Trip report: Madagascar, The Eighth Continent (Nov 2014) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Ken Behrens. This was a set-departure tour, including the Western Endemics pre-trip and Helmet Vanga extension.

Madagascar has long been a core destination for Tropical Birding, and with our opening of a satellite office in the country, we have further solidified our expertise in the “Eighth Continent.” This was another highly successful set-departure tour to this special island.  Although Madagascar poses some logistical challenges, especially in the form of the national airline Air Madagascar, we had no problems on this tour, not even a single delayed flight!

The birding was great, with 194 species recorded, including almost all of the island’s endemic birds, and every single endemic that was a viable possibility along our route. As usual, the highlight was seeing all five of the incredible ground-rollers, from the roadrunner-like Long-tailed of the spiny forest to the wonderful rainforest-dwelling Scaly. There was also a strong supporting cast of vangas, mesites, Malagasy greenbuls, asities, and many others.

The “mammaling” on this tour was exceptional. Actually, the best sighting on our tour was a mammal, and not a bird: the bizarre and rarely seen aye-aye. Overall, we recorded 48 mammals of which 34 were lemurs, from the tiny mouse-lemurs up to Indri, the largest living species.

Finally, this was an extraordinary tour for reptiles and amphibians. We racked up 63 species of reptiles. The chameleons alone showed incredible diversity; we saw 15 species, including the world’s two largest chameleons, and one of its smallest. We identified 32 species of frogs, again one of the highest totals ever for a Madagascar birding trip. Madagascar is certainly rich in wonderful birds, and we enjoyed these to the fullest. But its range of reptiles and amphibians is just as wondrous and accessible, and a trip that ignored them would be sorely missing out.

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