with Birdseekers

Friday 3rd October – Sunday 26th October

Long-tailed Ground-roller
Situated in the Indian Ocean and lying 430kms from the coast of Africa, Madagascar has developed a totally unique flora and fauna. This is a place where evolution has run wild and it has such a high degree of endemism that it is truly like nowhere else on earth. There are currently 120 endemic species of bird, which include six endemic families. Nowhere else in the world will you see mesites, couas, ground rollers, cuckoo-rollers, asities and vangas! It is also famous for the remarkable selection of over 20 species of Lemurs that occur here – and we are sure to see many! This is an exciting tour, in which we have planned to take in all the different habitats in order to provide comprehensive coverage of this special island, from huge escarpments, grasslands, dry deciduous woodland, the spiny Didierea forest of the semi-desert and the lush, rich rainforest. This is truly one of our most fascinating tours to date. This holiday is £1,200 cheaper than some equivalent tours – once again offering outstanding value for money.

Days 1 – 2 We take an evening flight from London bound for Antananarivo via Paris, where we arrive in the late afternoon and transfer to our hotel for the night

Days 3 - 5 This morning we fly to Majunga on the northwest coast for a 3 night stay. In the afternoon, we will bird around Amboromalandy Lake. Around the reservoir, adjacent wetlands and flooded fields we can see large numbers of herons, including Black Heron. A major target here is the Madagascar Jacana. Other species include Three-banded Plover, Allen’s Gallinule, African Pygmy Goose, Madagascar Malachite Kingfisher and Glossy Ibis. An early departure will be needed to get to Ampijoroa Forest, which lies in Ankarafantsika Reserve. In this plateau country, covered in dry deciduous woodland and interspersed with water coursed and richer forest we will search for several specialities. This is one of only two sites for Van Dam’s Vanga, as well as being a good site for White-breasted Mesite. Whilst searching the trails, we should come across troops of mesites walking through the undergrowth. In the slightly moister forest we may find Schlegel’s Asity. One of the rarest raptors in the world, Madagascar Fish-Eagle, can be found nearby. We shall spend a day travelling around the broad estuary of the Betsiboka River. Here we will search for Madagascar Teal and Madagascar White Ibis (now split from Sacred Ibis). Other birds to be found include Madagascar Teal, Dimorphic Egret and a variety of more familiar waders.

Day 6 We will revisit Ampijoroa in the early morning to catch up with any species we still need, such as Red-capped Coua, Madagascar Crested Ibis or Greater Vasa Parrot. There are also several species of lemurs here, such as Brown & Mongoose Lemurs. We return to our hotel for lunch, before taking an afternoon flight back to Antananarivo for an overnight stay.

Day 7 We will take all day to drive to Ranomafana. As we drive across the interior plateau, we will have plenty of opportunity to have a close look at the Malagasy way of life. We will pass small rice paddies and isolated mountains, which will yield a surprising number of new species. Typical roadside birds include Madagascar Red Fody, Madagascar White-eye, Madagascar Cisticola, Mascarene Martin, Madagascar Bush Lark, Madagascar Buzzard, Madagascar Kestrel and Madagascar Swift (which some authorities treat as an endemic form of African Black Swift). More familiar species include Black Kite, Squacco Heron and Great Egret. Approaching the eastern highlands, we may find Meller’s Duck and Madagascar Snipe. We will be based in the small spa town of Ranomafana for the next 4 nights.

Days 8 – 10 We will spend the next 3 days birding around Ranomafana and Vohiparara. This area is probably the best accessible site to see Madagascar’s rainforest endemics and it will need plenty of patience to seek out a selection of species that are generally only found here. The secretive Brown Mesite is a prime example, as is Henst’s Goshawk. A lot of our target birds are extreme skulkers, but when found can give incredible views. Species such as Madagascar Yellowbrow and Brown Emutail are prime examples. Other target birds include, Rufous-headed, Pitta-like and, if we are really lucky, Short-legged Ground Rollers. We also hope to see Pollen’s Vanga, Madagascar Wood Rail and Grey-crowned Greenbul. Other species we may well encounter include Madagascar Coucal, Blue and Red-fronted Coua, Spectacled Greenbul, Long-billed Greenbul, Madagascar Bulbul, Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher, Forest Rock Thrush, Madagascar Magpie-Robin, Ashy Cuckoo-Shrike, Madagascar Wagtail, Velvet Asity, Common Sunbird Asity, Lesser Vasa Parrot, Madagascar Turtle Dove, Madagascar Brush Warbler, Tylas Vanga, Ward’s Flycatcher, Crossley’s Babbler, Souimanga Sunbird and Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher. In the more open areas along the road we may see Madagascar Lesser Cuckoo, Madagascar Blue Pigeon, Madagascar Starling, Rand’s Warbler, Stripe-throated and Green Jeries and the recently described Cryptic Warbler. In another area close by we will search for Madagascar Flufftail, skulking Grey Emutails and Madagascar Swamp Warbler.At dusk Madagascar Pratincoles feeding over the forest.

Day 11 We will have a full days drive to Isalo for an overnight stay. We will make our way down the forested escarpment, down through dry grassland dotted with forbidding mountains and eventually make our way to the Isalo Massif. In this area of limestone outcrops we will search for Madagascar Partridge – time permitting.

Day 12 After a good breakfast we will search for the very localised Benson’s Rock Thrush. Then we travel southwest to Tulear, for a two-night stay. We will stop on the way at Zombitse National Park to search for Appert’s Greenbul. In this dry deciduous forest we may also see Rufous Vanga, Madagascar Crested Ibis and Madagascar Hoopoe. Lemurs will also be a feature here and we may be lucky to see Verreaux’s Sifaka. As we near the coast, we will search the scrub for Madagascar Green Pigeon, Madagascar Bee-eater, Madagascar Buttonquail and Red-capped Coua (this subspecies may well be split and renamed Green-capped Coua even though it has a Brown cap)!

Day 13 Today we will have more time to catch up with any scrubland species missed yesterday. The major targets here are Red-shouldered Vanga and Verreaux’s Coua near St Augustin. We will also explore the mudflats, beaches and lagoons near the coast. We will search for Madagascar Plovers, Madagascar Sandgrouse, White-fronted & Greater Sand Plovers and Terek Sandpiper. A real prize may be the unpredictable Crab Plover – they seem to wander this coast and can be unpredictable. Terns will be plentiful and include Common, Lesser and Greater Crested, Saunders and Caspian Terns. Other species include Humblot’s Heron, Dimorphic Egret, Greater flamingo and Striated Heron. However, the highlight of our stay here will be a boat ride to the small island of Nosy Ve. Although only a short distance offshore, it holds a small breeding population of Red-tailed Tropicbird. We should get excellent views of them as they sit on their nests only a few metres away. On our way back, we will take a slight detour to Anakao, in search of the very local Littoral Rock Thrush.

Days 14-15 Today we take the short drive to Ifaty for a two-night stay. Whilst here we will concentrate on the spiny Didierea forest that holds most of the regions specialities. This is a truly bizarre habitat and as we walk through the tangle of spiny Didieras, and pass by strange bloated baobabs, we will know that we are in for a rather unique experience. We will search for Thamnornis Warbler, Archbold’s Newtonia, Sickle-billed Vanga, Crested and Running Coua, Lafresnaye’s Vanga, Banded Kestrel and Madagascar Harrier-Hawk. It may well take a couple of visits to catch up with Subdesert Mesite, or Long-tailed Ground-Roller or we may just want to return to marvel at the sights and sounds of this magical forest. Whilst at Ifaty, we will search the coastal scrub for Subdesert Brush Warbler and wait until dusk for a sighting of Madagascar Nightjar. Looking offshore we may be lucky to find both Greater and Lesser Frigatebirds.

Days 16-17 We will have some last minute birding before taking a short flight to Fort Dauphin and then drive to the Berenty Lodge for a two-night stay. The Berenty Reserve is set on the banks of the Mandrare River and protects a lush area of gallery forest. We will walk along shaded trails, searching for Giant Coua, Madagascar Cuckoo-Falcon, Frances’s Sparrowhawk and if we are really lucky we may see Madagascar Sparrowhawk. Other species here include Hook-billed Vanga, Helmeted Guineafowl and Madagascar Sandgrouse. Our attention may well be easily diverted by the extraordinary antics of the Lemurs here. Several species are to be found here, including Verreaux’s Sifakas, Brown Lemur and White-footed Sportive Lemur. We will have a nighttime excursion to see the diminutive Grey Mouse-Lemur. Also at night we will try to find Torotoroka Owl, which has recently been `split’ from Malagasy Scops Owl. It is also possible to see this bird at its daytime roost.

Day 18 - 19 After some final birding around Berenty, we will travel to Fort Dauphin for a two-night stay. We will explore the humid forests of Andohahela National Park. Here we will search for the mysterious Red-tailed Newtonia, which has only been recently been rediscovered and seen by very few birders to date.

Day 20 This morning we will drive to Perenit for a three-night stay. We should arrive in time for some initial exploration.

Days 21-22 We will search both the Mantadia National Park and the forest reserve at Perenit. We will find many similar species to those seen at Ranomafana, however these two reserves hold several species that are practically impossible to see elsewhere. Wandering flocks of Vangas may hold the odd Nuthatch Vanga, whilst skulking on the forest floor will be Red-breasted Coua. We will make a special effort to locate the amazing Scaly Ground-Roller. Other species we may find nearby include Madagascar Rail, Meller’s Duck, Madagascar Snipe, Madagascar Little Grebe, Red-fronted Coua and White-throated Rail. Nighttime birding in this area has excellent potential and we may find Rainforest Scops Owl (split from Malagasy Scops Owl), Madagascar Long-eared Owl and the beautiful Collared Nightjar. Lemurs will once again be a feature here and include the amazing lack and white Indri, Red-bellied Lemur, Brown Lemur and Grey Gentle Lemur. If we are really lucky, then we may catch a sighting of the Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur.

Day 23 We will have a final mornings birding at Perenit, trying to catch up with any species missed from our previous visits, before returning to our hotel for lunch. Then, we will drive back to Antanarivo in time for some last minute shopping before transferring to the airport for our overnight flight to the UK via Paris.

Day 24 We will have a morning arrival in Paris before our onward connection to London.

Leader: Steve Bird and local guides.

£3550.00 per person

Breakdown: Airfare £735

Ground arrangements £2815

Single supplement £380

Deposit: £200

Maximum group size: 12 Excluding leaders

Included in cost: Return flight from London to Antanarivo, via Paris. Full board accommodation in twin rooms en-suite, packed lunches, transport throughout the tour in air-conditioned coach, boat trip, internal flights, reserve entrance fees and services of all the guides and leaders.

Not included: Insurance, Visa (currently £40), drinks, items of a personal nature and optional tips for the local guide.