The heaviest bird that ever existed, the Elephant Bird, lived in Madagascar and may actually have survived until only 300 years ago.
The Musée de l´Académie in Antananarivo has the only complete skeleton, but the rest of this great red island is even today so full of strange and wonderful life forms that we´ll soon understand how something as astounding as the 1000-pound Elephant Bird could have developed here.
To most of us, Madagascar is a place where evolution has run wild. Of the 198 nesting birds, 106 are endemic and another 25 are limited to the ´Malagasy Region´. There are no fewer than five endemic families, an endemic sub-family and 32 endemic genera. It´s a mind-boggling degree of endemism.
Birding tour 26 DAYS
Our trip will be oriented towards the endemic birds and mammals, and we´ll spend most of our time in the eastern rainforest, the western deciduous woodland, and the southern spiny desert.
When to go:
Birders tend to visit in the Malagasy spring and early summer, that is from the very end of August to December. In the winter months (May - mid August); the rainforests can be very quiet and many sought-after endemics extremely furtive.
Also, in winter some of the more spectacular endemics like asitys, will be out of their impressive breeding regalia. Because lodges and hotels are fairly small at most of the birding venues, it is sensible to plan your trip fairly long in advance, to avoid disappointment.
On this tour we are expecting to see: Subdesert, Brown & White-breasted Mesite, Cuckoo Roller, Long-tailed, Scaly, Pitta-like, Short-legged and Rufous-headed Ground Roller, Blue & Red-breasted Coua, Schlegel’s & Velvet Asity, Nuthatch & Sickle-billed Vanga, Helmet Vangas, Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asity, Benson’s Rock Thrush, Appert’s Tetraka, Madagascar Plover, Thamnornis, Madagascar & Madagascar Sacred Ibis, Madagascar Fish Eagle, Henst’s Goshawk, Bernier’s Teal , Madagascar Wood Rail, Brown Emutail,Pigmy king fishers,Madagascar jacanas,broad billed rollers; and many more…
Day 1: Arrival in Madagascar, we will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. HOTEL
Please be aware that your driver/guide will be waiting for you at the International Arrival gate. An airport sign with your name should be seen and you may have to look for a logo if the airport gets overcrowded. If you cannot locate your driver please remain calm and approach the Airport Welcome Service. An announcement intended for your driver can be broadcasted there, and this will then become the rally point.
In the case of an emergency or you cannot locate your driver, the emergency contact details are on your documents and you should call the mentioned numbers before attempting to leave the airport.
Day 2: TANA- ANDASIBE: Drive to Andasibe national park, this is the best known of Madagascar´s reserves, as it is home to the largest of all the lemurs, the tailless Indri.En route stop at Mandraka to visit the reptiles park of Peryeras.Afternoon visit of a local community run-park. Do a night visit for more night active animals. HOTEL VAKONA or similar
Day 3: Visit of Andasibe national park. Very early drive to Mantadia .The primary forests of Andasibe-Mantadia contains a dense humid forest covered with lians, moss, fern tress and more than hundred orchids species blooming between September and January.
Your accommodation will be in the neighboring Mantadia National Park, where many species not found in Perinet/Analamazaotra can be seen with relative ease. The understory provides cover for all four species of rainforest ground-roller including Scaly and Short-legged. The extremely wary Red-breasted Coua is on the edge of its range here and lives in the shade of the luxuriant growth with Red-fronted Coua.
Mixed flocks of vangas and flycatchers often contain the extraordinary Nuthatch Vanga as well as Ward´s (Flycatcher) Vanga and Nelicourvi Weaver.
Both Velvet and Common Sunbird-Asitys are not uncommon, but the latter is often difficlt to see well in the forest, and other birds here include Madagascar Rail, Madagascar Flufftail, and Madagascar Spinetail. In the nearby Analamazaotra Reserve, in addition to appreciating Indris, we´ll look at night for Collared Nightjar (whose song is still unknown), Madagascar Long-eared Owl, Madagascar Crested Ibis, Wedge-tailed Jery, and Forest Fody.
We will not forget the lemurs, with luck adding Greater Dwarf Lemur, Common Bamboo Lemur, Eastern Avahi, and possibly even Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur to our list. On night walks we should encounter a good variety of frogs and some more spectacular Chameleons such as Parson´s and Bearded. Night at the same hotel
Day 4: ANDASIBE-TANA : Another morning visit before heading back to Tana. Night at A&C hotel (close to the aiport)
Day 5: Take a flight to Sambava then meet our driver/guide to take you to Manantenina where the MAROJEJY National park entrance is. Then start the trek to the park. The Mantella Trek takes you to Camp Mantella, about a four-hour hike from Manantenina. Camp Mantella (elevation 450 m [1475 ft]) has six cabins furnished with beds, mattresses, and bedding.
It also has a large sheltered eating area with an assortment of cooking utensils. A campground is located nearby for those who prefer to pitch a tent. This area of lowland rainforest is a good place to see several species of lemurs, many birds (including the helmet vanga) and many species of amphibians and reptiles. The beautiful Cascade de Humbert waterfall is a short walk (800 m) from the camp.OVERNIGHT CAMPING
Day 6: FULL DAY VISIT IN MAROJEJY;Species we´ll be looking for in the forest include Helmet Vanga, certainly the most bizarre-looking bird on the island; vaguely like a small hornbill but dressed in attractive black and tan.
Its most spectacular feature is the enormous bill, impressive enough for its size but rendered unforgettable in fluorescent day-glow blue! Far rarer is the dowdy all-black Bernier´s Vanga, the barred female being more attractive.Birders can spot more than 120 species, such as the Madagascar serpent-eagle, red Owl, helmet vanga, red-tailed newtonia, cryptic warbler and several ground-rollers. OTHER NIGHT CAMPING
Day 7: Another Morning visit of Marojejy before coming out and drive back to Sambava. More species of forest-dwelling birds are found in Marojejy than in any other single mountain site in Madagascar. One hundred twenty bird species have been recorded in the park or on lands immediately adjacent to it. Of these 75 (64%) are dependent on the forest for a portion of their life-cycle. Every one of these 75 forest species is endemic to the Madagascar region.OVERNIGHT AT MIMI HOTEL in Sambava
Day 8: SAMBAVA-DIEGO SUAREZ. Taka a flight to Diego suarez and meet our driver and guide at the airport to take you to Montagne d'Ambre national park. following by a visit and the aim of this visit is to find the locally endemic Amber mountain rock thrush which is is tame and ubiquitous.This forest is also a home to the other numerous species such as Madagascar crested Ibis, pigmy kingfishers,paradise flycatchers; NIGHT AT NATURE LODGE
Day 9: Morning visit of Montagne d'Ambre national park before heading to Ankarana national park..A big number of animal species inhabit the National Park. To begin with, 25 species of mammals, among them 6 carnivores such as the ring-tailed mongoose and the fossa, and 8 lemurs: Sanford's brown lemur, crowned lemur, lesser bamboo lemur and are five species of nocturnal lemurs.
Besides these forests are the home of 75 different bird species (35 of which are endemic and even locally endemic, like the Amber Mountainrock-thrush ), 60 reptiles, such as tiny stump-
tailed chameleons, leaf-tailed geckos and snakes, 35 frogs and more than 40 butterflies. Night at Chez Laurent Ankarana(closer to the park entrance so good for the early start)
Day 10: Full day visit of Ankarana national park.today we try to do the maximum to spot more ,including Blue Vanga , Madagascar green pigeon as well as White-breasted Mesite and Crested Ibis and we will have our lunch inside the park at the campsite as a cook is cooking for us. Late in the evening is best time to visit the bats´cave.
Ankarana is a spectacularly eroded limestone fortress of sharp ridges, patches of dense tropical jungle, deciduous forest, deep caves and canyons(actually the biggest underground network of Africa) and rushing rivers. With an annual rainfall of almost 2000 mm, the underlying rocks undergo a heavy erosion producing an amazing karst topography, being its most known result the fantastically eroded limestone spires, known as “tsingy”.
The Park is in fact one of the most visited specially among hikers: it offers incredible trails, unique and terrific landscapes and a lot of animals!
This reserve contains one of the highest density of primates of any forest in the world. Its dense forests support one of the largest and least disturbed populations of crowned lemurs. Sanford's brown lemur, perrier's black lemur, northern sportive lemur and dwarf lemurs, ringtailed mongoose, fossa, tenrecs and Madagascar striped civet are also a common sight.
Almost 100 bird species, 50 reptiles (including some endemic and threatened snakes and geckos) and 10 frogs cohabit in the Park. Inside the spectacular and huge labyrinth of caves 14 bat species, local endemic blind shrimps and the world's only known cave-living crocodiles are waiting for your visit. At night swarms of bats and flying foxes swoop in the darkness. Night at the same place
Day 11: Ankarana-Ambanja. Another morning visit of Ankarana national park before heading to Ambanja. NIGHT AT PALMANOVA HOTEL
Day 12: Ambanja-Antsohihy. Visit of Cocoa,ylang-ylang and vanilla plantation,meet the local farmers to learn more about their lifestyle; This is also another opportunity to find more birds like the green pigeons and broad billed roller. On the way to Antsohihy, we will stop and visit Ambodimanga forest trying to find the very rare blue eyed black lemurs. Night in Antsohihy at BELLEVUE HOTEL
Day 13: Early breakfast , after beakfast, drive to Bealanana then to Bemanevika Village. Bemanevika is a small village to which is the last remaining site for the critically endangered Madagascar Pochard. The crater lakes at Bemanevika, near are not all equally used either.
One of them is now a marsh, with no open water at all. Most of the Pochards use just the one small lake of about 30 hectares in extent. This species was once found at several sites in the northern half of Madagascar, but mainly on Lake Aloatra. This, the largest lake in Madagascar, has been subject to many years of eutrophication, drainage and has suffered the introduction of alien species of fish.
This has all resulted in the extinction of the Aloatra Grebe that was only found on this lake, and was thought to have resulted in the extinction of the Madagascar Pochard.
Happily the Madagascar Pochard was rediscovered in 2006 at Bemenavika, but life remains incredibly tough for them. Restricted to just one or two tiny crater lakes, the entire population of about 20-30 individuals is at risk of extinction at any one point. There is now a successful captive breeding population instigated by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the Gerald Durrell conservation trust, but productivity in the wild is dangerously low. OVERNIGHT CAMPING
Day 14: Full day visit of the Bemanevika reserve to find the local endemic fauna such as wild duck with white eyes, THE MADAGASCAR POCHARD (Aythia inotata) and red owl. Exchange and immersion with the local population. Another night camping
Day 15: Drive back to Antsohihy.Night at Bellevue hotel
Day 16: Drive to Ankarafantsika following by a visit. Many bird species here are among the last of their kind. The bizarre endemic family of mesites, of unknown taxonomic affinity, is represented by White-breasted Mesite. Another endemic family, the vangas, is represented by White-headed, Blue, Chabert´s, Rufous, Hook-billed, Van Dam´s, and the extraordinary Sickle-billed.
One of the rarest, Van Dam´s, may be found ripping into rotten wood with its heavy hooked bill. A third endemic family, the asitys, are present in the form of Schlegel´s Asity, but they are very scarce and difficult to locate. We´ll also be looking for the bizarre Madagascar Crested Ibis, Madagascar Fish-Eagle, Madagascar Buzzard, France´s Sparrowhawk, and Coquerel´s, Red-capped, and Crested Couas. A large dam nearby could produce Humblot´s Heron and Madagascar Jacana.
In addition to birds, Madagascar is also renowned for its unique reptile and mammal fauna. We should be able to locate some fantastic chameleons, including Oustalet´s, the world´s largest, which can be up to a meter long. There are a number of lemur species, and with persistence we should see Brown Western Woolly, Milne-edwards Dwarf and the diminutive Gray Mouse Lemurs, but it would take much greater fortune to see the nocturnal Mongoose and Golden Mouse Lemurs.
The agile Verreaux´s Siffakas are frequently in the camping area. Night in Ankarafantsika at the bungalow of the park.
Day 17: Full day visit of Ankarafantsika national park and trying to find the very rare Schlegel´s Asity,Madagascar fish eagles and more. Night at the same hotel
Day 18: Long drive back to Antananarivo. Hotel not far from the airport but this evening you will be taken for a dinner at one of the best of the local restaurant to taste the best of Malagasy food at the restaurant -CAFE DE LA GARE
Day 19: TANA- TOLIARA, take a flight to Toliara. Meet the guide and driver then drive to Ifaty and visit the spiny forest of ifaty which is also known as Reniala reserve. HOTEL MAROLOKO
Day 20: VISIT OF THE SPINY FOREST for the endemic long tailed ground roller and many more.A search before breakfast with local expertise should yield the difficult-to-find Long-tailed Ground-Roller. We´ll look for other special birds as well, such as the Olive-capped form of Red-capped Coua, Madagascar Hoopoe, Greater Vasa Parrot, Gray-headed Lovebird, Madagascar Magpie Robin, and various vangas including our first Red-tailed.
After this avian feast we´ll return to the lodge for our breakfast. After breakfast we´ll be on the road back to Tulear and to Zombitse national park, passing some extensive swamps that harbor widespread though secretive species such as Little Bittern, Purple Swamphen, and Painted Snipe.
There are frequent outbursts from other rails plus a variety of herons, ducks, and waders. Along the muddy bays, if the tide is low, we should see migrant waders: Greater Sandplovers trotting across the mudflats with Curlew Sandpipers, and maybe flamingoes, while near the salt fields there is often a pair of the increasingly rare Madagascar Plover. Night at ZOMBITSE ECOLODGE
Day 21: Early morning visit of Zombitse national Park then drive to Isalo. Zombitse,These isolated forests constitute the most important remnant of dry deciduous forest ofMadagascar. Zombitse-Vohibasia acts as a transition zone between the dry and the humid forests of Madagascar.
Therefore the flora is especially rich within the protected area. Baobabs and several orchids are particulary common . The number of animal species living here is also remarkable. 15 small mammals, 2 carnivorous and 8 lemur species, such as the Verraux´s sifaka, red-fronted brown lemur, ring-tailed lemur, pale fork-marked lemur and the Hubbard´s sportive lemur can be observed here. Birds are also a park highlight.
There are 85 species, most of them endemic like the rare Appert´s greenbul, which only lives in this forest. 33 reptile and 8 amphibian species have been reported in Zombitse, such as the Standing´s day gecko, which is also local endemic to the Park. Night at ORCHIDEE HOTEL
Day 22: Morning visit of Isalo then drive to Ambalavao.ISALO is a 815 km² of sandstone massif wildly eroded by wind and rain into bizarre ridges (known as “runiformes”) featuring wild forms, impressive gorges and canyons and tiny stalagmite pinnacles. The far Wild West reminiscent of the landscape, dominated by rugged massive that rises up from the flat surrounding grassy plain, attracts hikers from the whole world that gather here to admire the sweeping colours of this Jurassic scenery.
The climate is dry tropical with warm temperatures all year around.The park homes also approximately 80 species of birds (including the rare Benson’s rock-thrush, the knob-billed duck or the crested ibis), Night in Ambalavao at Zongo hotel
Day 23: Morning visit of Anja reserve, this is a local community run park where you will probably see the highest density of ring tailed lemurs and birds. There is also a small lake close to the reserve where you may find Red-billed Teal (Anas erythrorhyncha), White-faced whistling Duck (Dendrocygna viduata), Knob-billed Duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos), After the visit , you will drive to RANOMAFANA national park and do an afternoon visit ; and a night visit. OVERNIGHT AT LE GRENAT HOTEL
Day 24: - Another day visit of Ranomafana. The park contains twelve lemur species. Aside from the golden bamboo lemur, visitors can spot eastern woolly lemur, red bellied lemur, eastern grey bamboo lemur, greater bamboo lemur, red-fronted brown lemur, black-and-white ruffed lemur, Milne-Edward´s sifaka, Small-toothed sportive lemur, greater dwarf lemur and brown mouse lemur and the very rare aye-aye. Other mammals include 7 species of tenrecs, 8 bats and 6 carnivorous, like the Malagasy striped civet and some mongooses.
Birds have profited from these discoveries, and we´ll be alert for the huge Henst´s Goshawk, the timid Brown Mesite, Madagascar Wood Rail, the stunning Blue Coua, the secretive Yellow-brow Coua, and mixed flocks containing Spectacled and Gray-crowned Greenbuls, spectacular Pitta-like Ground-Roller, Green Jery, and Rand´s Warbler.
The more highland forest areas produce a different group of birds including Rufous-headed Ground-Roller, Brown Emutail, and the elusive but stunning and sometimes very confiding Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asity. In the nearby river and swamps we could find the greatly endangered Meller´s Duck, plus Madagascar Pratincole, Madagascar Snipe, and (with luck) Madagascar Partridge. Gray Emutail hide in the rank marshy grasses of the swamps.
Day 25: Drive back to Tana but will stop to overnight in Antsirabe.Hotel couleur café or similar
Day 26: Early morning drive back to Tana and straight to the airport for the flight out. END OF THE TOUR
This birding tour would cost €2650 per person (based on 2 adults sharing a room )
And price includes:
- All accommodation with Bed and Breakfast and with full board when camping at Marojejy and at Bemanevika
- A 4WD car with FUEL and a driver
- A very good birds guide(English speaking tour guide)
- Pick up and drop off to the airports
- All parks and reserve entrance fee,
- All local bird guides fee(Using a local guide is compulsory when visiting parks)
- Tour tax
Excludes: Lunches and dinners,drinks when not camping; domestic flights…