Apart from a couple of areas, Madagascar is not too difficult and you
don't need to pay the earth.
John Isom, Johannesburg
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 1997 2:00 PM
To: Isom John
Subject: birding with Lyn Mayr Madagascar 97
Many thanks for this referal, it is greatly appreciated. Please find
to follow this year's birding itinerary.
Please do not hesitate to contact us for any further information, we
will be delighted to be of assistance to you.
Group Tour Madagascar
BIRDING IN MADAGASCAR WITH LYN MAIR
25 SEPTEMBER - 9 OCTOBER 1997
In 1996 renowned birder, lecturer and tourleader Lyn Mair escorted a
very successful group tour around Madagascar. They cleaned up the list
as far as groups go, enjoying quality sightings of many rarely seen
With 110 endemics and another 25 shared with either the Comoros or
Aldabra, 'lifer's galore' await birders visiting this mini-continent
with its diverse climatic/floristic zones. Besides the birds, we'll
see extraordinary mammals such as lemurs; reptiles such as numerous
chameleons, colourful frogs and bizarre invertebrates. And the various
forests are as fascinating, since Madagascar's botany is exceptionally
diverse. We'll see rare palms, orchids, baobabs, pachypodiums and
diverse scenery during this unforgettable two week holiday.
Lyn Mair completed a birding course with Ian Sinclair in 1982 at Natal
University. She first travelled to Madagascar, also with Ian Sinclair,
in 1993, after which she visited the Masoala peninsula independently.
In December 1994 she met Tony Soper (BBC) on the World Discoverer and
was contracted to work with renowned Madagascar expert Hilary Bradt on
an RSPB cruise from South Africa to Madagascar and other western
Indian Ocean islands such as Aldabra and the Seychelles. The cruise
involved several stops along the Malagasy coastline from where Lyn and
Hilary would take the group inland to reserves. Since then she has
also travelled as a tourleader / lecturer with Noble Caledonia and
with Hilary Bradt as birding lecturer on a BBC Wildlife tour. On the
latter tour she co-led a group of 110 passengers, the route being from
Amman (Jordan) to the Seychelles, Aldabra and Madagascar. Lyn also led
groups into the Jozani forest, Zanzibar in 1995. Lyn has been birding
in numerous African countries including Malawi, Kenya, Gabon and Ivory
With Lyn's experience and knowledge, as well as the expertise of
Unusual Destinations and their Malagasy ground operators, you will see
most of Madagascar's compellingly unique endemics. Spring (October to
December) is the best time for birding on Madagascar. Most birds are
breeding so locating elusive species is easier. This applies to rarely
seen lifers such as mesites, flufftails, emu-tails and the beautiful
ground-rollers. Seriously weird birds such as the Asitys and Sunbird
Asitys will be in breeding regalia, sporting near-fluorescent facial
wattles. Forests resound with the loud calls of conspicuous Couas and
the diverse Vangas, both firm favourites with birders.
You'll also have the opportunity to see some of the world's rarest
birds, such as the majestic Madagascar fish eagle, a definite sighting
at Ampijoroa forest station where it coexists with raptors like the
Madagascar Gymnogene, Madagascar goshawk and banded kestrel. Others
are severely threatened, like the Appert's greenbul, just about
confined to the 21 000 ha Zombitse forest. Expect to see other
rarities such as the Humblot's heron, Madagascar plover, Yellowbrow
oxylabes and Yellow-bellied sunbird-asity, all of which are best found
with the help of an experienced birding tourleader.
The itinerary involves first visiting 'Perinet', a montane rainforest
sanctuary for the apelike Indri lemur, which put this reserve on the
map. Perinet's specials include red-fronted Coua, Madagascar
Woodrail, dusky greenbul and the coral-billed nuthatch Vanga. Look for
passerines such as the green jery, brown newtonia and the newly
described cryptic warbler.
Then we embark on an overland stint to Ranomafana National park, which
sprang into prominence in 1986 with the discovery of the golden bamboo
lemur. But lemurs aside, this is where most rare rainforest-dependent
birds can be seen. With luck, a 3 night stay in Ranomafana will reveal
endemics such as the collared Nightjar, 4 species of
rainforest-dwelling ground roller; velvet and Sunbird Asitys;
grey-crowned greenbul, the 3 Oxylabes; grey and brown emutails and
Pollen's Vanga, to name but a few. Night strolls should reveal various
species of nightjar, owl and a variety of reptiles, frogs and
>From Ranomafana, we leave the eastern domain for the semi-arid south
where our first stop is the impressive 'ruiniforme'mountains of the
Isalo National Park. Here, the scoop is the localised Benson's rock
thrush. (Look for white throated rails and cuckoo rollers).
>From Isalo we continue to Zombitse Classified Forest to see Appert's
greenbul, giant and crested Couas and thamnornis warbler. Finally we
reach the semi-arid south-west coast, where we will enjoy birding in
the 'spiny forests' of the Ifaty area. These unworldly forests harbour
rare endemics like the sub-desert Mesite, long-tailed ground roller,
LaFresnaye's Vanga and Archbold's newtonia. Other southern 'specials'
are running and Verreaux' Couas and the Littoral rock thrush. The
remarkable botany here is dominated by numerous species of Euphorbia,
the spiny 'Didiera' trees and bloated baobab, pachypodium, uncarinia,
moringa and hildergardia species.
Finally we visit the top birding hotspot in the threatened western
tropical dry deciduous forests - Ampijoroa Forest Station. Again
you'll note the unique and diverse wildlife here, (mammals, reptiles
and birds are abundant). Specials include the White breasted mesite;
Coquerel's and redcapped coua; Schlegel's asity and the highly
localised Van Dam's Vanga. Many rate Ampijoroa as their single most
rewarding locality for Malagasy wildlife. In all,this will be a
wonderful trip to an extraordinary destination.
THURSDAY, 25 SEPTEMBER:
Fly from Johannesburg International airport to Antananarivo, the
Flight Johannesburg - Antananarivo with Air Madagascar MD723 0955/1405
On arrival, our English-speaking Malagasy guides will meet and assist
the group with formalities and transfer us to the famed 'Perinet'
rainforest reserve (Analamazaotra), 3 hours by road to the east of the
capital. Overnight at the upmarket Vakona Lodge. Bring a torch and
rain gear as those who wish can be taken on a night stroll to see
nocturnally active wildlife. (Dinner)
FRIDAY, 26 SEPTEMBER:
Day to explore the neighbouring rainforest of Maromizaha, where many
rare species not found in Perinet, can be seen. Overnight stay at the
Vakona Lodge (Full Board)
SATURDAY, 27 SEPTEMBER:
Morning in Perinet rainforest - mainly for the sake of seeing the
Indri lemurs and other wildlife local to the central-eastern
rainforest. Transfer back to Tana and down to Antsirabe where we
overnight at the smart Arotel. (Full board).
SUNDAY, 28 SEPTEMBER:
Transfer to the National Park of Ranomafana. This is one of the best
rainforests for birding and many very rare endemics are easily seen
here. We overnight at the rustic hotel Domain Nature. (Full Board).
MONDAY, 29 SEPTEMBER:
Full day in Ranomafana. Hotel Domain Nature. (Full Board).
TUESDAY, 30 SEPTEMBER:
Today we explore an area adjacent to Ranomafana, Vohiparara, which is
particularly good for birds frequenting marshes in rainforest
territory. Hotel Domain Nature, (Full Board).
WEDNESDAY, 01 OCTOBER:
Today we drive across the island, passing through dramatically
contrasting scenery to the Isalo mountains, located in the desolate
south-western interior. (7 hour drive). We overnight at Madagascar's
best hotel, the Relaise la Reine d'Isalo. One really just needs a few
minutes to locate the Benson's rock-thrush which breeds on the hotel
buildings. And the white-throated rail is resident in the hotel
grounds. Hotel Relaise la Reine d'Isalo, (Full board).
THURSDAY, 02 OCTOBER:
After an early breakfast we drive to the Zombitse Classified forest (1
hour), one of two remaining transition forests (where western tropical
dry forest and the southern 'spiny bush' merge. After a few hours in
Zombitse we continue to the southwest coast. (3 hours). After arriving
in Tulear we continue 24km north to the Ifaty area, where spiny bush
is spectacular. Overnight at the upmarket hotel Lakana Veso. (Full
board). This beach resort has the island's best scuba diving centre
and a snorkelling trip is definitely on!
FRIDAY, 03 OCTOBER:
Early morning birding trip to the spiny forests. Within about two
hours it is easy to see all the regional endemics of the sub-desert
south. In the afternoon, we'll go snorkelling around the magnificent
coral reefs off Ifaty beach. Hotel Lakana Veso, (Full Board).
SATURDAY, 4 OCTOBER:
Transfer to Tulear airport from where we fly to Antananarivo. Transfer
to the hotel Tana Plazza (new, upmarket). Balance of the day for
Flight Tulear - Antananarivo with Air Madagascar MD593 1235/1425
SUNDAY, 5 OCTOBER:
Transfer to the airport and fly to Mahajanga. Transfer to the Tropical
Hotel. Balance of the day for sightseeing in the area.
Flight Antananarivo - Mahajanga with Air Madagascar MD524 1150/1305
MONDAY, 6 OCTOBER:
Early start: Transfer to the Ampijoroa forest station. Day for birding
in this excellent example of western tropical deciduous forest. Many
of the island's most threatened species live here. Organised camping
at Ampijoroa's campsite, (Full board). (Chef and porter to accompany
TUESDAY, 7 OCTOBER:
Birding in Ampijoroa. Transfer back to Hotel Tropical in the
WEDNESDAY, 8 OCTOBER:
Transfer to the Mahajanga airport from where we fly to Antananarivo.
Flight Mahajanga - Antananarivo with Air Madagascar MD325 1250/1335
Transfer to the Hotel Tana Plaza. Balance of the day for shopping -
organised excursion with guide. (B&B)
THURSDAY, 9 OCTOBER:
Transfer to the airport. Assistances with check-in and fly to
Flight Antananarivo - Johannesburg MD722 0620/0850
Prices : (in S.A. Rands):
Price per person double/twin room sharing : R 10.712.-- (minimum 12
single room supplement : R 1.937.-
This includes : International and internal flights (ex Johannesburg),
visa fees, accommodation on a full board basis throughout the tour
except for the nights in Antananarivo which areB&B, all transfers and
assistances, excursions to the reserves with transport and reserve
permits, tourleader Lyn Mair and experienced, English speaking
Malagasy guide throughout the tour.
Not included : dinners in Antananarivo only; international & domestic
airport taxes; drinks, tips and personal expenses (laundry & telephone
We shall supply a full list of things to pack. For more information
please call on us at any time.