21/ Special interest – Birding tour in Madagascar




Meet and greet upon arrival in the capital of Madagascar. Then transfer to the hotel which is near the airport. Excursion to Alarobia lake, a Ramsar site which is situated around 10 km from the hotel, within the city limits of Antananarivo. This site is your first introduction to some of the commoner Malagasy birds, with a spectacular heronry. This is a refuge mostly for Cattle Egrets and a ruined summer house of royalty long deposed.
At the end of the afternoon, we head back to hotel where we overnight.


After breakfast, transfer to the airport for the flight to Fort Dauphin. Arrival and we drive to Berenty. We drive along the humid forest of the east, the landscape will be decorated with rice fields, green and luxuriant vegetation, many palms and mangoes trees. Few kilometres ahead we stop over the “Nepenthes” fields carnivorous plants which attract insects by the scents of its liquid. We pass the Anosy Mountain chain then we arrive to the called “transition zone” dominated by the triangular palm “Neodypsis Decari”, an endemic palm to Fort Dauphin. From here the landscape is changing to dryer vegetation. This tiny reserve is situated 80 km west of Taolagnaro and 6 km north of the village of Ambasary. Berenty is an active sisal estate, a part of which has been conserved in its original state by the de Heaulme family. The habitat comprises spiny forest, frontage onto the Mandrare River, and most importantly, a 100-hectare patch of deciduous gallery forest that contains excellent walking tracks. Night in hotel.


At dawn, the adventurous guests who want to see more birds, can join your guide at 05.30 for a pre-breakfast walk in Berenty National Park – 83 species are listed. Birds of prey are particularly prominent, and 9 species are recorded with Madagascar Buzzard probably the more common raptor around. Other unique Madagascar species that can be seen include Hook-Billed Vanga and Crested and Giant Coua. Six species of Vanga occurs here of which Lefresnaye’s Vanga is the most sought after the Vanga. We will see spiny forest, sisal plantation. Arrival in Berenty around noon. Lunch in Berenty Lodge. In the afternoon, visit of the reserve with a special guide. Berenty is one of main reserve where we can see almost all the fauna and flora of the South. It is also known as the kingdom of lemur such as the ring-tailed lemurs known as Maki and the dancing lemurs known as Sifaka. The other species is brown lemurs and for nocturnal we can see lepilemurs, mouse lemurs. Night expedition to explore the reserve and to look for night active animals. Night in hotel


We return at 08:00 to the lodge, in time for breakfast. After breaklfast we drive back to Fort Dauphin then to the airport to fly to Tuléar and drive of 26 km to Ifaty. Ifaty is a beach resort which is a popular place for birders. Mangily is a small village just to the north. This is a large area of the famous spiny forest, where the landscape of Baobab, Octupus trees and Euphorbias is so weird and wonderful that you might as well be walking on a different planet. This area is loaded with extravagant semi-desert endemics. The area east of Mangily is a large section of the famous Spiny Forest, approximately 27 km north of Tulear. Access to the spiny forest is almost directly opposite the old Mora Mora Hotel. Today the landscape of Baobab and Didiera shrub is a fantastic creation of science fiction, utterly unfamiliar to Westerners. This site should definitely be included in any itinerary, as it is the only easily accessible area for a number of very rare endemics. With the help of the guide, we should see the endemics in a few hours although one could spend a full day in this area. Overnight in hotel


A pre-breakfast visit to the eerie spiny forests, where most of the bird’s endemic to the southern sub-desert are found. We can see the White-Headed, Hook-Billed & Lefresney’s Vanga, Long Tailed-Ground Roller, Archbold’s Newtonia and If we are really lucky, the Subdesert Mesite. The excursion also gives us the opportunity to see reptiles like Boa, Geckos, Lizards and the biggest Chameleon in Madagascar. On the excursion, we also have an opportunity to admire and photograph the strange looking Baobab trees. We return to the hotel in time for breakfast. Protected by coral reef, Ifaty offers the best snorkelling and diving spot in the country. Around the hotel grounds, many birds can be spotted, including lesser Vasa Parrot, Madagascar Lark, Madagascar Cisticola Green Capped-Coua, Sub –Desert Brush Warbler and the only endemic Wader- Madagascar Plover. The rest of the day is spent at leisure. Night at the same hotel.


Morning transfer back to Tulear and from there we drive to St Augustin, where the boat is waiting to transfer us the pretty fishing village of Anakao which is only accessible by boat. Littoral Rock Thrush is found in the dune vegetation in the Anakoa hinterland, but also in the village itself. Arrival in the afternoon. Overnight in hotel


At dawn, birding in Anakao then boat transfer to Nosy Ve which is a small sandy island, opposite Anakao, situated about 4.5 km offshore. It has approximately 75 pairs of nesting Red-tailed Tropicbirds. This exotic and scared islet is home to Greater & Lesser Frigatebird, Red-tailed Tropicbird, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Crab Plover, Grey Plover, White-fronted Plover, Caspian Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Roseate Tern, Saunders’ Tern and Bridled Tern.


After breakfast, boat transfer to St Augustin which is on the southern part of Tulear. The scrub that grows on the eroded coral ‘rags’ alongside the road to Baie de St. Augustin, at the mouth of the Onilahy river, 35 km south of Toliara, supports the highly localised Verreaux’s Coua and Littoral Rock-Thrush. Also, many other species can be seen there.
St. Augustin is full of history and was the site of pirates. A few bird species along the road also at the Plateau of la table we can find other marine and terrestrial species.
Afterwards, we drive back to Tuléar then carry on to Isalo. On the way we can also admire different tombs like the”Mahafaly tombs” and few “Antadroy tombs”. Before entering the Zombitse area, we pass through the magic and huge baobab forest, andansonia Za which is also unique to Madagascar. Few kilometers ahead, we arrive to Zombitse National which is 152 km northeast of Tulear and on the road to Ranohira. It plays host to many birding wonders.
The speciality of this forest is the very rare ‘terrestrial’ Appert’s Greenbul, probably one of Madagascar’s rarest endemics. This highly threatened species is restricted to two tiny forest patches in the world; Zombitse being one of them. you can also find Henst’s Goshawk, Giant Coua, Coquerel’s Coua, Rufous Vanga and White-browed Owl. Afterwards we pass finally Ilakaka, the sapphire mining town before we arrive in Ranohira our today’s destination. We check –in hotel.


After breakfast we visit Isalo National Park. Covering a massive area 81 504 ha, the Isalo Massif rises from the flat surrounding grassy plains. The scenery cunningly reminds us of the Fishriver Canyon in Namibia or the great Canyon in the USA. After reaching the top of the mountain, a fantastic panoramic view of the eroded mountain with its different colours starting from yellow to red sometimes grey. The sandstone has been eroded into strange shapes, cut through by impressive gorges and canyons. Vegetation is concentrated in the canyon bottoms where streams flow. These wooded areas dominated by the fire-resistant Tapia-tree, on which a Malagasy endemic silkworm feeds. On the cliffs and rocks are several endemic succulents including the elephant’s foot and the localised endemic Isalo Aloe. This is also a place where the Bara tribe put their dead while saving money to buy silver coffins and the bodies in a safe place! After visiting the natural swimming pool, we continue foot to reach “the Canyon des Singes”. Isalo is not a place with high numbers of birds, Benson’s Rock- Trush, sub-species of the forest Rock-Trush , breeds in Relais de la Reine. Other birds that might be encountered include Lesser Vasa Parrot, White –Throated Rail, Madagascar Coucal, Madagascar Wagtail and Madagascar Kestrel. At the end of the afternoon, we visit Fenetre de l’Isalo, a natural rock formation having the shape of the window. We overnight at the same hotel


Morning continuation to Ranomafana our today’s destination.We’ll drive through the huge”plateaux de Horombe” with its very spacious red soil which reminds us of “the noman’s land” through Ihosy the capital of Bara tribes, the sheperds of Zebu through the mountain chain of Andrigitra.One of the most spectacular is the huge granite dome with twin rock towers called : “the gate south” . The other most imposing one is the “bishop’s hat” which is a sacred place for the local people. Before entering the town of Ambalavao, we have an OPTIONAL visit of the private park of Anja, well known for its lemur Catta, caves and reptiles. In the afternoon we visit “Antemoro Paper”, a tradition left by the Arabian people settling in this area in the fifteenth century. After a short city tours of Fianarantsoa, we head on to Ranomafana. After a couple of kilometres, we stop at a little pond where we have a quick scan of for the Malagasy King Fisher and Crested Drongo. From here we can also take a walk along the road to admire the wet tropical forest to get the blood flowing again after the long drive. On our arrival in Ranomafana we check-in hotel.

Day 11: RANOMAFANA National Park

This is Madagascar’s premier reserve supporting mid-altitude rainforest and is situated in the east of Madagascar. This national park was set aside to give further protection to what remains of the humid rainforest of eastern Madagascar. This is a superb area of rainforest where a new species of lemur, the Golden Bamboo Lemur, was discovered in 1986. The site has actually more to offer than the national park.
It is the island’s richest rainforest park in bird and mammals. Early morning expedition in the park for bird watching in search of some endemic Madagascar bird species.
Back to our hotel for breakfast. At around 08.00, we walk again in the park to explore a different part of the park and its highlights. If luck is really on our side, we can also see the Greater Bamboo Lemurs and the striking Milne-Edwards Diadema Sifaka Lemur.
Continue to VOHIPARARA which is 15 km from Ranomafana. This is at higher elevation and better for a few bird species (Pollens Vanga; Common Sunbird-Asity; Yellow-browed Oxylabes). The bird list for the area is long and contains an impressive number of endemic species.
At the end of the afternoon, we return to the park for a night walk in which we can spot 12 species. Dinner and overnight at the same hotel.


In the morning , after the breakfast we head on to Antsirabe We drive through Ambositra , the centre of Madagascar ‘s wood carving industry .The architecture of the area is stunning and will take your breath away, as all houses express ornately carved wooden balconies and colourful shutters! As we drive through this beautiful town and leaving the impressive artworks behind us, we drive past the “le col de tapia”, a type of tree resistant to bush fire. We will arrive at destination at the end of the afternoon, Antsirabe or” the place of Salt”, is an elegant city, known as the centre of beer. Founded by Norwegian in 1856, it is the only place which really feels and looks like a European city. It has a temperate climate and all fruits and vegetable which grow in the cold climate are found here. Check in at hotel


After breakfast we drive to Tana. The route we are travelling takes us across the “highland landscape” with impressive rice-fields and spectacular eroded hills called “lavaka”. The landscape can remind us of the Far East with its rice fields and green landscapes covered with vegetable and fruit plantations. Before entering the capital, we pay a brief visit to Ambatolampy – a massive agricultural city also known as source of aluminum. Then we drive through the green landscapes of the east, towards Andasibe. The area around Andasibe is well-known for its prime forests and lakes as well as the hot and humid conditions. En route we might see Yellow-billed Kites and Madagascar Kestrels. We make a brief stop at the Mangoro bridge just before we enter the town of Moramanga. A number of birds of the more common” rainforest specials” and spectacled Greebulb and Nelicourvi Weaver might be seen. On our arrival in Andasibe, we check in at the hotel. A night walk in Perinet should reveal a wide variety of nocturnal lemurs, reptiles, frogs and fascination.


Up at a daybreak for birding in Andasibe (perinet). Andasibe is an excellent example of montane rainforest and covers an area of 810 ha at an altitude between 930 and 1.040 m. Many largest trees have been removed and the canopy averages 25 to 30 m. The main part of the reserve resembles a table, with steep forested hillsides (with steps to make it easier for us human beings) and bordered by a small lake. Early morning birding can be very successful in this lovely stretch of Mountain rain forest. We return to our hotel for breakfast after which we visit the special reserve of Andasibe. Analamazaotra special reserve is popularly known by the old French name of the nearby town and railway station- Périnet or Andasibe. Our mission today is to hear and see the biggest of all lemurs, the tail-less Indri. This reserve is not only known for the Indri, but also for strange-looking reptiles, frogs, and birds. The elevation is lower than Ranomafana, but the two bird lists have many overlaps. More than 100 resident species have been recorded, including more than 60 endemics, and a fine selection of lemurs.
The main attraction is the Indri, the world’s largest lemur, a magnificent pied creature that sits in trees in family groups and utters ear splitting moans and wails. Small insectivores include Greater Hedgehog Tenrec and Lowland Streaked Tenrec.


Full day expedition in Mantadia National Park for Bird watching.
Madagascar little grebe, Cuvier’s Rail, Madagascar spine tail, short-legged ground roller, scalyu ground-roller, Pitta-like ground-roller, Cryptic Warbler, Whiote-headed Vanga, Tylas Vanga are to be found there.Pick-nick lunch. Drive back to hotel for dinner and overnight at the same hotel.


After breakfast we drive back to Tana. Our first stop is at at the small village of Ampasimpotsy, a small marshy area about 13 km from Périnet en route to Antananarivo. This area is supposedly good to see the rare Madagascar Rail and other few species. The second stop is at Torotorofotsy Marsh which is about 15km from Andasibe.. This low Cyperus sedge marsh and disused rice paddies could be good for rare endemics ones.
Then we carry on to Tana, the capital of Madagascar that you’ll reach in the afternoon. Visit of the centre: Tana, also City of thousands is the capital of Madagascar. It is the city where the first King started to unify the different kingdom of the island. Build in 3 stages: the high city, the first area occupied during the royal period where the old queen’s palace is situated, then the mid-city where all the chic boutiques of the capital are found then the low city which is the commercial area of the town.. Your walk can start from the high city to see the Rova, the queen’s palace the House of the first minister during this day which is now a museum; all build during the colonisation. The mid-city or the administration area ending at the Rainiharo tombs and the lower town situated in the main avenue called “l’avenue de l’Independance” dominated by the railway station. Check-in at the hotel.


Early in the morning, transfer to the airport for the flight to Majunga. Arrival in Majunga and drive straight to Ankarafantsika which is situated at 120 km from Majunga. This drive takes 2 hours from Majunga. The landscape is composed with a huge plain of ricefields; cassava’s plantation and corn. On the way stop at the Lake Amboromalandy which is a very obvious impoundment on the main road between Majunga and Ampijoroa. It is 95 km from Majunga and 25 km from Ampijoroa. This large man-made impoundment is a great stop if you have time to kill. The lake is worth about 2 hours, the pools and puddles before and after the lake may hold a few species like Purple, Striated, Common Squacco and Malagasy Pond herons and so on… and very occasionally African Open-bill Stork may be seen. Dinner and overnight in the Park lodge or camping.


Early morning exploring the trails around the magical Lake Ravelobe.
One of the key features of the Lake is one pair of the critically endangered Madagascar Fish Eagle. With an estimated 50-100 breeding pairs remaining in the wild, this bird is on the edge of extinction as is classified as endangered by Bird Life International. While it is exhilarating to see such a rare bird, it is equally sad to know it is disappearing so suddenly. Other residents on the lake are also to be seen there.
After breakfast, we visit the park of Ampijoroa. The forestry station campsite has numerous sought-after “campsite residents. At night a pair of Tortoroka Scops Owls normally start calling in the campsite and Madagascar Nightjars can be seen foraging on the edge of the camp or along the trails on a nightwalk!
The crocodiles in Lake Ravelobe are protected by fady and have been known to attack unsuspecting villagers.
At the end of the afternoon, drive back to Majunga. Overnight in hotel.


At dawn, transfer to the harbour to take the boat to the Delta of Betsiboka. From the boat clubs in Majunga, it takes about 1.5 hrs to steam up the river and into the mangroves at Betsiboka. At high tide the specialty birds are roosting in the mangrove islands and both Madagascar White Ibis and Bernier’s Teal can be found on several islands in the river mouth. The picturesque Cirque Rouge, 45 minutes from central Majunga has a pair of breeding Peregrine Falcons.
Transfer to Majunga airport to fly back to Tana. Transfer to hotel. Dinner and night at the hotel

Day 20: TANA – PARIS

Day off. Transfer to airport. Fly back home.