Wildlife Tour Itinerary
You will be collected from Antananarivo airport in the evening and transported to a nearby hotel, where we will spend one night.
In the morning, we will fly to Majunga, in the north west coast and drive to Ankarafantsika National Park (Ampijoroa), which encompasses the largest and last remaining sections of dense dry deciduous forest in Madagascar. We will stay for the next two nights in the lodge, conveniently situated on the edge of the forest. Good birding will be virtually in the immediate vicinity with chances to see Sickle-billed Vanga, White-headed Vanga, Blue Vanga, Grey-headed Lovebird, Madagascar Hoopoe, Madagascar Magpie Robin, Sakalava Weaver and more. Eight species of lemurs inhabit the Ampijoroa Forest and Coquerel’s Sifakas will be our first lemur to be seen, possibly at close range, because they are active during the day in the vicinity of our lodge.
At night, we will undertake a walk in search for Western Scops Owl and numerous lemurs, including Golden Mouse Lemur, Western Woolly Lemur, Fat-tailed Dwarf Lemur and Milne Edward's Sportive Lemur.
We will spend the entire day exploring Ampijoroa Forest. In the morning, we will look for rare and localised Shlegel’s Asity. Many other species will be seen, including White-breasted Mesite, Van Dam’s Vanga, Rufous Vanga, Red-capped Coua, Madagascar Sparrow Hawk, Madagascar Button Quail and Madagascar Green Sunbird. Reptiles are also numerous and impressive Giant Hog-nosed Snake, Oustalet’s and Rhinoceros Chameleons are amongst just a few that we will encounter along the trails.
We will return to the lodge for lunch and rest before embarking in the afternoon on a boat trip on Lake Ravelobe. Madagascar Fish Eagle, with a population of just over 200, is a critically endangered species, but fortunately, a breeding pair nests year after year at the forest edge on Lake Ravelobe. Other species likely to be encountered here, include Madagascar Jacana, Allen’s Gallinule, White-throated Rail, White-faced Whistling Duck, Humblot’s Heron and many more.
In the morning, we will drive to Majunga to take a flight back to Antananarivo. If time allows, we will explore Alarobia Lake, a private property in the middle of the city with a big colony of ducks, herons and egrets. Here, we will enjoy good views of White-faced Whistling Duck, Knob-billed Duck, Madagascar Squacco Heron, Dimorphic Egret, Swamp Warbler, Madagascar Coucal and Mascarene Martin amongst more familiar waterbirds.
In the morning, we will take a one-hour flight to Tuléar, on the southwest coast. As we drive north along the coast to our seaside hotel at Ifaty, we will stop at several places to scan over marshes and mudflats where we will be familiar with many Palearctic waders, but Crab Plover is also a possibility. Endemics will also be possible, and those might include Madagascar Kingfisher, Madagascar Swamp Warbler, Madagascar Bee-eater, Madagascar Coucal, Madagascar Cisticola, Madagascar Lark and Madagascar Kestrel, amongst others. Around our hotel compound, as the day comes to a close, we might encounter the Madagascar Nightjar.
The biggest attraction of Ifaty is the spiny forest. This is one of Madagascar's most bizarre landscapes and is dominated by an entanglement of cactus like multi-stemmed Octopus trees, bottle-shaped Baobabs and various thorny shrubs. The forest is severely threatened by deforestation and only three privately protected pockets remain around Ifaty. Two most attractive and localised endemics, the Sub-desert Mesite and the elegant Long-tailed Ground-Roller, inhabit this forest and we will be searching for them at dawn. Other birds will also be present and those might include Running and Green-capped Couas, Lafresnaye’s Vanga, Hook-billed Vanga, Chabert's Vanga, Madagascar Cockoo-Hawk, Banded Kestrel and Thamnornis Warbler. We might also be able to see some reptiles and nocturnal lemurs such as the White-foot Sportive, asleep in the trees. The forest will also fascinate botanists, because 92 % of the species occurring in the forest are endemic to Madagascar. We will return to the hotel for lunch.
Since our hotel is conveniently situated within easy access to the beach, we will be able to view wading birds at a leisurely pace. Eurasian Whimbrel, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Grey Plover, Turnstone, White-fronted Plover are most common species and the rare endemic Madagascar Plover might appear too.
We will leave the western coast behind us today and drive inland in a northeastern direction to reach Isalo by late afternoon. En route, we will stop at Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park, which constitutes one of the most important remnant of dry deciduous forest of Madagascar and acts as a transition zone between the dry and the humid forests of the island, creating, at the same time, a most odd mix of bamboos, baobabs and orchids. The number of animal species living here is also remarkable, including 8 lemur species. It is the only place where the Ring-tailed Lemur, Verraux´s Sifaka and Brown Lemur occur together naturally. Birds are also a park highlight and of the 85 recorded in the park, we will concentrate mainly on searching for the most endangered bird, Appert’s Greenbul, which is found nowhere else in the world. In order to inhance our chances, a park guide will accompany us on the walk. Other residents should also be seen, including Giant Coua, Madagascar Spinetail, White-browed Hawk Owl and Madagascar Cuckoo Roller.
From here, it will take us another hour and a half to reach the dramatic, desolate landscape created by sandstone gorges, gullies and cliffs of the Isalo Massif. We will spend one night here in a comfortable hotel, set amongst a myriad of rocky outcrops and pinnacles. The Benson’s Rock-Thrush frequents the hotel grounds here and might accompany us at our gourmet dinner.
We will take a very early morning walk in search of colourful species, such as Madagascar Bee-eater, Broad-billed Roller, Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher and, with some luck, we might even see Madagascar Partridge. However, soon after breakfast we will embark on a long drive further north to Ranomafana. The journey will take us through a rather monotonous grassy plateau, but several stops en route might reward our patience with sightings of Madagascar Harrier and Madagascar Buzzard. We should reach our hotel by late afternoon.
We will spend the day exploring the Ranomafana National Park, one of Madagascar’s best-known wildlife hot-spots. The park received its worldwide attention when the Golden Bamboo Lemur was discovered here in 1985. Apart from protecting this species, the park is home to 11 other species of lemurs. Here, the lemurs have been studied for many years, resulting in the animals becoming oblivious to the presence of humans and giving us the privileged opportunity of watching them at close range. We have a good chance of encountering Golden Bamboo Lemur (the population size is only 60 and known from only two localities), the Greater Bamboo Lemur, Grey Bamboo Lemur, Red-bellied Lemur, Milne-Edwards’s Sifaka, and perhaps an Eastern Woolly Lemur and Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur. Some family groups will be present and watching the interactions between different family members will be unforgettable experience. However, perhaps the most exciting event here will be an evening walk. A bait of banana will be put out to attract Brown Mouse Lemur. Watching these tiny primates at close range is something you will never forget. Here, we will also encounter numerous chameleons and frogs.
The forest is also recognised as the best accessible site for seeing Madagascar’s rainforest endemics and we will not be disappointed. In the early morning, the forest canopy is alive with singing jeries, sunbirds, and chattering greenbuls and newtonias. Knowledge of their calls is essential for identification and, once again, to get the best benefit of our visit, a park guide will accompany us on our walk. The forest is home to a number of fascinating creatures and encounters with a Leaf-tailed Gecko, Giraffe-necked Weevil or a Comet Moth (one of the largest moths in the world) will only add to the spectacle of this site.
We will leave early today to continue our journey further north through an attractive landscape of terraced hillsides and broad valleys cultivated by the Merina people. For many Malagasy, roadside sales are the only source of income and we will pass many roadside stalls. We will make several stops to view more interesting species and those might include Madagascar White-eye, the delightful Souimanga Sunbird, Madagascar Wagtail, Madagascar Kestrel, Madagascar Grassbird or even Madagascar Snipe. We will break the journey for lunch and reach Antsirabe for our overnight stay by late afternoon. At the 500m altitude, we will enjoy Antsirabe’s refreshing, almost continental climate. The town is known for its craft shops and, if time allows, we will be able to make some purchases before our evening meal.
Today, we will continue our journey north through Madagascar’s central highlands, where scenic flooded rice paddies are carefully terraced on the green slopes of the valleys. As always, we will make several stops in search for birds, and these might include Madagascar Bush Lark, Madagascar Magpie Robin and Madagascar Kingfisher, amongst others. After lunch, we will continue our journey eastwards and soon we will be able to see the first patches of rainforest on the steeper slopes. We will make a few brief stops to scan over the plains, where possible birds will include further endemics such as Madagascar Fody and Madagascar Bulbul, whereas a special stop at the Mangoro River might produce the wonderful Madagascar Pratincole.
We should reach our destination for the day, Andasibe, by late afternoon. In our comfortable forest lodge, strategically situated close to the rainforest, we will spend the next three nights.
The next two days will be devoted exploring the Périnet (Analamazaotra) Special Reserve and Mantadia National Park, which both protect some of the richest primary rainforest in Madagascar. The former is famous for its two human-habituated groups of Indri, the largest surviving lemur. The size of a large baboon, Indri do not survive in captivity, so the only chance to see this species is in its natural habitat. It’s siren-like wailing cry is unmistakable and can be heard 2 miles (3 km) across the forest. Other lemurs will also be spotted (e.g. Eastern Woolly, Greater Dwarf, Furry-eared and diminutive Goodman’s Mouse Lemurs), including, the world’s most unusual primate, the Aye-aye. Its huge eyes and ears and its elongated fingers give it a most peculiar look. Its specially adapted, skeletal third finger is used in much the same way as a woodpecker’s beak to search out grubs in trees. Long persecuted as an omen of death and evil, the Aye-aye, like most of its lemur relatives, faces imminent extinction because of the added pressure of deforestation. It is notoriously difficult to see, but with our knowledgeable park guide accompanying us on all our walks, we can hope for the best. Mantadia National Park, on the other hand, provides the best opportunity to view the attractive Diademed Sifaka and Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur, amongst many others. Both reserves have breathtaking scenery and plephora of rare, brightly-patterned or bizarre frogs, geckos and chameleons, including the giant Parson’s Chameleon. Périnet claims a world record for number of frog species within a comparably sized rainforest.
These two areas also offer the best chance to see some of Madagascar’s finest rainforest birds, that are difficult to see elsewhere. Mantadia, for instance, is the best ground-roller reserve in the country, being home to four species: Pitta-like, Rufous-headed, Short-legged, and Scaly Ground-Rollers. The Madagascar Wood-rail, Madagascar Flufftail, Red-fronted and Blue Couas, Madagascar Blue-Pigeon, Madagascar Pygmy-Kingfisher, Velvet Asity and the bizarre tree-creeping Nuthatch Vanga will be just a few exciting birds added to our list here. At dusk, we will search for Rainforest Scops Owl, Madagascar Long-eared Owl and the Collared Nightjar, the most beautiful of all nightjars.
In the morning, we will have another walk into the rainforest, but will return to our lodge for lunch. After lunch, we will take the three-hour drive back to Antananarivo. Here, we will have our last dinner before the transfer to the airport for our overnight flight.
For more pictures from the trip please look at the Gallery
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