana – Perinet
This morning we will depart early for the drive eastwards across the Highland Plateau to the famous reserve of Perinet (otherwise known as Analamazaotra). Along the way we can scan the rocks on the Mangoro river where it is sometimes possible to find the attractive Madagascar Pratincole. The rest of today and the following day 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 Lodge at Perinet by Steve Birdrainforests 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 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 mention before the superb Indri. Nocturnal outings add a touch of something special to this wonderful area and a short stroll could find us many Madagascar Bee-eater by Steve Birdbizarre and striking species such as leaf-tailed geckos, colourful frogs, chameleons and geckos. 2 Nights at Perinet.
Days 8 - 9     Perinet – Anjozorobe 
We depart early for the drive to Anjozorobe for a two-night stay. This exciting site provides us with the opportunity of finding more forest, wetland and montane birds which are hard to find elsewhere. Our winding route takes us through rural highland scenery, scattered with traditional houses and rice paddies. As we near continue on, the hilly scenery becomes wilder until we finally arrive at our wonderful lodge overlooking a tranquil and beautiful highland rainforest! Our main target species is the difficult and localised Slender-billed Flufftail, while a supporting cast od superb birds include the rare Meller’s Duck, Henst’s Goshawk, Madagascar Grebe, Madagascar Snipe and Madagascar Rail, Madagascar Partridge, Madagascar Buttonquail the secretive Madagascar Wood Rail, Pitta-like and Rufous-headed Ground Roller, Brown Emutail, Crossley’s Babbler, Grey-crowned Tetraka, Madagascar Yellowbrow and Common Sunbird-Asity. 2 Night at Anjozorobe.

Days 10 - 11  Anjozorobe – Tana – Fort Dauphin – Berenty

Francess Sparrowhawk by Steve BirdThis morning we will depart early for the drive to Tana and then take a short flight to Fort Dauphin, in the south-eastern corner of the country. Upon arrival we will transfer to the world-famous private lemur reserve of Berenty. The 3.5 hour drive takes us through many villages, and habitats that change from wetland valleys, paddy fields, dry scrub and cactus to spiny forest. Set on the banks of the Mandrare River and protecting an area of lush gallery forest, we will walk the trails in search of species such as Giant Coua, Crested Coua, Madagascar Cuckoo-Hawk, Madagascar Turtle Dove, Madagascar Green Pigeon, Madagascar Hoopoe, Yellow-billed Kite, Crested Drongo, Madagascar White-Eye, Hook-billed Vanga, Helmeted Guineafowl, White-throated Rail, possibly Madagascar Sandgrouse, the superb looking Sickle-billed Vanga, Frances’s and with a lot of luck Madagascar Sparrowhawk. We have very good opportunities to see both White-browed Owl and Torotoroko Scops-Owl on daytime roosts, while a large roost of Madagascar Flying Foxes should be a little easier. The reserve is not famous for its lemurs for nothing, and we should get really close views of Verreaux’s Sifaka, Brown and Ring-tailed Lemurs, Grey and Reddish-grey Mouse Lemurs, White-footed Sportive Lemur and a host of other nocturnal creatures such as the strange Lesser Hedgehog Tenrec and several species of interesting geckos. 2 Nights at Berenty.  

Days 12 - 13    Berenty – Fort dauphin – Tulear – Ifaty
Spiny Forest by Steve BirdToday we return to Fort Dauphin keeping a look out for Madagascar Buzzard and Madagascar Kestrel along the way. We will then take a flight to the south-western city of Tulear. Upon arrival we will drive directly to our hotel in the small resort of Ifaty for a two-night stay. Situated on the beach and backed by coastal scrub we have birding right on our doorstep. While here we will be 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 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 will have some time to either relax or use masks and snorkels to 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.
2 Nights Ifaty

Day 14     Nosy Ve and Anakoa
Crab Plovers by Steve BirdThe This morning we take the short drive back to Tulear where 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. With a nice beach-side restaurant and bar looking out over clear blue waters this will be a relaxing place to unwind. Night Anakoa

Day 15     Tulear
Madagascar Plover by Steve BirdHeading back to Tulear we have the full day to 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 strange yet enigmatic Crab Plover, as well as the endemic Humblot’s Heron and Madagascar Swamp Warbler. In the afternoon, we will make our first 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 Tulear

Day 16     Tulear – Zombitse Forest – Isalo
Runing Coua by Steve BirdAfter 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 Rock Lodge

Days 17 - 19     Isalo – Ranomafana
Short-legged Ground-Roller by Steve BirdToday 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 two 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 Brown Mouse Lemur by Steve Birdthat 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
Ranomafana – Tana
After some final early morning birding, we will make our way back north to Tana, breaking our journey for lunch in a small town famous for its locally manufactured handicrafts. Winding our way northwards across the Horombe Plateau, we get an insight into the traditional lifestyle of the Malagasy people, a fitting end to our extensive tour of this fabulous island.
Night at Tana

Day 21   End of Main Tour – Start of Masoala Extension - 19th Oct
Today if you are not going on to Masoala you will be transferred to the airport for your international departure.


Day 1     Tana – Maroantsetra 
If you are continuing on our extension then we will fly to Maroantsetra, a small town on the northeast coast of Madagascar. This will be our base for the night allowing us to take an early morning boat to the Masoala Peninsula the following day. Night at Maroantsetra

Days 2 - 4     Masoala Peninsula
Helmet Vanga by John GaleThis morning we will board our speedboat for the crossing of Antongil Bay to the remote and heavily forested Masoala Peninsular. This superb national park supports some of Madagascar’s finest forests and with that some very special birds. Our search amongst the huge epiphyte laden trees, and open forest floor with scattered patches of ferns and crystal clear streams is targeted at the impressive and indeed spectacular Helmet Vanga, a stunning black and chestnut bird with a huge almost toucan-like turquoise-blue bill. We have allowed ourselves enough time to comfortably connect with this much sought after species, something not all companies do and many regret. Although expensive for a short trip we have high chances to connect with our main target species. While searching this idyllic habitat we may also come across Bernier’s Vanga another species very special to this area and with a restricted range. Both the male and female which are quite different can be seen tearing strips of bark or hacking away at rotten stumps. With many other birds present we will also look for Scaly and Short-legged Ground-Rollers, Red-breasted Coua and a selection of lemurs such as Red-ruffed, Greater Dwarf, Brown Mouse, White-fronted Brown and Scott’s Sportive Lemur. All in all a fabulous place to visit and a once in a lifetime opportunity to a range of exciting wildlife and the mythical Helmet Vanga. 3 Nights at Masoala.

Day 5     Masola – Maroantsetra – Tana – End – 23rd Oct
This morning we will head back to Maroantsetra and take our flight back to Tana, where we have use of a day room before enjoying our final dinner where we can reflect on this fabulous tour.

Sickle-billed Vanga by Steve BirdLeaders
:  Steve Bird, Gina Nichol, Tiana (local guide)

Ground Price   
Main Tour: £3895.00  
Masoala £1295.00  

Airfare: £850.00 (Approx) - UK/UK

Zoothera tour prices explained 

Single supplement:
Main Tour £495.00         
Masoala £120.00

Main Tour £500.00
Masoala £150.00

Group size:
Main Tour - minimum of 6 and maximum 10.
Masoala – minimum of 4 and max 10

Included in costAccommodation on full board in twin rooms, mostly en-suite, all meals from dinner on 29th Sept to breakfast on the 19th (main tour) or dinner on the 23rd (Masoala), ground transport, and all transfers, all Verreauxs Sifaka by Steve Birddomestic flights and taxes, boat trips, entrance fees, local guides salaries, entrance fees parks and reserves, luggage services, English speaking local guide, daily bottled water, and first drink included with each dinner, services of all leaders and local guides.

Not includedInternational 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. The lodges at Ampijoroa, Perinet and Masoala are fairly simple, although pleasant and comfortable and all lodges and hotels have private facilities. The only exception is the lodge in Masoala which has some shared bathroom facilities).

Tour Code: This is a standard birding tour with all day birding. No particular strenuous walks are planned and generally the walking effort is easy, with just a few harder walks. 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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