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Madagascar Birding and Wildlife Tour (15 days)

Photo by Fabiene RaphozMadagascar! Our world's fourth-largest island is, quite simply, unique. Five bird families - an astonishing 120 bird species - and five mammal families are endemic to this massive island,

and half the world's chameleons, weird and wonderful endemic plant families and tons of other wildlife can be found here. An astonishing 120 bird species are endemic – including such exotic groups as vangas, ground- rollers, cuckoo rollers, couas, asities and mesites. Lemurs vie for attention, from the tiny mouse-lemurs to the marvelous sifakas and the amazing Indri with its calls that resound through the forest. Our tour visits a range of habitats; grasslands, dry deciduous woodland, the bizarre spiny Didiera forest (with its odd octopus and elephant's-foot trees), lush eastern rainforest as well as lagoons and mudflats. The birds that we'll look for include the roadrunner-like Long-tailed Ground-roller and the stunning Pitta-like, Scaly and Rufous-headed Ground-Rollers to the highly-prized Subdesert Mesite, the unforgettable Giant Coua, spectacular vangas, the astounding Velvet Asity and Madagascar Crested Ibis, to name just a handful. We invite you to join us on a special tour to an amazing island! The Masoala Peninsula extension can generate the unbelievable Helmet Vanga, Brown Mesite, Short-legged Ground-roller, the largest nocturnal lemur, Aye-aye and a stack more.


2017 Departure Date & Costs

October 17-31, 2017

Tour cost: 4,496 Euros per person based on twin share
Single Supplement: 650 Euros

Pre-tour extension Masaola Penninsula Oct 12-17: 1990 Euros per person based on twin share


Itinerary

Oct. 17:  Arrive Antananarivo
Transfer to the hotel for overnight.

October 18: Andasibe-Mantadia National Park
International flight arrives in Antananarivo (shortened to "Tana" by most people!). After arrival, we immediately embark on a 3-hour drive to Andasibe, one of Madagascar's premier rainforest sites. Here, the unforgettable call of Indri resounds through the beautiful Mantadia and Perinet forests. We find this lemur with ease, along with other spectacularly beautiful species such as Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur. Birding is unbelievable, with FOUR different Ground-rollers possible, along with both nightjars including the bizarre Collared Nightjar at its daytime roosts. Madagascar Long-eared Owl, Rainforest Scops Owl and a suite of nocturnal lemurs and chameleons await us on a night walk in the area. Overnight: Feon'nyala or similar, Andasibe

October 19 - 20: Andasibe-Mantadia National Park
We spend two more nights in Andasibe, birding the beautiful primary and secondary forests of the area. We should find Velvet Asity, Common Sunbird-asity, Forest Rock-thrush, Madagascar Flufftail, many vangas including Madagascar Blue Vanga, Nuthatch Vanga and several others, Madagascar Blue Pigeon, Madagascar Cuckoo-shrike, several endemic warblers such as Rand's Warbler, and more. We have stakeouts for Madagascar Grebe, the rare Meller's Duck and Madagascar Rail. We expect our first couas, Red-fronted Coua being a likely candidate. We should see a few new lemurs such as Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur. We certainly don't ignore other non-avian wildlife, and often see Giraffe-necked Weavil, Tree Boa and many chameleons.

October 21: Transfer to Antsirabe
We embark on a long and scenice road trip to the south-=east of the island with an overnight in Madagascar's second largest city, Antsirabe.

October 22 - 24 Transfer to and Birding at Ranomafana National Park
We drive to amazing RANOMAFANA NATIONAL PARK. We hope to see many of Madagascar and its neighboring islands' common endemics en route to the national park, including species such as Madagascar Wagtail, Malagasy Malachite Kingfisher, Mascarene Martin, Malagasy Kestrel, Malagasy Bulbul and many others. Reaching Ranomafana, we are in for a real treat. The rainforest here is similar to that at Andasibe, but is a better place for several species we won't yet have seen, such as the rare Yellow-bellied Sunbird-asity, the recently described Cryptic Warbler, Yellow-browed Oxylabes, Grey-crowned Greenbul, Pollen's Vanga, Grey Emutail, Wedge-tailed Jery, Madagascar Snipe and numerous others. As always in a new part of the island, we expect new lemurs, such as Golden Bamboo Lemur. Reptiles include Leaf-tailed Gecko.

October 25: Isalo National Park
Today, we start heading westwards, to much drier parts. We'll spend one night in the beautifully picturesque Isalo National Park. Here we'll search for some more star birds, such as Forest Rock Thrush and the attractively-patterned Madagascar Partridge.
Overnight: Isalo Ranch

October 26: Transfer westwards, birding en route
We head towards the spiny forests of the south-west. This will be like entering a completely new world, and there is nothing else like this weird landscape anywhere in the world – Africa, although geographically close by, is nothing like Madagascar in landscape or wildlife. Baobabs and Diedera trees provide an absolutely unique habitat for a host of sought-after Madagascar endemics. However, before reaching these spiny forests, we first have another fascinating drive that should generate some of Madagascar's most localized birds, as well as a detour that includes a boat trip. Continuing our drive westwards towards the spiny forests, we stop at a unique dry deciduous forest inhabited by the critically endangered Appert's Greenbul, Coquerel's Coua, the incomparable Cuckoo Roller which we often see displaying, and various other goodies. Then we bird a coastal site further west for two incredibly localized species endemic to "coral rag scrub", Verreaux's Coua and Red-shouldered Vanga. We should also start finding our first of more widespread dry area birds, including Subdesert Brush-warbler and others. Overnight: Victory Hotel, Tulear

October 27: Birding the spiny forests near Ifaty
A world away from the eastern rainforests, after much anticipation we now bird the spiny forests near Ifaty , where baobabs and Diedera trees provide an absolutely unique habitat for a host of sought-after Madagascar endemics, among them such incredible birds as the Long-tailed Ground Roller, Subdesert Mesite, Sickle-billed Vanga, Archbold’s Newtonia, Banded Kestrel, Thamnornis, Lafresnaye’s Vanga, Red-capped Coua (the local olivaceus subspecies, “Green-capped Coua”),  Running Coua, and others. We also visit a site forMadagascan Plover.

October 28: Birding the Table Mountain
Today we will explore, on our drive to Tulear, a small hill reminiscnet of Table Mountain in Cape Town, here called La Table. Behind it is a scrubby forest to look for red-shouldered VBenga and other endemics. Overnight Hotel Victory Tulear.

October 29: Boat trip to Nosy Ve
We do a boat trip to the island of Nosy Ve, where we look at breeding Red-tailed Tropicbirds. We also visit our site for Littoral Rock-thrush. We should see various other new trip birds as well. Overnight: Victory Hotel, Tulear

October 30: Flight to Tana, birding the city
We fly back to Tana and bird sites around the fascinating capital city for Sooty Falcon, Eleonora's Falcon, Malagasy Pond Heron and many other birds. Overnight: Lapasoa Hotel, Tana.

October 31: Departure
After final birding in the city, your international flight leaves Tana


PRE-TRIP EXTENSION:  MASOALA PENINSULA OCTOBER 12 - 17

Masoala is not about quantity – it is all about quality of species seen. There are only a handful of species that are quite easy to see there, that are not on the 14-day trip. The main one is Helmet Vanga, which is one of the world's most beautiful and bizarre species. Most people do the Masoala pre-trip just for this species. Bernier's Vanga and Brown Mesite are 2 other specials that are much more likely to be found at Masoala than elsewhere, and there are a couple of lemurs we only see there.

October 12: Travel to Masoala National Park
We fly to Maroantsetra and take a boat trip across Antongil Bay, Madagascar's largest bay. We travel past the island of Nosy Mangabe and eventually reach the Masoala Peninsula, which contains Madagascar's largest tract of lowland rainforest and also its largest national park in the form of Masoala National Park. Overnight: a new lodge at Masoala.

October 13 - 14: Birding Masoala National Park
We bird the incredible forests and remote tropical beaches of Masoala National Park for some of Madagascar's most awesome birds, including Madagascar Pratincole, Crested Coua, Blue Coua, Helmet Vanga, Short-legged Ground Roller, Brown Mesite, and many other sought-after birds. There are also some incredible lemurs here, including red ruffed lemur and red-fronted lemur. Overnight: a new lodge at Masoala, or Ecolodge Chez Arol

October 15. Birding the mainland near the Masoala Peninsula
We spend a night back on the mainland near the Masoala Peninsula, looking for all kinds of goodies such as White-throated Rail, Grey-headed Lovebird, and many others. We also do an evening walk that could generate aye-aye, Sambava tomato frog, lowland streaked tenrec, and others.
Overnight: Relais du Masoala, Maroantsetra

October 16. Return to Tana (B)
Overnight in Tana.