"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
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 food is delicious. We will spend our first two nights at Tana, with some easy birding to get us off to a good start. 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. 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. Two nights at Tulear give us time to visit the Red-tailed Tropicbird nesting island of Nosy Ve, as well as searching for Red-shouldered Vanga, discovered as recently as 1997. 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.
RANOMAFANA NATIONAL PARK
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. Our first full day in Madagascar will be spent birdwatching and sightseeing. Highlights at Lake Alorobia will 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.
On day three we will head south on a captivating journey along the spine of the country to Ranomafana. This 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 giving us a chance of finding 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.
TULEAR, ISALO AND IFATY
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, birding en route at Zombitse. Here, 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.
Later in the day we will arrive at Ifaty, spending three nights at the lovely Les Dunes Hotel. At Ifaty, 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, Sub-desert Mesite, Running Coua, Thamnornis, 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.
On day 11 we will drive the short distance to Tulear, where we will check in to our hotel for two nights. 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 Verreaux’s Coua.
ANDASIBE-MANTADIA NATIONAL PARK
After a short internal flight we will arrive back in Tana and drive about four hours east to Perinet. Here, Madagascar’s 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 Vakona Lodge 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.
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 and Ranomafana there are several short but steep slopes. Elsewhere, the terrain is mostly flat and the walks are easy.
ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD
Full-board accommodation is provided with two nights at Relais des Plateaux, Tana, three nights at the Setam Lodge, Ranomafana, two nights at Satrana Hotel, Isalo, three nights at Les Dunes Hotel, Ifaty, two nights at Caliente Beach Hotel, Tulear and four nights at the Vakona 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.
PRICE INCLUDES …..
All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guides, full-board accommodation (starting with breakfast on 29th, ending with dinner on 14th), soft drinks at meal times, local transport by mini-coach, reserve entrance fees, boat trip, internal flight, 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 Air France. Outbound flight departs early morning, return flight arrives back late afternoon. It may also be possible to fly from Manchester and other UK airports to Paris. Please phone for details.
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
click here to see the photographs in our Madagascar Album
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