Madagascar is often high up on anyone’s bucket list, not only due to its unique biodiversity and wildlife viewing opportunities, but also its jaw dropping nature from huge baobab trees, a world heritage national park with crazy limestone rock formations, rainforests, white sand beaches and surf spots. It also offers great local food and is really affordable.
During three weeks in Madagascar in September 2018, Lyn and Barry Trevis enjoyed a personalised itinerary created by Imaginative Traveller’s Tailor Made team. They were really pleased with the tour put together at relatively short notice which departed quite considerably from the standard packages that are usually offered.
This is Barry and Lyn Trevis' account of their tour and all images are all credited to them...
The Island Continent
In our quest to see as much of the world and its wildlife we often go beyond ‘the tourist norm’. We have been fortunate enough during the past the 40 years together to travel the globe in pursuit of our interest and in particular that of ‘birding’.
Madagascar has always been ‘on the list’. The country’s endemic wildlife was the big draw for us but we were aware this was, in the main, confined to the relatively small extent of protected areas that the country still holds. In view of the size of ‘The Island Continent’ we wanted to visit as many of the National Parks as possible without undertaking too many internal flights and asked Imaginative Traveller to put an itinerary together based on our requirements. We focused on National Parks and nature reserves in the centre and west of Madagascar. For us this required a 4 x 4 private vehicle and driver plus specialist birding guides at each of the 10 locations we visited. Imaginative filled all of our requirements and our experience through their ground agent was second to none.
Andasibe - Mantadia National Park
Our first evening at Andasibe - Mantadia NP, we had barely unpacked, when we were straight out on a ‘nightwalk’ and our local knowledgeable birding guide, Evariste, was soon showing us an array of chameleons, geckos, tree frogs and a tiny mouse lemur.
Parson’s Chameleon, the world’s largest, was photographed with ease. This set the scene for the rest of the trip.
Parson’s Chameleon (Male)
Goodman’s Mouse Lemur
The next two days were spent roaming the network of paths taking in the cacophony of bird calls, all of which were unfamiliar to us. However the sound that will most stick with us must be one of the greatest in the natural world - that of a unique family group harmonising across the rainforest canopy - the largest of all the lemurs, the Indri.
Just listen to this eerily melodic call...
Ranomafana National Park
Journeying two days south took us through the central plateau with its almost endless rice paddies and brick works, typifying rural life in Madagascar but holding little wildlife interest.
Our spirits were lifted again as we arrived in the eastern rainforest habitat of Ranomafana NP. 5 a.m. starts were required for the early morning foray with our new guides, Theophile and his son, who was learning the trade. Rainforest birding is never easy, requiring long hard days in the field staring into the dense understory or stretching ones neck up to the canopy to locate feeding flocks. Our guides more than impressed us with their familiarity of the calls and their skill in not only recognising calls but also their ability to mimic each sound, encouraging the birds to approach closely giving us good views and photographic opportunities. Including two of Madagascar’s real ‘forest phantoms’, the elusive Brown Mesite and Pitta-like Ground Roller.
Pitta-like Ground Roller
This avian extravaganza was interspersed with wonderful sightings of Lemurs. Including the flagship species for the site, Golden Bamboo Lemur, discovered in 1985 and the stunning Black- and-white Ruffed Lemur.
Golden Bamboo Lemur
Black- and-white Ruffed Lemur
An unexpected bonus was an incredible Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko that lived up to its name…
Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko
Our mammal list was also added to by this approachable chap foraging around a picnic site.
Ring-tailed Vontsira a type of mongoose
Andringitra National Park
Heading west we found ourselves at one of the more remote camps during our trip, lying amongst the spectacular mountain landscapes of Andringitra NP – Camp Catta. We did not have to stray far from our cabin before that most iconic and captivating of Lemurs, the Ring-tailed, soon made their presence known with a family group passing through the camp via our roof.
Ring-tailed Lemur with baby
Can you spot the baby in this photo?
Zombitse National Park
Further west we reach our first dry forest habitat at Zombitse NP and linking with our young guides, Zafy and Martin, we were finding such endemic birds as Frances’s Sparrowhawk, White-Browed Owl and Giant Coua.
Appert’s Tetraka - this bird exists only in the Zombitse dry forest and its surrounds - in the entire World...
Here we encountered our first nocturnal Sportive Lemurs resting in hollow tree stumps.
Although we do have to say that the show-stopper was a large family group of endangered Verreaux’s Sifaka making giant leaps through the trees above us. They are just so entertaining and enthralling to watch - long may their presence continue!
Returning to our vehicle whilst still on a high the excitement did not end as a large Oustalet’s Chameleon was peering down on us.
With many days behind us we reached Tulear on the west coast. From there we took a boat ride out on the Mozambique Channel to the village of Anakao and the upmarket Anakao Ocean Lodge. Nosy Ve island with its breeding colony of the spectacular Red-tailed Tropicbird was our reason for visiting.
However, Madagascar is full of surprises - look what we saw enroute to the island.
Humpback Whale – breaching!
A short visit to the St Augustine area and Arboretum d’Antsokoy was fulfilling with more endemic bird species encountered including the very recently discovered Red-shouldered Vanga.
Plus we had company on our walk...
Madagascar Ground Boa with its intricate patterning.
Our last two days found us in nearby Ifaty and the surreal landscape of its spiny forest habitat, renowned for its unique bird species and of course the numerous veteran baobabs and pachypodium trees.
Before dawn we met our guide, Dabé, where we meandered amongst the aged and majestic giants - oh the blogs they could write.
Not ‘elephant legs’ but an ancient double Baobab
Lyn birding beneath a real veteran
A must for any birdwatchers visiting here is what Dabé fondly referred to as ‘The President’ of the spiny forest.
A look back on the tour...
During our three weeks in Madagascar we recorded some 135 bird species of which 93 were endemic. Most tourists that visit the island want to see Lemurs and as can be seen above we were no exception, we saw 16 species of which all were reasonably well photographed.
We were impressed with how, certainly considering the relatively short notice, Imaginative’s tailor-made team were able to respond to our personalised itinerary request, which was quite a departure from the standard packages offered.
Our thoughts now are to one day return to Madagascar and visit other areas as there is still much of its wildlife for us to encounter.
Barry and our trusted driver Christian –Andringitra
Guide Darbé, Ifaty–nice shorts!
Lyn with Theophile - Ranomafana NP
If you've been inspired by Lyn and Barry's journey with us then please don't hesitate to get in contact with the Tailor Made team.