Trip report: Madagascar, The Eighth Continent (Oct 2008) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Josh Engel and Ken Behrens.

Madagascar has a well-deserved reputation as one of the planet’s ultimate natural history destination and this year’s tour proved the reputation true. This year’s tour started with a brief morning of urban birding in Tana, followed by a cross-country road trip from the spiny forest of the southwest to the rainforests of the east to the dry deciduous forest of the northwest.  One lucky participant continued on to the spectacular lowland rainforest of the northeast, thus seeing all of the major habitats the island has to offer.  Bird-wise this years tour was hugely successful.  Not only did we see all of the endemic families of bird, we had incredible views of all four asities, four of the five ground rollers (hearing the fifth), all three mesites, and–including the Masoala extension–every single vanga.  Add to this every species of coua, 31 species of mammals including 26 lemurs and a great variety of day geckos, leaf-tailed geckos, chameleons, frogs and snakes and you get the incredible Madagascar tour that we had this year.

We also introduced a new extension this year to the Masoala Peninsula to look for Helmet Vanga.  Besides the nest-building Helmet Vangas that we found, it was an incredible experience to have daily walks in primary lowland rainforest, practically kicking ground rollers out of the way and having to walk carefully to avoid stepping on the innumerable frogs.  Our lodge was perfectly situated, sandwiched between a remote, deserted beach and a huge tract of primary forest.  Within thirty seconds of leaving our bungalows we could be snorkeling around a coral reef or watching Red-breasted Coua on a rainforest trail!  This new extension is highly recommended.

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