I’d like to thank you all for a fantastic Madagascar Comprehensive trip. Crystal and Alison were so helpful with all the pre-trip stuff; Glen and Fano made the trip so smooth and successful in every way and the local guides were fantastically skilled.
White-breasted & Subdesert Mesite, Van Dam’s, Sickle-billed & Blue Vanga, Cuckoo Roller, Short-legged, Scaly, Pitta-like & Long-tailed Ground Roller, Schlegel’s Asity, Coqueral’s, Verreaux’s, Running & Blue Coua, Madagascar Partridge, Bernier’s Teal, Madagascar (Crested) Ibis, Humblot’s Heron, Madagascar Fish Eagle, Madagascar Plover, Madagascar & White-throated Rail, Madagascar Sandgrouse, Rainforest (Malagasy) Scops Owl, Collared Nightjar, Madagascar (Ashy) Cuckooshrike, White-throated Oxylabes, Forest Rock Thrush, Nelicourvi Weaver, Forest Fody
Indri, Diademed and Coqueral’s Sifaka, Grey Bamboo Lemur, Aye-aye, Fosa, Madagascar Striped Civet, Ring-tailed Mongoose, Lowland Streaked Tenrec
deciduous woodland, mid-altitude rainforest, spiny forest, mudflats, wetlands
warm to hot and sunny, rainfall possible in eastern rainforest
spiny desert, coral reefs, interesting herps & insects, cultures, shopping
Day 1: Antananarivo and drive to Perinet
This morning, we depart on a drive of 3 to 4 hours eastwards across the Highland Plateau to the famous reserve of Analamazaotra (otherwise known as Perinet). Hamerkop, Yellow-billed Kite, Brown-throated Martin and Madagascar Cisticola are regularly encountered en route. We will also keep a look out for the delightful Madagascar Pratincole but will be lucky to find this sought-after beauty.
Our accommodation for the next three nights of our Madagascar birding tour is a comfortable hotel, ideally located overlooking a lake at the edge of the forest. Being so close to the reserve means that wildlife is often right on our doorstep: 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 extant species of lemur, the handsome Indri. The moist rainforest cloaking Madagascar’s eastern escarpment protects the richest assemblage of birds on the island, including many that are rare or poorly known. Over 100 of these have been recorded from within the small reserve of Perinet and we can look forward to seeing such specials as Madagascar Flufftail, the elusive Madagascar Wood Rail, Madagascar Blue Pigeon, Greater Vasa Parrot, Madagascar Cuckoo, Madagascar Spinetail, Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher, Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher, Madagascar Cuckooshrike, Ward’s Flycatcher, Tylas Vanga, Madagascar Starling, Long-billed Bernieria, Spectacled Tetraka, White-throated Oxylabes, Nelicourvi Weaver and Souimanga Sunbird among many others! This afternoon we will make our first excursion into this exciting area.
Days 2 & 3: Perinet Special Reserve and Mantadia National Park
We will spend a full two days of our Madagascar birding tour exploring these fantastic reserves. Our main targets here are amongst the most sought-after of Madagascar’s birds, namely four of the five families endemic to the Malagasy region: the exquisite ground rollers, Cuckoo Roller, Malagasy warblers and the vangas. Some of these, such as the unique Cuckoo Roller, Pitta-like Ground Roller and a number of the vangas and Malagasy warblers are reasonably common and fairly regularly encountered, whilst most of the others remain rare, local or elusive. We will make a special effort to locate as many representatives of these charismatic families as possible, as well as those of the endemic subfamily, the couas.
In the forested hills around Perinet, we hope to find the localised Red-fronted and Blue Couas, the electric Velvet Asity and flocks of vangas that may include White-headed, Chabert’s, Blue, Red-tailed, Hook-billed and the bizarre Nuthatch Vanga.
Whilst in the Perinet area, we will also make a special effort to see the reserve’s most famous residents: the huge, singing lemurs known as the Indri. A journey in search of these magnificent creatures is an incredible experience and if we are fortunate, we will be treated to a close encounter with a family group, their eerie, whale-like howling echoing through the forest. Other lemurs we hope to see include Common Brown and Eastern Grey Bamboo Lemur and we will also search known roosting sites for the nocturnal but inquisitive Weasel Sportive Lemur and Eastern Avahi (Woolly Lemur).
In the evenings, we will embark on night walks along the forest edge. Nocturnal outings are a thrilling and indeed, an essential part of any trip to Madagascar and Perinet is one of the best sites to search for the island’s night birds and lemurs. Specialities here include Madagascar Owl, Rainforest Scops Owl and both Madagascar and the rare and little known Collared Nightjar. Whilst seeing these birds will be the focus of our walks, we will not neglect the immense variety of non-avian life that emerges after dark. Although Madagascar is famous for the spectacular lemurs that have adapted to a daytime existence, a number of species of these primitive primates remain, like their African cousins the galagos, denizens of the night. We will search for and should find Eastern Avahi (Woolly Lemur), Furry-eared Dwarf Lemur and Goodman’s Mouse Lemur.
The island’s reptile and amphibian (‘herps’) fauna is equally fascinating and even the most hardened birder would not fail to be impressed by the plethora of colourful 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 three species of eccentric leaf-tailed geckos: the huge Uroplatus fimbriatus, Uroplatus sikorae and the aptly named Uroplatus phantasticus.
Mantadia National Park lies a short distance from Perinet, protecting a large expanse of primary forest at a somewhat higher altitude. Though it has only recently been opened to the public, Mantadia is now an essential destination on any birding trip to Madagascar, having rapidly gained a reputation as an excellent site for a handful of highly sought-after forest birds. Not least amongst these are a number of species formerly considered to be restricted to the poorly accessible rainforests of the far north-east, such as Red-breasted Coua and Scaly Ground Roller. We will concentrate on finding these specials, also watching for more widespread yet no less desirable forest birds such as Madagascar Blue Pigeon, Rufous-headed and Short-legged Ground Rollers, Crossley’s Babbler (now considered a ground-dwelling vanga!), Common and Dark Newtonias, Wedge-tailed, Green, Stripe-throated and Common Jery, the recently described Cryptic Warbler and Forest Fody.
Other attractions in this scenically beautiful park include the vocal Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur, the elusive Diademed Sifaka (considered by many to be the world’s most beautiful lemur) and Baron’s Mantella, a spectacularly coloured forest frog. Much of the birding in Mantadia National Park can be enjoyed from the wide road that runs up into the reserve, although seeing the skulkers of the forest understorey will require that we take to the fairly steep and at times slippery trails into the rainforest.
Day 4: Perinet drive to Antananarivo
This morning we shall embark on the drive back to Antananarivo. Upon arrival in the bustling capital, we’ll transfer to our hotel on the edge of the city for an overnight stay. Depending on available time we may visit the Tsimbazaza Zoo, which showcases a range of Malagasy lemurs and herps. The artificial waterbodies on the property provide a home to a number of waterfowl, and we may see the Madagascar Grebe and Dimorphic Egret. Tall trees on the property sometimes provide a roost for Madagascar Owl; however, we would be most fortunate to see this species here!
Day 5: Antananarivo to Mahajanga and transfer to Ampijoroa Forest Station
This morning we shall board our flight (1 hour) to Mahajanga on the north-west coast of Madagascar. After arriving in this sleepy town, we will drive to Ampijoroa (3 hours), a forest station situated in the extensive deciduous forests of the Ankarafantsika Reserve. Ampijoroa is famous as the home of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Plough-share Tortoise captive breeding program and serves as an ideal base from which to search for the numerous endemic birds of the region.
En route to the reserve, we may encounter wetland species such as Purple, Striated, Squacco and Malagasy Pond Herons as well as 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” in the late afternoon, such as Broad-billed Roller, screeching Lesser Vasa Parrot, Crested Drongo, Madagascar Magpie-Robin, Sakalava Weaver, Madagascar Hoopoe, Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher, Madagascar Green Pigeon and Malagasy Turtle Dove. As the sun sets we will embark on a night walk, searching for the large range of chameleons and mammals that call these woodlands home.
Day 6: Ampijoroa Forest Station
We have a full day of our Madagascar birding tour to explore the network of trails through the dry forest around Ampijoroa, in search of the many fabulous avian gems 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! We will also concentrate on finding the highly localised Van Dam’s Vanga and the two species of coua that are restricted to these deciduous forests: Red-capped and Coquerel’s. Other birds we hope to see whilst searching for these specials include Madagascar Ibis, Madagascar Buttonquail, France’s Sparrowhawk, Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher and Rufous, Hook-billed, White-headed, Chabert’s, Blue, Red-tailed and outrageous Sickle-billed Vangas.
No less than eight species of lemur occur in the near vicinity of the camp and we will be on the lookout for the comical Coquerel’s Sifaka, Common Brown Lemur and the rare Mongoose Lemur during the day, while Western Avahi (Woolly Lemur), Milne-Edward’s Sportive Lemur, Fat-tailed Dwarf Lemur and Grey and Golden-brown Mouse Lemurs may well entertain us after dark. Reptiles are also plentiful along the trails and we hope to see 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) and the aptly named Rhinoceros Chameleon, with its enlarged nasal protuberance. Impressively spiky Cuvier’s Iguanids scurry around the campsite and are always a pleasure to admire.
In the late afternoon, we will enjoy a boat trip on Lac Ravelobe, where we hope to find the critically endangered Madagascar Fish Eagle, a pair of which is resident here. White-throated Rail favour the waterside vegetation and Malagasy Kingfishers perch in the open on dead snags at the water’s edge waiting for a catch. Humblot’s Heron is usually present and stands out among the smaller waterbirds. We might also see Madagascar Jacan here as well as Malagasy Pond Heron and Malagasy Coucal.
Day 7: Ampijoroa to Mahajanga and flight to Antananarivo
This morning, we have a final opportunity to do some birding, lemur watching and photography around Ampijoroa before returning by bus to Mahajanga. We then depart on an internal flight to Antananarivo for an overnight stay.
Day 8: Antananarivo Ifaty via Tulear
This morning on our Madagascar birding tour, we take an internal flight to the south-western city of Tulear. Upon arrival, we will transfer into 4 x 4 vehicles and begin the short drive up the coastline to our hotel in the small resort town of Ifaty for a two-night stay. We will stop en route to look for the uncommon Madagascar Plover, while wetlands and salt pans may hold numbers of Greater Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt, Kittlitz’s Plover, assorted migratory waders and Malagasy Harrier if we are very fortunate.
Day 9: Ifaty
Much has been written about the strange Didierea woodland, or “Spiny Forest”, around Ifaty but this in no way lessens the feeling of awe that overcomes one as we set foot in this botanical wonderland. Venturing out at dawn, before the day’s heat, we will stroll amongst the myriad multi-stemmed succulents, squat baobab trees and thorny scrub in search of such spectacular endemics as Banded Kestrel, Running and Red-capped Coua, Archbold’s Newtonia, Thamnornis, Subdesert Brush Warbler and Lafresnaye’s Vanga. Two very special birds here are the near mythical Subdesert Mesite, which we may find adopting its strange, cryptic posture on a thorny branch, and Long-tailed Ground Roller, an elusive ground dweller best located by its low, hooting call. Flocks of noisy Sickle-billed Vanga are another feature of this bizarre, Tolkienesque landscape. As the day warms up, so too does the reptile activity increase. We should see the numerous Three-eyed Lizards and may be lucky enough to find a beautiful Spider Tortoise or rare Dumeril’s Boa.
The tropical ocean off Ifaty is alive with marine life and we will have some time to don masks and snorkels and appreciate the myriad of colours of a coral reef or relax in the warm shallows in front of our hotel. An optional afternoon excursion will be taken to bird some wetlands to the south of Ifaty where previous Rockjumper tours have found Greater Painted-Snipe, Little Bittern, White-throated Rail and Baillon’s Crake.
Day 10: Ifaty to Tulear
After some final birding in the Ifaty area, we will make our way southwards to Tulear, for a one-night stay. In the afternoon, we will make our first excursion to a flat-topped mountain aptly known as La Tabla. The habitat of this desolate area is known as coral rag scrub and consists of dense thorny scrubs, Euphorbias and twisted Baobabs. Our target birds in this area include two species with highly restricted ranges: Verreaux’s Coua and the recently discovered Red-shouldered Vanga. Reptile life here is particularly rich and we should find large, sleek Zonosaurus plated lizards and if we are very lucky the stunning Dumeril’s Boa and endangered Radiated Tortoise.
Day 11: Tulear to Antananarivo and depart
This morning we will board our final internal flight back to Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo! If time permits, we shall try to connect with any species we may have missed in the capital before driving to the airport where we will connect with our international flights home.
What our clients say about tours to Madagascar
- MM, Madagascar
Gareth Robbins made special efforts to ensure everyone saw the wildlife. An amazing tour.JC, Madagascar
David was very open and earnest. His english was excellent being that it is not his first language…. We very much enjoyed our time with him one to two on the extensionGS, Madagascar
You have made a very good decision in hiring David Erterius. He is a great young man and will be a very good guide for your company.SM, Madagascar
Recently back at home from our fantastic tour in Madagascar, I wanted to offer thanks to all for the excellent times we enjoyed. For us, the exuberant and superbly-skilled leadership of Rich Lindie was a delight and gave us such a greater measure of understanding to the natural wonders as well as a bit of the cultural aspects of the unique island. We had a great time, and we certainly saw a tremendous variety of the birds, mammals, and many other creatures as well as strange and wonderful plant life of the “Eighth Continent”. Thanks to Cuan and all the staff for assisting in the planning stages. Above all, however, thanks to Rich for giving his all to ensure a successful and thoroughly delightful tour…. From start to finish, a most memorable trip, and our highest recommendation to Rockjumper for the entire experience.TF, Madagascar
Wayne has great people skills and is a lot of fun to bird with. His research and aid to identifying the birds is outstanding.SC, Madagascar
Just a postscript to reiterate our appreciation for the wonderful tour around Madagascar you led. We both had a great time. Your enthusiasm and day-to-day attention to assure we all had a successful birding experience and overview of the unique biodiversity [is] not to be forgotten.JB & BB, Madagascar
Our guide, Adam Walleyn, was exceptional. His knowledge and enthusiasm is unparalleled.GB & DB, Madagascar 2017
With Adam Walleyn as our guide, it was hard to imagine how the trip could have been any better. Madagascar is certainly a challenging place, but his experience and ability to help us know what to expect were invaluable. As far as seeing birds, my expectations were exceeded. A great trip.RV, Madagascar
Everything was done by all staff to make the trip safe, fun and targets (birds, lemurs, etc) were actively sought outMR, Madagascar
David was a terrific guide and traveling companion. He managed everything from birding to people to logistics like a veteran. We’d love to travel with him again any timeWW, Madagascar
Our Madagascar experience surpassed our wildest dreams. We didn’t even realise it was a ‘birding trip’ but David ensured that we saw much much more. The birds were great anyway, especially the pursuit of the magical Helmet Vanga! An unforgettable experience!HH, Madagascar
Just a short note to say that I thought Heinz did a great job with the Masoala extension—he’s a a sharp birder, energetic, and very personable with a lot of good stories! I look forward to traveling on another trip with him…JT, Madagascar 2015
David Hoddinott is the best!! He is tenacious about getting all participants on all birds!D, Madagascar Comprehensive
David is a terrific guide – very friendly and lovely to travel with.WR, Madagascar
We take our hats off to Gareth Robbins, who worked day and night to make the tour work in the most effective way, taking the local infrastructure into consideration.KS & SS, Madagascar 2017
This was our first tour with Rockjumper and it was absolutely fabulous. Adam Walleyn is by far the best bird guide we have ever had the privilege of working with. His combined qualities as the overall tour leader in terms of personality, ability to deal with whatever got thrown at him and interactive skills were all great. He was very good at keeping us informed of what was planned and was happening next. He was very good at imposing a gentle but essential discipline on the group – rotation in the procession, rotation of positions in the buses, ensuring that everyone got to see the bird – all made for a really good functionality in the group. His sharpness in the field, knowledge of bird calls and bird identification were simply remarkable.PF & BF, Madagascar 2017
Adam Walleyn went above and beyond to find just about everything there was to see. His knowledge of herps, mammals and birds is very comprehensive.RR, Madagascar
In addition to his obvious birding skills, Gareth Robbins’ ability to handle all types of situations was remarkable. He was an excellent travelling companion, and his humour made the tour so much more enjoyable. What a great tour this was. I also want to say that the entire staff did a wonderful job, like they always do. I’ve asked many questions and had some concerns about various aspects of tours, and the staff handles all of them so efficiently. To all of you at Rockjumper, Thanks So Much!GM, Madagascar 2017