Trip Report – October 2018
Comments: We decided that we would not try to cover all of Madagascar in one trip because all flights pass through Antananarivo and that can we challenging! This trip just covered the southwest. It was fabulous – with much better accommodation than we had anticipated. We went from here to Reunion and Mauritius. As usual I have only listed life birds.
Day 1: We arrived in Antananarivo and were met by our guide and driver. Because we had only come from Johannesburg we weren’t tired and so went directly to Tsarasaotra Wetland. It is a RAMSAR site and very birdy.
Lifers for us were Dimorphic Egret, Meller’s Duck, Madagascar Malachite Kingfisher, Red Fody, Madagascar White-eye, Madagascar Bulbul, Madagascar Bush Warbler, Madagascar Swamp Warbler, Mascarene Martin. It is also a great place for Madagscar Pond-heron, which we saw but wasn’t a lifer for us. Night at Hotel au Bois Vert.
Day 2: Our guide took us to the airport for the short flight to Tolear. Flights tend to leave when they want to so our guide had gone to the airport the night before to check on it. We were met at the other end by another guide and driver (who were both fantastic) and drove straight to the Arboretum. Wow! Madagascar Buttonquail, Madagascar Turtledove, Red-capped Coua, Madagascar Bee-eater, Madagascar Kestrel, Common Newtonia, Crested Drongo, Madagsacar Paradise Flycatcher, Madagascar Lark, Subdesert Warbler, Madagascar Cisticola, Madagascar Magpie-Robin, Souimanga Sunbird, Sakalova Weaver and Madagascar Munia. All before an enjoyable lunch at the restaurant in the gardens. It doesn’t get much better than this!
Checked into our hotel and after a rest we went up to La Table and the magic continued. With amazing views of Verreaux’s and Running Coua, Red-shouldered and Chabert’s Vanga, and Stripe-throated Jery. Night at Bakuba Lodge.
Day 3: After a nice relaxing breakfast our guide and driver picked us up and we went to get the ferry over to Anakao. This was a fascinating trip and worth doing even if you are not birding. The grounds of our lodge were beautiful and we immediately had Litorral Rock-thrush on the roof. We almost immediately hopped into a motorized canoe and headed out into the ocean to the tiny island of Noisy Ve. As we neared the island the nesting Red-Tailed Tropicbirds were visible. We landed on the island and the views of these stunning birds up close were spectacular. Quite a few shorebirds but no lifers for us so back to the Anakao Ocean Lodge.
Day 4: An early start and about an hour’s drive out to Tsimanampetsotra Lake which was once again amazing. Our first lifer was a whole flock of Madagascar Sandgrouse which we were enjoying when we were interrupted by great views of Lesser Vasa Parrot and Madagascar Plover and then Baillon’s Crake – which we have looked for in many, many countries. And so it continued with Madagascar Hoopoe, Lafresnaye’s Vanga, Madagascar Cuckoo, Madagascar Sparrowhawk, Madagascar Nightjar,
Madagascar Cuckoo-shrike and Common Jery. Back to the Anakao Lodge for a restful afternoon.
Day 5: Relaxing breakfast before the ferry trip back over to the mainland. Then a couple of stops on the way to Ifaty. The first one was truly memorable for us because it was a Terek’s Sandpiper which had been our nemesis shorebird for years! After that checking a couple small wetlands beside the road gave us Three-banded Plover. Checked into the Dunes Ifaty and then up to the Spiny Forest which was another fruitful outing. We were joined by a couple of junior ‘spotters’ from the park who were a great help – Madagascar Cuckoo-hawk, Madagascar Green Sunbird, Archibold’s Newtonia, Subdesert Mesite both on the ground and nesting (!!), Crested coua, Madagascar Harrier-hawk, the unbelievable Long-tailed Ground-roller and finally a Madagascar Green-Pigeon. Night at Dunes Ifaty
Day 6: Back up to the Spiney Forest where we were joined by the two additional spotters who did a great job of finding all sorts of wonderful
creatures – spiders, hedgehogs, scorpions and more. The birding was a bit quiet but we still managed a bunch of lifers : Malagasy Spinetail, Grey-headed Lovebird, Red-tailed Vanga, Hook-billed Vanga, Sickle-billed Vanga, White-headed Vanga and Sub-desert Tetraka. Night at the Dunes Ifaty.
Day 7: Left early to get to Zombitze Forest where our list grew longer with the amazing Cuckooroller, Giant Coua, Madagascar Buzzard, White-browed and Madagascar Owls, Long-billed Tetraka, Abert’s, Blue, and Rufous Vangas and then as we were getting ready to leave a perched Frances’ Sparrowhawk.
Continued driving up to the fabulous Isalo Lodge where we stopped for lunch before checking out the new habitat in the area. Madagascar Stonechat, Madagascar Swift, Madagascar Partridge and Forest Rock-thrush.
Lovely night at Isalo Rock Lodge.
Day 8: Not a great deal left on our target list now so went for a great hike with the hope of seeing Marsh Owl and Madagascar Wagtail. No luck with the owl but it was a stunning walk and we had seen so much that we weren’t disappointed.
Day 9: Today was about getting back to Toliara so we didn’t start too early but we did want to stop at Zombitze again because we had missed one of our targets on the way up. We added a couple of additional spotters to help us and it wasn’t long until we had success with Coquerel’s Coua. Stayed back at Bakuba Lodge to relax before our flight tomorrow.
Day 10: Short flight back to Antananarivo and a night in the Relais Plateaux Hotel before flying to Reunion.
Guides & Resources
Field Guide: Birds of Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands, Frank Hawkins, Roger Safford and Adrian Skerrett.
Guides: Madagascar Tour Guides organized everything for us and they were great.
Lonely Planet guide for points of interest