lemurs, chameleons and endemic birds in the land that time forgot



"We would like to thank you for a wonderful trip.  One of the best – 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


''We must thank you for such an amazing holiday. We saw so much that we will be boring everyone

with our comments of 'When we were in Madagascar....' Mr and Mrs B. Sept 2016









click here for a pdf version of this destination write-up  -  easier to print  -  no photos



Some 100 million years ago movements in the earth’s 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 Madagascar’s 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 the food is delicious. We will spend our first night at Antananarivo, before starting our journey south through the country. Three nights at Ranomafana will then give us a wonderful assortment of forest birds, along with endangered lemurs. At Isalo we will enjoy some of the island’s best scenery as well as seeing the endemic Benson’s Rock Thrush and endearing Ring-tailed Lemurs. Two nights at Tulear give us time to visit the Red-tailed Tropicbird nesting island of Nosy Ve, as well as to search for Red-shouldered Vanga, discovered as recently as 1997. At Ifaty we can relax by the Indian Ocean, close to the famous spiny forest of octopus trees, baobabs and bottle-trees. This area is home to some very rare endemic birds, including Long-tailed Ground-roller. Finally, we will arrive at the forest of Perinet, home of the Indri, whose wailing calls perfectly capture the essence of Madagascar.


All these wonderful birds will be complemented by other rare and exotic creatures, from huge Parson’s 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.






After our daytime flight we will arrive in the capital, Antananarivo (Tana for short) and go straight to our hotel, just ten minutes from the airport. The next day we head south on a captivating journey along the spine of the country towards Ranomafana, breaking the journey with a night at Antsirabe.


Ranomafana is arguably the most important site in Madagascar for both birds and lemurs. In fact, it was the discovery of the Golden Bamboo Lemur which triggered the creation of the park in 1991. It is also the only accessible location for the even rarer Greater Bamboo Lemur. We also have the opportunity to see the exquisite Milne Edward’s Sifaka. Birding along the main trails presents opportunities to see various members of the endemic Malagasy bird families. With luck we should find Henst’s Goshawk, Pollen’s Vanga, Pitta-like Ground-roller, Brown Mesite, Madagascar Wood-rail, Velvet Asity, Forest Rock Thrush, Forest Fody and Cryptic Warbler. An adjacent forest reserve at Vohiparara is home to the striking Yellow-bellied Sunbird-asity, a species we will not encounter elsewhere. The Rufous-headed Ground-roller is also a possibility, along with the mouse-like Brown Emutail. We will check marshes en route for numerous Red Fody and Madagascar Stonechats, as well as Madagascar Snipe, Hammerkop and Grey Emutail.


After three days in this superb area we will continue south to Isalo, a dramatic area of sandstone escarpments and grassland. Spectacular canyons here are the home of the Maki or Ring-tailed Lemur; the iconic primate of the island.



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 Verreaux’s Sifaka and Red-fronted Brown Lemur. Benson’s 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. African Marsh Owls hunt over grasslands late in the afternoons.


The next day we will drive south to Tulear, for two nights. Birding en route at Zombitse, where one of Madagascar’s most localised birds, the Appert’s Tetraka can be found, along with White-browed Owl, Giant Coua, Greater Vasa Parrot and Cuckoo-Roller.


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. 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 Verreaux’s Coua.


On day 10 we will drive to Ifaty, spending two nights at the lovely Les Dunes Hotel. One of the planet’s 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, Thamnornis, Sub-desert Mesite, Running Coua, Sub-desert Brush Warbler, Archbold’s Newtonia, Hook-billed Vanga and Lafresnaye’s Vanga. Noisy groups of Sickle-billed Vangas provide one of the highlights of this trip. Nearby pools and coastal marshes hold Madagascar Plover, Greater Flamingo and Hottentot Teal.



After a short internal flight we will arrive back in Tana, spending the night here. The next morning we will visit Lake Alorobia, where highlights may include Dimorphic Egret and Madagascar Pond Heron, with a chance of Meller’s Duck amongst the thousands of wildfowl here. These may in turn attract a rare Madagascar Harrier. Later in the day we will drive east to Perinet, for two nights. Here, Madagascar’s most accessible rainforest is home to many lemurs and birds. 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.


Our 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 cryptically-plumaged Collared Nightjar may be seen at a daytime roost.


After a final morning’s birding at Perinet we will head back to Tana, arriving in good time for our late evening flight home.



We can expect hot weather in the lowlands, and warm or hot weather at Perinet and Ranamafana. September is a rather dry month, but rain is nevertheless possible at these two sites. 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 and Ranomafana there are several short but steep slopes. Elsewhere, the terrain is mostly flat and the walks are easy.



Full-board accommodation is provided with one night at Relais des Plateaux, Tana, one night at Royal Palace, Antsirabe, three nights at the Setam Lodge, Ranomafana, two nights at Satrana Hotel, Isalo, two nights at Caliente Beach Hotel, Tulear, two nights at Les Dunes Hotel, Ifaty, one night back at Relais des Plateaux, Tana and two nights at the Andasibe Hotel, Perinet. 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.



All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guides, full-board accommodation (starting with breakfast on 11th, ending with dinner on 24th), soft drinks at meal times, local transport by mini-coach, reserve entrance fees, boat trip, internal flight, international flights and airport taxes.



Travel insurance. Cost of a visa (approx. £40 and obtainable on arrival). Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.



Return flight from London Heathrow to Antananarivo (via Paris) using the scheduled services of Air France. Outbound flight departs early morning, return flight arrives back early afternoon. It may also be possible to fly from Manchester and other UK airports to Paris. Please phone for details.





15 nights including

one overnight flight:


Principal leader:


Local guides:




Maximum group size:


Cost with discount

(if you book before

28th May 2016):


Full Cost:






10th to 25th September 2016


Paul Willoughby


at each site we will use the services of very good local guides


10 clients with one leader

and local guides


£3980 per person sharing

(£490 single supplement)


£4130 per person sharing


£1000 per person


A ground only price is available. Please contact our office.




Short-legged Ground-roller

Sickle-billed Vanga

one of the many Chameleons which are a feature of the island

Blue Vanga perhaps the most stunning of this endemic family

Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher

Indri their eerie calls resound in the forest

Running Coua

Ring-tailed Lemur

Red-tailed Tropicbird









click here to see the photographs in our Madagascar Album



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