"We would like to thank you for a wonderful trip. One of the best Ė lemurs, chameleons, tree frogs, and of course
the beautiful birds, what else can one say. We enjoyed the great variety of habitat, which was so different to other
places we have visited."...... Mr and Mrs H, Lancashire, Oct 2010
"We greatly enjoyed Madagascar, and the company of our fellow travellers. Thanks again for all your hard work to
make it such a fantastic trip. Just starting the pleasurable process of ploughing through the photographs and
re-living some of the fantastic experiences." Mr and Mrs J. Oct 2011
"Thank you again for your outstanding leadership of the Madagascar trip. It was a most enjoyable experience,
and one I shall always remember." Mr B. Oct 2011
click here for a pdf version of this destination write-up - easier to print - no photos
Some 100 million years ago movements in the earthís plates caused a huge chunk of land to separate from mainland Africa, beginning a remarkable evolutionary experiment that continues today. Instead of evolving quickly, many of Madagascarís species are little changed, resembling ancient families that have since disappeared from the mainland. The result is wonderful birds, mammals, insects and plants that can be found nowhere else on earth.
The twentieth century brought great devastation to the island. Fortunately, however, large pockets of forest have survived in the more remote areas, and international pressure combined with the wishes of the Malagasy themselves has turned the tide. The government declared that it intended to formally protect ten percent of the land by 2009 and the creation of large national parks has helped to achieve this. Ecotourism plays its part too, and whole communities benefit from the tourists that come to marvel at the wonderful wildlife.
Madagascar is a huge island and it is important to plan an itinerary that gives a good balance between maximising wildlife sightings and not too much travelling. Roads have been improved, hotels are now very good and food is delicious. We will spend four nights at Perinet, where the calls of the Indri leave an impression on every visitor. Two nights at Tulear enable us to visit the Red-tailed Tropicbird nesting island of Nosy Ve, as well as searching for Red-shouldered Vanga, discovered as recently as 1997. At Isalo we will enjoy some of the islandís best scenery as well as seeing the endemic Bensonís Rock Thrush and endearing Ring-tailed Lemurs, whilst at Ifaty the spiny forest of Didierea trees, baobabs and bottle-trees is home to some very rare endemic birds. In the north-west we will look for mangrove inhabitants such as Bernierís Teal, before moving to Ampijoroa for three nights, where highlights may include Sickle-billed Vanga, Schlegelís Asity and Madagascar Fish Eagle.
All these wonderful birds will be complemented by other rare and exotic creatures, from huge Parsonís Chameleons to Giraffe-necked Weevils, Tenrecs to Leaf-tailed Geckos, and Mouse Lemurs to miniscule leaf chameleons. The culture is fascinating too, with the south being very African, whilst Tana has strong Asian influences. It should also be mentioned that one could not wish to meet a friendlier people than the Malagasy, who always have a ready smile despite many living in great poverty.
ANDASIBE-MANTADIA NATIONAL PARK
After our overnight flight we will arrive in the capital, Antananarivo (Tana for short) and drive about four hours east to Perinet. Here, Madagascarís most accessible rainforest is home to many lemurs and birds, and four nights will give us ample time to do the area justice.
The forest resounds to the haunting cries of the Indri, the largest of the lemurs. We also hope to see Common Brown Lemur, Furry-eared Dwarf Lemur and Eastern Lesser Bamboo Lemur, as well as the beautiful Diademed Sifaka and panda-like Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur in Mantadia.
The lovely Andasibe Hotel is ideally placed for exploring the area. The most highly sought-after birds are the ground-rollers, and we may well see all four species that occur here.
Parties of forest birds mainly comprise species found nowhere else on earth, such as Spectacled Tetraka, Madagascar White-eye, Blue Vanga and the remarkable Nuthatch Vanga. Madagascar Flufftail is occasionally glimpsed, along with Madagascar Wood-rail, White-throated Rail, Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher, Red-fronted Coua and the amazing Blue Coua. In the evening we hope to find Rainforest Scops Owl and Madagascar Long-eared Owl, whilst the Collared Nightjar may be seen at a daytime roost. Extensive rice-paddies nearby hold numerous Red Fody and Madagascar Stonechats, as well as giving us a chance of finding Madagascar Snipe, Squacco Heron, Hammerkop, Madagascar Pratincole and Grey Emutail.
After four days in this superb area we will drive back to Tana, where we will stay for one night, before catching a flight to Tulear, on the south coast.
TULEAR, ISALO AND IFATY
Arriving in Tulear, we will check in to our hotel (for two nights), late in the afternoon In the evening good numbers of Madagascar Nightjars can be seen as well as Torotoroka Scops Owl. The next morning we will take a boat to Nosy Ve, an island with a nesting colony of Red-tailed Tropicbirds. Having seen these, we will then have a cool drink at Anakao beach, where the localised Littoral Rock Thrush should be waiting for us. In the afternoon we will look for the endemic Red-shouldered Vanga and Verreauxís Coua.
The next day we will drive north to Isalo, birding en route at Zombitse. Here, one of Madagascarís most localised birds, the Appertís Tetraka can be found, along with White-browed Owl, Giant Coua, Greater Vasa Parrot and Cuckoo-Roller. Later in the day we will arrive at Isalo, a dramatic area of sandstone escarpments, canyons and grassland.
Two days at Isalo will give us plenty of time to explore the area. We will have a good chance of seeing a group of Ring-tailed Lemurs, as well as the beautiful Verreauxís Sifaka and Red-fronted Brown Lemur. Bensonís Rock Thrush occur in the canyons. Madagascar Harrier-Hawk, Madagascar Partridge, Madagascar Coucal, Malagasy Kingfisher, Madagascar Lark and Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher should all be seen, as well as Souimanga Sunbird and White-headed Vanga.
On day eleven we will drive back to the coast, spending two nights near Ifaty. Here, one of the planetís most endangered habitats, the now fragmented spiny forest, is home to some weird and wonderful plants and animals. Our local guides have an uncanny ability to find the special birds here including Long-tailed Ground-roller, Sub-desert Mesite, Running Coua, Sub-desert Brush Warbler, Archboldís Newtonia, Hook-billed Vanga and Lafresnayeís Vanga. Nearby pools and coastal marshes hold Madagascar Plover, Greater Flamingo and Hottentot Teal.
After six great days in the south we will fly back to Tana. We will visit Lake Alarobea, where Madagascar Pond Heron and Dimorphic Egrets nest. We will stay overnight in Tana before taking an early morning flight to the north-west, our home for the last three nights.
MAJUNGA AND AMPIJOROA
Arriving in Majunga, we hope to take a boat trip around the Betsiboka Delta to search for Bernierís Teal, Humblotís Heron, Madagascar Sacred Ibis and Crab Plover. A two hour drive will then take us inland to Ampijoroa, where the Ankarafantsika National Park protects large tracts of dry forest. The key species here are the Schlegelís Asity, White-breasted Mesite, Madagascar Fish Eagle and Van Damís Vanga. Noisy groups of Sickle-billed Vangas provide one of the highlights of this trip. Coquerelís Sifaka (a beautiful chestnut and white lemur) provide great photographic opportunities, whilst an evening excursion may yield Milne-Edwardís Sportive Lemur, Mongoose Lemur, Fat-tailed Dwarf-lemur and the recently described Golden-brown Mouse-lemur. Rhinoceros Chameleon, Leaf-tailed Gecko and tiny leaf chameleons add to the interest on night walks. Finally, on day 17 we will fly back to Tana, connecting with our international flight home.
There may be one or two very early starts due to the timing of the domestic flights. At other times, breakfast will be taken early (7am or earlier). Due to the high mid-day temperatures we plan to do morning and late afternoon excursions, with time off in between to siesta. Basic fitness is all that is required. At Perinet there are several short but steep slopes, particularly where we look for Indri. Elsewhere, the terrain is mostly flat and the walks are easy.
ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD
Full-board accommodation is provided with four nights at the Andasibe Hotel, Perinet, one night at Relais des Plateaux, Tana, two nights at Caliente Beach Hotel, Tulear, two nights at Satrana Hotel, Isalo, two nights at Hotel Nautilus, Ifaty, one night at Relais des Plateaux, Tana and three nights at the Ampijoroa Forest Chalets. All are very comfortable, with en suite facilities and good food. Lunch will normally be at the hotel, but may be packed when we expect to be away during the middle of the day.
PRICE INCLUDES Ö..
All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guides, full-board accommodation (starting with breakfast on 30th, ending with lunch on 15th), soft drinks at meal times, local transport by mini-coach, reserve entrance fees, three boat trips (Betsiboka trip subject to tide and flight times), four internal flights, international flights and airport taxes.
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED
Travel insurance. Cost of a visa (US$35). Items of a personal nature, alcoholic drinks, laundry.
Return flight from London Heathrow to Antananarivo (via Paris) using the scheduled services of Madagascar Airways. Outbound flight departs mid-morning, return flight arrives back mid-morning. Domestic flights from Manchester and other UK airports are available on this tour. See booking form for details.
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