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.
Our three-week Comprehensive Madagascar birding and wildlife tours are set to take in as much of this biological melting pot as possible during our time here. Madagascar’s size and millions of years of isolation have led to a remarkable selection of utterly unique and often spectacular fauna and flora. We will explore a number of this island’s most awe-inspiring habitats – from the bird-rich sites of the eastern rainforest zone and the astonishing Spiny Desert around Ifaty to the deciduous woodlands of the north-west and everything Tolkienesque in between – as we search for our quarry.
Equally as (if not more) awe-inspiring than the habitats is this island’s avifauna, whose presence in the flesh make superlatives seem inadequate, and we hope to see representatives of all of Madagascar’s endemic bird families during our time here: ground rollers; Cuckoo Roller; mesites; Malagasy warblers and vangas! Other than endemic families, we also stand a chance to see Madagascar Fish Eagle, Madagascar Sacred Ibis, Red-breasted Coua, Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asity, Benson’s Rock Thrush and Appert’s Tetraka.
Besides the birds, we experience up to 27 lemur species (including the regal Indri and world-famous dancing Sifakas), other mammals from civets to strange tenrecs (the planet’s most primitive mammals), dozens of species of chameleons, cryptic leaf-tailed geckos and other bizarre reptiles and amphibians, and even some of the world’s most outlandish insects (such as the celebrated Giraffe-necked Weevil)!
Join us for a truly comprehensive birding and wildlife tour of this otherworldly land!
Subdesert, Brown & White-breasted Mesite, Cuckoo Roller, Long-tailed Ground Roller, Blue & Red-breasted Coua, Schlegel’s & Velvet Asity, Nuthatch & Sickle-billed Vanga, Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asity, Forest Rock Thrush, Appert’s Tetraka, Madagascar Plover, Thamnornis, Madagascar & Madagascar Sacred Ibis, Madagascar Fish Eagle, Henst’s Goshawk, Bernier’s Teal , Madagascar Wood Rail, Brown Emutail
Indri, Ring-tailed Lemur, Diademed & Verreaux’s Sifaka, Golden & Greater Bamboo Lemur, Golden-brown Mouse Lemur, Hubbard’s Sportive Lemur, Fosa
rainforest, riparian forest, deciduous woodland, spiny desert, mudflats, wetlands
warm to very hot, cooler evenings in highlands, some rainfall possible
moderate to brisk
spiny forest, Berenty, strange herps & insects, coral reefs, shopping, culture
Day 1: Arrival in Antananarivo (Tana)
Upon arrival in the bustling capital of Antananarivo, or “Tana” as it is more commonly known, we transfer to our hotel on the edge of this intriguing city for an overnight stay. For those who arrive sufficiently early this morning, there may be time to visit the Tsimbazaza Zoo, which showcases a range of Malagasy lemurs and herps. The artificial water bodies on the property provide a home to a number of waterfowl, and we may see our first Madagascan Grebe, Malagasy Kingfisher, Common Jery, Malagasy Turtle Dove, Madagascan Hoopoe and Dimorphic Egret of the trip.
This afternoon on our Madagascar bird holiday, we will visit the nearby Lake Alarobia. Travelling from our hotel into the city, one cannot help being struck by the uniqueness of the Malagasy culture, a strange mixture of African and Asian influences reflected in the landscape and architecture. Lake Alarobia, a private sanctuary set within the city, protects large numbers of ducks and egrets. As evening sets, the small lake literally teems with waterfowl. Large numbers of White-faced Whistling Duck and Red-billed Teal should be seen, usually accompanied by small numbers of Hottentot Teal, Knob-billed and sometimes Fulvous Whistling Duck, as well as the very rare and endangered Meller’s Duck. The Lake also supports a fantastic assortment of egrets that roost or breed in the sanctuary, including a few splendidly adorned Squacco Herons and Dimorphic Egrets. African Openbill, a very scarce bird in Madagascar, is sometimes also recorded here and, if we are extremely fortunate, we may also find one or two over-wintering Malagasy Pond Herons. Mascarene Martins are often seen overhead and are sometimes joined by Malagasy Black and Little Swifts. We will also be watching in adjacent areas for more Madagascar endemics and near endemics, which may include Malagasy Kestrel, Malagasy Coucal, Malagasy Kingfisher, handsome White-throated Rail, Madagascan Wagtail, Malagasy White-eye, Madagascan Mannikin and Red Fody.
Day 2: Antananarivo to Perinet
This morning on our Madagascar bird holiday, we depart early for the short drive eastwards across the Highland Plateau to the famous reserve of Perinet (otherwise known as Analamazaotra). Hamerkop, Brown-throated Martin and Madagascan Cisticola are regularly encountered en route.
Our accommodation for the next four nights 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, Madagascan 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! At night, a family of Furry-eared Dwarf Lemurs are sometimes seen in the gardens of the hotel as they forage through the trees.
Days 3 to 5: Perinet Special Reserve and Mantadia National Park
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 will search for such specials as Madagascan Flufftail, the elusive Madagascan Wood Rail, Madagascan Blue Pigeon, scarce Greater Vasa Parrot, Madagascan Spinetail, brilliant Madagascan Pygmy Kingfisher, Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher, Madagascan Cuckooshrike, Ward’s Flycatcher, Tylas Vanga, Madagascan Starling, Long-billed Bernieria, Spectacled Tetraka, furtive White-throated Oxylabes, Nelicourvi Weaver and Souimanga Sunbird.
Amongst the most sought-after of Madagascar’s birds are those of the five families endemic to the Malagasy region: the peculiar mesites, exquisite ground rollers, Cuckoo Roller, Malagasy warblers and the vangas. Some of these, such as the magnificent Cuckoo Roller and a number of the Malagasy warblers and vangas, are reasonably common and regularly encountered, whilst most of the others remain rare, local or elusive. During our Madagascar bird holiday, we will make a special effort to locate as many representatives of these charismatic families as possible, as well as those of the endemic sub-families, the couas and asities.
In the forested hills around Perinet, we hope to find the localised Red-fronted and Blue Couas, 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 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 on our Madagascar bird holiday include Common Brown and Eastern Grey Bamboo Lemurs, while we will also search known roosting sites for the nocturnal but inquisitive Weasel Sportive Lemur. Another “must see” member of the island’s fauna is the Giraffe-necked Weevil, a tiny red and black insect named for its unusually proportioned neck!
In the evenings, we will embark on night walks. Nocturnal outings are a thrilling and indeed, essential part of any trip to Madagascar and Perinet is one of the best sites to search for the island’s night birds. 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 hope to find Eastern Woolly and the diminutive Goodman’s Mouse Lemurs, and 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 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 Fimbriated Leaf-tailed Gecko, the aptly named Fantastic Leaf-tailed Gecko and the Sakora Leaf-tailed Gecko, which looks as though its body has been adorned with moss.
Mantadia National Park lies a short distance from Perinet, protecting a larger 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. Both these species are however very rare here and we will require a hefty dose of luck to see them in winter.
We will target a number of wonderful forest species on our Madagascar bird holiday, including Madagascar Blue Pigeon, Crossley’s Vanga, Common and Dark Newtonias, Wedge-tailed, Green, Stripe-throated and Common Jeries, Grey-crowned Tetraka, the newly described Cryptic Warbler, and Forest Fody. Rufous-headed and Short-legged Ground Rollers also occur here but are extremely difficult to find in winter and we’d be extremely fortunate to encounter either of these two secretive and elusive endemics. We will also scan across a small forest pond that often holds a pair of Meller’s Duck and Madagascan Grebe, two highly threatened and declining endemics.
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 understory will require that we take to some of the steep and at times slippery trails into the rainforest.
Day 6: Perinet to Tana, and flight from Tana to Fort Dauphin
Today is mainly a travel day as we drive back to Tana to connect with our short, internal flight to Fort Dauphin (also known as Toliagnaro), in the south-eastern corner of the country. Depending on the time of our flight, we may have some time early this morning to enjoy some final birding in the Perinet area.
Day 7: Fort Dauphin to Berenty Lemur Reserve via Manangotry (Andohahela National Park)
This morning on our Madagascar bird holiday, we make an early departure into the nearby Andohahela Mountains to a very special and unique area called Manangotry. This region of mid-altitude rainforest has only recently opened up and is the only site where one has a reasonable chance of seeing the recently rediscovered and highly localised Red-tailed Newtonia. This rare and endearing endemic will be the prime target this morning. We will systematically traverse the track that winds through the beautiful Andohahela National Park in search of the newtonia. An array of exciting but more widespread species may also be encountered this morning and include the immaculate Madagascan Blue Pigeon, Greater Vasa Parrot, Madagascan Cuckoo, Madagascan Spinetail, Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher, Madagascan Cuckooshrike, Ward’s Flycatcher, Tylas Vanga, Madagascan Starling, Long-billed Bernieria, Spectacled Tetraka, White-throated Oxylabes, Nelicourvi Weaver, Souimanga Sunbird, the bizarre Cuckoo Roller and flocks of Vangas that could include White-headed, Chabert, Blue, Red-tailed and Hook-billed. A special lemur that we may encounter is the Collared Brown Lemur, a beautiful and localised species that can only be seen in these south-eastern forests.
After a morning’s birding at Manangotry, we will transfer to the world-famous, private lemur reserve of Berenty. The 3.5-hour drive takes us from the wind-blown but picturesque town of Fort Dauphin through well-watered valleys packed with paddy fields and, finally, into the rain-shadow of the Andohahela Mountains, where the octopus-like trees of the Didiereaceae family are diagnostic of the xerophytic spiny forest. As we near Berenty, this natural habitat is sadly replaced by extensive tracts of sisal plantations stretching as far as the eye can see. Berenty Preserve belongs to the De Haulme family who have set aside sections of gallery forest along the Mandrare River to conserve its population of lemurs and other wildlife.
This evening we will venture out in search of Torotoroka Scops Owl and the impressive White-browed Hawk-Owl, but may also encounter a host of other nocturnal creatures such as Grey Mouse Lemur, the huge Madagascan Hissing Cockroach and several species of attractive geckos (including the remarkable Painted and Plain Big-headed Gecko and the unique Fish-scaled Gecko).
Day 8: Berenty Lemur Reserve
Berenty is justly famous for its lemurs, not only because its deciduous woodland is home to no less than five species of these primitive primates, but also for the ease with which they may be seen and appreciated in the wild.
Red-fronted Brown Lemur occurs in large numbers during the day, while White-footed Sportive Lemur and both Grey-brown and Grey Mouse Lemurs are regularly encountered on night walks through the reserve, though the undoubted favourites are the delightful Ring-tailed Lemurs and Verreaux’s Sifakas. Whilst the bands of cat-like, quizzical ringtails are often the first to steal visitors’ hearts, their appeal is easily matched by the strikingly patterned sifakas, with their soulful expressions and bizarre, bipedal dancing locomotion. To spend time with groups of these gentle creatures will certainly be one of the highlights of our Madagascar adventure! A further mammalian highlight of Berenty is visiting the Madagascar Flying Fox roost, where about 300 of these impressive animals sporting 1.25-metre wingspans spend their day squabbling and presumably sleeping.
Here we will also be on the look-out for the numerous Giant Couas that stroll along the well-cleared paths through the woodland, and we may be lucky enough to find the dimorphic Madagascan Buttonquail as they scurry through the leaf litter. Potential new species we may also find here include Reed Cormorant, Peregrine Falcon, Frances’s Sparrowhawk, Madagascan Cuckoo-Hawk, Helmeted Guineafowl and Madagascan Sandgrouse. This evening there will be an option to embark on another pre-dinner night walk into one of the surrounding patches of remnant spiny forest in search of nocturnal lemurs such as White-footed Sportive and Grey-brown Mouse Lemurs. We are also likely to encounter the large, spiny Warty Chameleon.
Day 9: Berenty Lemur Reserve to Fort Dauphin, fly to Tulear and drive to Ifaty
This morning on our Madagascar bird holiday, we return to Fort Dauphin from where we connect with our internal flight to Tulear, in the south-western corner of the island. Upon arrival, we will then transfer directly to our hotel in the small resort town of Ifaty, an hour’s drive to the north of Tulear, for a two-night stay. Depending on the time of our flight we have some time early this morning for some final explorations, birding and photography around Berenty.
Day 10: 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, we will stroll amongst the myriad of multi-stemmed succulents, squat baobab trees and thorny scrub in search of such spectacular endemics as Banded Kestrel, the ultra-low-density Madagascan Sparrowhawk, Running and Red-capped Couas (represented here by the distinctive green-capped race), Archbold’s Newtonia, unique and melodious Thamnornis, Subdesert Brush Warbler and Lafresnaye’s Vanga.
Two very special birds that occur here are the strange Subdesert Mesite, which we may find adopting its 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. We should also see the numerous Three-eyed Lizards as the day heats up in the mid-morning, while we may be lucky enough to find a beautiful Spider Tortoise or rare Dumeril’s Boa.
In addition, 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 colours of a coral reef or relax in the warm willows in front of our hotel. This afternoon we will search the surrounding fields for the uncommon and range-restricted Madagascan 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. White-throated Rail and Baillon’s Crake also occur here on occasion and are worth looking out for in the vast wetlands.
Day 11: Ifaty to Tulear, boat trip to Nosy Ve and San Augustin and excursion to La Table
We will leave Ifaty after an early breakfast this morning and make our way back to Tulear, where we will board a speedboat for an excursion to the small uninhabited islet of Nosy Ve to the south. The main attraction of Nosy Ve is its colony of Red-tailed Tropicbirds, which allow close approach as they are left unmolested by local people due to a taboo, or fady. Depending on time and weather conditions, we may have an opportunity to snorkel on the beautiful coral reef encircling the island. A delicious lunch will then await us on the mainland near San Augustin where another target species will be searched for – the localised Littoral Rock Thrush. In the mid-afternoon, we will then begin the boat trip back to Tulear, where upon arrival we will have the opportunity to freshen up back at our hotel before heading out to a nearby, flat-topped mountain at the edge of town, aptly named La Table.
The habitat of this desolate area is commonly 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, and we have an excellent chance of finding both of these specialities.
Day 12: Tulear to Isalo National Park via Zombitse Forest
We have another opportunity this morning to search for Red-shouldered Vanga and Verreaux’s Coua should we have missed either of these key species the previous afternoon. If success was had with both birds yesterday, we will instead make our way directly to Zombitse Forest in the early morning in order to search for the dainty Appert’s Tetraka. This species is listed as Vulnerable by Birdlife International and restricted to two tiny forest patches in south-western Madagascar. A variety of other interesting species are resident in the dry, deciduous forest and we may find the tricky Madagascan Ibis, Madagascan Harrier-Hawk, Giant and Crested Couas, raucous Cuckoo Roller displaying high overhead, Madagascan Cuckooshrike, Long-billed Bernieria, Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher, Rufous, Blue and Red-tailed Vangas, and Madagascan Spinetail. The highly elusive Fosa also occurs here, though we will have to be most fortunate to see this, Madagascar’s largest predator.
After a picnic lunch at Zombitse, we will continue the drive across the Central Plateau, to the isolated limestone massif of Isalo. Watercourses through the bizarre sandstone formations of the Isalo National Park act as a magnet to the birds of this dry area and we may find Madagascan Harrier-Hawk, White-throated Rail, small flocks of Grey-headed Lovebird, Stripe-throated Jery, Madagascan Buttonquail, the elegant Namaqua Dove, Madagascan Lark, Forest Rock Thrush (sometimes split as Benson’s Rock Thrush), flocks of Madagascan Mannikin and, if we are lucky, Marsh Owl, Common Quail and/or the scarce and exquisitely patterned Madagascan Partridge during an afternoon walk in this picturesque landscape.
Day 13: Isalo National Park to Ranomafana National Park
Today on our Madagascar bird holiday, we embark on the long drive from Isalo to Ranomafana, the scenery characterised by grassland and dramatic granite hills. Our main target on this drive will be the rare Malagasy Harrier, which can sometimes be seen quartering over the vast grasslands we bisect. Like Perinet, Ranomafana is situated on the eastern slope of Madagascar’s mountainous backbone. However, this national park is much greater in extent, spanning a wide range of elevations and forest types. We will round off our rainforest birding in Madagascar by exploring these rich forests, concentrating on the many specials of the park and any forest birds that we may have missed at Perinet and Mantadia.
Days 14 & 15: Ranomafana National Park
Ranomafana National Park was originally proclaimed to protect its population of Golden Bamboo Lemur, a smart looking animal first described to science as recently as 1987. In addition to this extremely localised species and both Greater and Eastern Grey Bamboo Lemurs, we may also find Red-fronted Brown, Red-bellied and Small-toothed Sportive Lemurs, the impressive Milne-Edwards’s Sifaka and other mammals such as the handsome but rarely-seen Ring-tailed Mongoose. Night walks in this area are especially rewarding owing to the high concentration of “herps” here, and we should find a range of fascinating chameleons and frogs (this park is particularly well endowed with frogs, with over 100 species recorded!).
In the lower elevation forest near our lodging, we hope to find the elusive Brown Mesite with its strange duetting call, Wedge-tailed Jery, Pollen’s, Tylas and Crossley’s Vangas, Madagascar Starling, Forest Fody, White-throated Oxylabes, Velvet Asity, Spectacled Tetraka, Madagascar Wood Rail and Nelicourvi Weaver. The delightful Pitta-like Ground Roller is also sometimes seen here.
The higher elevation forests around the village of Vohiparara are home to several highly desirable species that we would not yet have encountered on the trip. Foremost amongst these is the highly localised Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asity, with this being the most accessible place to see this endangered, altitude-specific and elusive species. We will concentrate our searches in some stunted ridge-top forest where we may also locate the scarce Grey-crowned Tetraka, unobtrusive Forest Rock Thrush, skulking Madagascar Yellowbrow, Red-fronted Coua, ultra-secretive Brown Emutail, Rand’s and Cryptic Warblers, Common Sunbird-Asity, vibrant Blue Coua and the uncommon Pollen’s Vanga.
One of the country’s last remaining highland marshes exists just within the national park’s limits and we will venture here one afternoon in order to find dwindling and endangered endemics including Madagascan Rail, Grey Emutail, Madagascan Snipe and the more common and widespread Madagascan Swamp Warbler.
Day 16: Ranomafana National Park to Tana
This morning we will depart early after breakfast for the long drive back to Tana. The journey will be broken by a lunch stop at the quaint, highland town of Antsirabe, famous for its locally manufactured handicrafts. The drive will take us northwards across the open landscape of the Horombe Plateau, offering an insight into the traditional lifestyle of the Malagasy people. Steeply terraced rice paddies, tall earthen houses with thatched roofs and roadside markets displaying a wide variety of handicrafts form part of the passing pageant, all against the backdrop of golden-yellow grasslands and bare granite inselbergs, making for a wonderfully scenic journey.
Day 17: Antananarivo fly to Mahajanga and drive to Ampijoroa Forest Station
Today we fly to Mahajanga on the north-west coast of Madagascar, for the final leg of our island adventure. Upon arrival, we will wind our way through Mahajanga, which has a distinctly East African feel about it. Hand-drawn rickshaws and roadside markets full of fresh, tropical fruit and vegetables dominate the town. The landscape opens up rather starkly after leaving the town and we will pass cashew nut sellers and ladies washing and drying their laundry next to the many small streams that we pass along the way to Ampijoroa. Rolling hills of dry grasslands, interspersed with stunted palm trees and valley bottoms filled with rice fields dominate the scenery. En route to the reserve, we may encounter Purple, Striated and Squacco Herons, as well as flocks of Black Herons performing their bizarre “umbrella-feeding” routine in the roadside water-bodies. We can expect to arrive at our destination, Ampijoroa Forest Station, in time for lunch in the early afternoon. Ampijoroa, a ranger base and research centre that also provides hutted and camping accommodation, is situated in the extensive deciduous forests of the Ankarafantsika Reserve and will be our comfortable base for the next two nights. It is famous as the home of World Wildlife Fund’s Plough-shear Tortoise captive breeding program and is an ideal base from which to search for the numerous endemic birds of the region.
On arrival at the forestry station we should encounter numerous “camp residents” such as the gaudy Broad-billed Roller, screeching Lesser Vasa Parrot, Crested Drongo, Madagascan Magpie-Robin, Sakalava Weaver, Madagascan Hoopoe, Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher, Madagascan Green Pigeon and Malagasy Turtle Dove, before birding the dry semi-deciduous forest that surrounds the camp. There will also be an optional pre-dinner night walk this evening in search of the large range of reptiles and mammals that occur in these faunal and floral rich woodlands.
Day 18: Ampijoroa Forest Station
We have a full day to explore the network of trails through the dry forest surrounding Ampijoroa, in search of the many birds 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 will be on the lookout for whilst searching for these specials include Madagascan Ibis, Madagascan Buttonquail, Frances’s Sparrowhawk, Madagascan Pygmy Kingfisher, and Rufous, Hook-billed, White-headed, Chabert and Red-tailed Vangas.
No less than eight species of lemur occur in the near vicinity of the camp and we are likely to be treated to excellent views of the comical Coquerel’s Sifaka and Common Brown Lemurs during the day, while at dusk the rare Mongoose Lemur becomes active. Western Avahi (Woolly Lemur), Milne-Edward’s Sportive and Grey Mouse Lemurs are all nocturnal and will be searched for 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 the immediate vicinity around Lake Ravelobe (hence its scientific name Microcebus ravelobensis.)
Reptiles are also plentiful along the trails and we might 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) and the aptly named Rhinoceros Chameleon, with its enlarged nasal protuberance. Impressively spiky Cuvier’s Iguanids scurry around the campsite along with Wide-tailed Plated Lizards. We will also spend some of the afternoon birding along the edge of the adjacent Lake Ravelobe, where we hope to find the critically endangered Madagascan Fish Eagle, a pair of which is resident here. White-throated Rail, Humblot’s Heron, Madagascan Jacana and Allen’s Gallinule favour the waterside vegetation, while noisy groups of Sickle-billed and Blue Vangas are often seen moving along the forest fringe.
Day 19: Ampijoroa to Mahajanga
After a final morning’s birding, lemur watching and photographing around Ampijoroa, we will return to Mahajanga for an overnight stay in a comfortable, beachside hotel. In the afternoon we can head out to a nearby seasonal pan that often harbours a variety of shorebirds, which usually includes Black-winged Stilt and Kittlitz’s Plover and, if we are very fortunate, the rare, endemic Madagascan Plover may also be in attendance. Depending on water levels, the far end of the pan might be blanketed in water lilies and if this is the case we will almost definitely be rewarded with rafts of beautiful African Pygmy Goose and perhaps the odd Greater Painted-snipe. The adjacent scrub and thickets also usually support good numbers of Madagascan Cisticola, Olive Bee-eater, Madagascan Mannikin and Red Fody. In the late afternoon, we will return to our hotel for an overnight stay.
Day 20: Boat excursion to Betsiboka Delta and flight from Mahajanga to Tana
Today we fly back to “Tana” for our final night. Our flight in the early afternoon provides us with enough time to take a motorised boat ride up the Betsiboka Delta. This seldom-visited region is home to two of Madagascar’s rarest and most endangered birds, Bernier’s Teal and Malagasy Sacred Ibis, and we have an excellent chance of finding both of these specialities during our morning’s outing. Other noteworthy birds we may encounter on this journey are Humblot’s Heron, African Openbill, Greater Flamingo, African Spoonbill (a very rare bird in Madagascar) and Madagascan Harrier-Hawk. This afternoon we will then connect with an internal flight back to Tana where this epic birding and wildlife adventure around Madagascar will conclude.
Day 21: Tana and departure
Today we depart from Tana to connect with our international flights home.
What our clients say about tours to Madagascar
- PF & BF, Madagascar 2017
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
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
David Hoddinott is the best!! He is tenacious about getting all participants on all birds!D, Madagascar Comprehensive
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
Everything was done by all staff to make the trip safe, fun and targets (birds, lemurs, etc) were actively sought outMR, 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
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
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
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
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
David is a terrific guide – very friendly and lovely to travel with.WR, 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
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
Gareth Robbins made special efforts to ensure everyone saw the wildlife. An amazing tour.JC, 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
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.MM, 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