Madagascar - Wildlife of a Magical Island 2019
November 2019 (12 days)
Dates8 Nov 2019 - 19 Nov 2019
Tour LeaderRainer Summers
Tour SizeMax 8 Participants and 1 Rockjumper Wildlife guide
Flight Cost (Approximate)US$1400
Spaces AvailableSpaces Available
Type of TourWildlife
Indri, Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur, Diademed, Coquerel’s and Verreaux’s Sifaka, Ring-tailed and Mongoose Lemur, Western Avahi (Woolly Lemur), Fat-tailed Dwarf Lemur, Golden-brown Mouse Lemur, Furry-eared Dwarf Lemur, Goodman’s Mouse Lemur, Madagascar Flying Fox, Lowland Streaked Tenrec, Pitta-like Ground Roller, Cuckoo Roller, Blue and Giant Coua, White-breasted Mesite, Schlegel’s Asity, White-browed Hawk-Owl, Madagascar Sandgrouse, Humblot’s Heron, Madagascar Jacana, numerous and varied reptiles, amphibians and insects, shopping and culture
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Day 1: Arrival in Antananarivo
The Madagascar – Wildlife of a Magical Island tour begins with your arrival in the bustling capital of Antananarivo, or “Tana” as it is more commonly known. While traveling from the airport, one cannot help but be struck by the uniqueness of the Malagasy culture; an unusual mixture of African and Asian influences reflected in the landscape and architecture. After checking-in at our comfortable hotel, depending on our arrival time, we will set out to explore this intriguing city.
Day 2: Antananarivo to Ampijoroa (Ankarafantsika) via Mahajanga
Today we fly to Mahajanga on the northwest coast of Madagascar, for the first leg of our Madagascar wildlife tour. After arriving in this sleepy town, we will drive to Ampijoroa, a forest station situated in the extensive deciduous forests of Ankarafantsika National Park. Ampijoroa is famous as the home of the World Wildlife Fund’s Plough-shear Tortoise captive breeding program and is an ideal base from which to search for the numerous endemic mammals, birds and reptiles of the region.
En route to the reserve we may see wetland birds such as Purple, Striated, Squacco, Malagasy Pond and flocks of Black Heron, which we will watch as they perform their bizarre “umbrella-feeding” routine. On arrival at the forestry station we should encounter numerous “campsite residents” such as Broad-billed Roller, screeching Lesser Vasa Parrot, Crested Drongo, Madagascar Magpie-Robin, Sakalava Weaver, Madagascan Hoopoe, Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher, Madagascan Green Pigeon and Malagasy Turtle Dove. Tonight we will embark on our first night walk, searching for the large range of chameleons and mammals that call these woodlands home.
Days 3 & 4: Ampijoroa (Ankarafantsika)
We have two full days of our Madagascar wildlife tourto explore the network of trails through the dry forest around Ampijoroa, in search of lemurs. No less than eight species of lemur occur in the vicinity of the camp and time will be spent with the comical Coquerel’s Sifaka, regularly encountered Common Brown Lemur and the rare Mongoose Lemur during the day, and Western Avahi (Woolly Lemur), Milne-Edward’s Sportive, Fat-tailed Dwarf and Grey Mouse Lemurs after dark. If we are lucky, we may also find the recently described (1998) Golden-brown Mouse Lemur, one of the world’s smallest primates and only known from around Lac Ravelobe (hence its scientific name Microcebus ravelobensis.)
Reptiles are also plentiful along the trails and you may encounter the impressive Giant Hog-nosed Snake, as well as several smaller species of snake (all harmless – amazingly, there are no venomous snakes in Madagascar!), Oustalet’s Chameleon (the world’s largest species), the aptly named Rhinoceros Chameleon, with its enlarged nasal protuberance and impressively spiky Cuvier’s Iguanids. There are also an extraordinary variety of birds that are restricted to this region. Foremost amongst these is the secretive White-breasted Mesite, and the jewel-like Schlegel’s Asity, which recalls a miniature Bird-of-paradise! Another highly localized specialty is Van Dam’s Vanga, while two species of coua are also restricted to these deciduous forests: Red-capped and Coquerel’s. We will also spend a little time along the edge of the adjacent Lac Ravelobe, which is home to a good number of Nile Crocodile. This is also one of the only sites where it is still possible to find the critically endangered Madagascar Fish Eagle, a pair of which is resident here.
Day 5: Ampijoroa (Ankarafantsika) to Antananarivo via Mahajanga
After a final morning of lemur watching, birding and photographing around Ampijoroa we will return to Antananarivo via Mahajanga for an overnight stay. We may stop off at Lac Amboromalandy to search for other waterbirds including the striking Madagascar Jacana, which are sometimes seen as they strut through lily-covered lakeshore vegetation, Humblot’s Heron, Madagascan Grebe, African Pygmy Goose and Allen’s Gallinule.
Day 6: Antananarivo to Berenty via Fort Dauphin
After breakfast we make our way back to the airport for our flight to Fort Dauphin. We then embark on a drive that takes us through some well-watered valleys packed with paddy fields, and on to the rain-shadow of the Andohahela Mountains where the octopus-like Didierea trees are diagnostic of these spiny forests. As we near Berenty the natural habitat is replaced by extensive tracts of sisal plantations stretching as far as the eye can see. Berenty Private Lemur Reserve belongs to the De Haulme family, who has very kindly set aside sections of gallery forest along the Mandrare River in order to conserve its population of lemurs and other wildlife.
Day 7: Berenty
Berenty is justly famous for its lemurs; not only because its deciduous woodland is home to five species of these primitive primates, but also for the ease with which they can be seen and appreciated in the wild. The Brown Lemurs here are a mixture of Common Brown Lemurs and Red-fronted Brown Lemurs, and these are commonly called Berenty Browns. These Lemurs occur in large numbers during the day; while White-footed Sportive, Grey-brown and Grey Mouse lemurs are regularly encountered on night walks through the reserve.
However, the undoubted favorites are the Ring-tailed Lemurs and Verreaux’s Sifakas. The bands of cat-like, quizzical Ringtails are often the first to steal any visitors’ hearts (as well as any spare fruit they may have on their persons!), but their appeal is easily matched by the strikingly patterned Sifakas with their soulful expressions and bizarre, bipedal dancing locomotion. To spend time with these gentle creatures will certainly be one of the highlights of our Madagascar wildlife tour. A further mammalian must-see at Berenty is a visit to the Madagascar Flying Fox roost, where about 300 of these impressive animals – sporting 1.25 meter wingspans spend their day squabbling and presumably also sleeping.
As with all sites in Madagascar there is also a plethora of other wildlife on show and we are likely to encounter some striking birds during our time exploring the reserve. Impressive species such as Giant Coua, White-browed Hawk-Owl and France’s Sparrowhawk are sure to delight while Warty Chameleon should also be seen during our time here.
Day 8: Berenty to Fort Dauphin to Antananarivo
This morning we should have time for one last walk around Berenty. After breakfast we return to Fort Dauphin for our flight to Tana where we will overnight and prepare for the next leg of our journey.
Day 9: Antananarivo to Perinet
This morning we depart for the drive eastwards across the high plateau to Perinet and the famous reserve of Andasibe-Mantadia (otherwise known as Analamazaotra). Terraced rice paddies and traditional two-storey mud homes make for intriguing scenery along the way.
Our accommodation for the next few nights is a delightful hotel, ideally located in a quiet forest setting, adjacent to the reserve. Right on our doorstep nature abounds: fluorescent-green day geckos scuttle on the outside walls of our chalets, Madagascar Wagtails flit along the paved walkways, and we may well be serenaded by the beautiful songs of the world’s largest species of lemur, the handsome Indri.
Days 10 & 11: Perinet and Mantadia National Parks
In the forests of Perinet, where we will be spending one of our days, we can expect to be treated to a close encounter with a family group of Indri. While walking in Perinet we will certainly hear their eerie, whale-like howling that echoes through the forest and if fortunate may be present with a group while they are ‘singing’. Other lemurs we may see include arguably the most beautiful of them all – the gentle Diademed Sifaka, as well as bands of Common Brown and the shy Grey Bamboo Lemur. On one of the days we will also take time to visit the nearby Mantadia National Park, which is an excellent place to search for a good variety of lemur species, and a day spent in this forest will certainly be worthwhile. This is the best area to locate the beautiful Diademed Sifaka while it is also one of the few sites where the endangered Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur may be found. Other fabulous species that are possible during our visit to Mantadia include Grey Bamboo, Red-bellied and Common Brown Lemurs, while one of the local guides may well know of a spot where the nocturnal Eastern Avahi (Woolly Lemur) or Weasel Sportive Lemur may be sleeping during the day.
In the evenings, we will embark on night walks. Nocturnal outings are a thrilling, and indeed essential, part of any Madagascar trip; with Andasibe-Mantadia being one of the very best sites to search for the island’s nocturnal Lemurs. Here we will look for – and hopefully find – Eastern Woolly and Furry-eared Dwarf Lemurs as well as the diminutive Goodman’s Mouse Lemur. We may also encounter some of Madagascar’s other evolutionary masterpieces, such as the bizarre Lowland Streaked Tenrec.
The island’s reptile and amphibian (“herp”) fauna is equally fascinating, and even the most hardened naturalist wouldn’t fail to be impressed by the plethora of colorful and bizarre frogs, chameleons and geckos to be seen on an evening’s stroll through the rainforest. In particular, we will search for the giant Parson’s Chameleon and the aptly named Fantastic Leaf-tailed Gecko (Uroplatus phantasticus). Perinet and Mantadia also offer some of the best rainforest birding in Madagascar, and we can expect to see specials such as Blue Coua, Blue Vanga, Cuckoo Roller, the stunning Pitta-like Ground Roller, and both of Madagascar’s endemic kingfishers.
Day 12: Perinet to Antananarivo and depart
This morning we will depart after breakfast for bustling Tana and our flights home.