Northern Madagascar and Comoros

Many birders have visited Madagascar, but very few have seen some of the island’s rarest birds, in particular Madagascar Pochard, Red Owl, Madagascar Serpent-Eagle, and Sakalava Rail. For those who have already had a taste of the ‘8th Continent’, this tour will complete their set of endemics. Very few foreigners, let alone birders, visit the Comoros, but these remote islands hold a rich set of endemic species, including 4 beautiful scops-owls, the hulking Comoro Olive Pigeon, odd Humblot’s Flycatcher, and a bounty of drongos, white-eyes, and sunbirds. Our tour will take in all four of the islands of the Comoros, and give us a chance to ‘clean up’ on the endemics.

Comoro or Humblot's Flycatcher often flicks its wings when vocalizing
Comoro or Humblot's Flycatcher often flicks its wings when vocalizing
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Madagscar Pratincole, slim and elegant
Madagscar Pratincole, slim and elegant
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"Pale" Madagascar Paradise-Flycatcher on Anjouan
"Pale" Madagascar Paradise-Flycatcher on Anjouan
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Comoro Cuckooshrike is a handsome pied bird
Comoro Cuckooshrike is a handsome pied bird
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Anjouan Sunbird male
Anjouan Sunbird male
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Secondary forest birding at Salimani, on Grande Comore
Secondary forest birding at Salimani, on Grande Comore
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Grande Comore Brush Warbler
Grande Comore Brush Warbler
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Comoro Blue-Pigeon, certainly one of the prettiest endemics
Comoro Blue-Pigeon, certainly one of the prettiest endemics
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Grande Comore Bulbul, subtly different from the Madagascar Bulbul
Grande Comore Bulbul, subtly different from the Madagascar Bulbul
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Grand Comoro Bulbul
Grand Comoro Bulbul
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Frances's Goshawk on Grande Comore
Frances's Goshawk on Grande Comore
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Comoro Thrush of the "Karthala" race
Comoro Thrush of the "Karthala" race
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African Stonechat of the endemic voeltzkowi subspecies on Mount Karthala
African Stonechat of the endemic voeltzkowi subspecies on Mount Karthala
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Mohéli's central ridge holds remnant forest
Mohéli's central ridge holds remnant forest
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Moheli Scops-Owl
Moheli Scops-Owl
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Karthala White-eye, found only in moorland on the heights of its namesake mountain
Karthala White-eye, found only in moorland on the heights of its namesake mountain
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Madagascar Pochard, one of the world's rarest birds.
Madagascar Pochard, one of the world's rarest birds.
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Schlegels Asity is one of the species we'll seek out during our morning in Ankarafantsika National Park
Schlegels Asity is one of the species we'll seek out during our morning in Ankarafantsika National Park
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Grassland and forest mix at the "pochard site"
Grassland and forest mix at the "pochard site"
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Bernier's Teal is one of our two major targets on the Betsiboka Delta
Bernier's Teal is one of our two major targets on the Betsiboka Delta
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Sooty Falcon can be common in the north
Sooty Falcon can be common in the north
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Comoro or Olive Pigeon is a monster of a bird
Comoro or Olive Pigeon is a monster of a bird
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Mayotte White-eye
Mayotte White-eye
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Humblot's Sunbird
Humblot's Sunbird
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Meller's Duck shares the lake with pochards
Meller's Duck shares the lake with pochards
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Madagascar Paradise-Flycatcher on Mayotte
Madagascar Paradise-Flycatcher on Mayotte
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Mayotte Sunbird is a real beauty
Mayotte Sunbird is a real beauty
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Madagscar Partridge is not uncommon around the pochard lakes
Madagscar Partridge is not uncommon around the pochard lakes
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View from Châlet St. Antoine on Mohéli
View from Châlet St. Antoine on Mohéli
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Reunion (Madagascar) Harrier is more common on the Comoros than on Madagascar
Reunion (Madagascar) Harrier is more common on the Comoros than on Madagascar
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Comoro Skink is perhaps the most common reptile on the islands
Comoro Skink is perhaps the most common reptile on the islands
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Northern Bamboo Lemur in the forest near the pochard lakes
Northern Bamboo Lemur in the forest near the pochard lakes
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Comoro Blue Pigeon is among the islands' top endemics
Comoro Blue Pigeon is among the islands' top endemics
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Lesser Vasa-Parrot
Lesser Vasa-Parrot
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Mysterious lake where the Madagascar Pochard was rediscovered
Mysterious lake where the Madagascar Pochard was rediscovered
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Mayotte Scops Owl
Mayotte Scops Owl
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Anjouan Scops-Owl, an almost black little owl
Anjouan Scops-Owl, an almost black little owl
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White-faced Whistling-Duck on Kinkony
White-faced Whistling-Duck on Kinkony
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Mohéli, floating in the vast Indian Ocean
Mohéli, floating in the vast Indian Ocean
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Ankarana National Park's tsingy
Ankarana National Park's tsingy
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Mount Karthala looms in the distance
Mount Karthala looms in the distance
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The last bastion of the Madagascar Pochard
The last bastion of the Madagascar Pochard
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Mayotte Drongo nest
Mayotte Drongo nest
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Mayotte Drongo
Mayotte Drongo
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Common Brown Lemur is one of two lemur species that have been introduced to the islands.
Common Brown Lemur is one of two lemur species that have been introduced to the islands.
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Seychelles Flying Fox, a pterodactyl-like mammal
Seychelles Flying Fox, a pterodactyl-like mammal
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Humblot's Sunbird
Humblot's Sunbird
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Madagascar Spinetail on the heights of Karthala
Madagascar Spinetail on the heights of Karthala
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Mohéli Scops-Owl, perhaps the best of the Comoran endemic owls
Mohéli Scops-Owl, perhaps the best of the Comoran endemic owls
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Karthala Scops-Owl, a rare high-altitude specialist
Karthala Scops-Owl, a rare high-altitude specialist
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The lush green island of Anjouan, as seen from the air
The lush green island of Anjouan, as seen from the air
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Sickle-billed Vanga is possible at Ankarafantsika and Ankarana
Sickle-billed Vanga is possible at Ankarafantsika and Ankarana
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Mongoose lemur, likely introduced onto the Comoros
Mongoose lemur, likely introduced onto the Comoros
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Tsingy girdled lizard at Ankarana
Tsingy girdled lizard at Ankarana
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"Grand Comore" Madagascar Sunbird
"Grand Comore" Madagascar Sunbird
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Grand Comoro Drongo, an endangered species that is hard to locate
Grand Comoro Drongo, an endangered species that is hard to locate
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Ngaziya Dotted Border, one of a small but fascinating set of butterflies on the Comoros
Ngaziya Dotted Border, one of a small but fascinating set of butterflies on the Comoros
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There is no lack of spectacular scenery on Anjouan
There is no lack of spectacular scenery on Anjouan
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Madagascar Serpent Eagle nests near the pochard lakes
Madagascar Serpent Eagle nests near the pochard lakes
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Madagascar Fish-Eagle is possible along the way to Lake Kinkony
Madagascar Fish-Eagle is possible along the way to Lake Kinkony
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A mossy forest wonderland on Mount Karthala, rich in endemic birds like Humblot's Flycatcher
A mossy forest wonderland on Mount Karthala, rich in endemic birds like Humblot's Flycatcher
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Comoro Thrush is a complex that may be split up. This is the subspecies from Mohéli
Comoro Thrush is a complex that may be split up. This is the subspecies from Mohéli
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Mohéli Thrush. It's strange that thrushes made it to the Comoros but not to Madagascar
Mohéli Thrush. It's strange that thrushes made it to the Comoros but not to Madagascar
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Mayotte Drongo has an enormous fork in its tail
Mayotte Drongo has an enormous fork in its tail
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Amber Mountain holds one of the world's smallest chameleons, the Brookesia tuberculata
Amber Mountain holds one of the world's smallest chameleons, the Brookesia tuberculata
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"Grande Comore" Cuckoo-Roller, a likely split of a spectacular bird
"Grande Comore" Cuckoo-Roller, a likely split of a spectacular bird
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Comoro Blue-Pigeon sitting on a pile of fruit - pigeon paradise!
Comoro Blue-Pigeon sitting on a pile of fruit - pigeon paradise!
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We might spot Crowned Lemur in the far north
We might spot Crowned Lemur in the far north
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Pitta-like Ground-Roller is a Malagasy gem that we stand a good chance of seeing
Pitta-like Ground-Roller is a Malagasy gem that we stand a good chance of seeing
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Grand Comoro Bulbul takes off after a long view
Grand Comoro Bulbul takes off after a long view
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Malagasy Kingfisher on Mohéli
Malagasy Kingfisher on Mohéli
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The Madagascar Sunbirds on Mohéli are quite different from those on Madagascar and Grande Comore
The Madagascar Sunbirds on Mohéli are quite different from those on Madagascar and Grande Comore
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Madagascar Bee-eater, a beauty that is common throughout Madagascar
Madagascar Bee-eater, a beauty that is common throughout Madagascar
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"Comoro" Blue Vanga, a true blue bird
"Comoro" Blue Vanga, a true blue bird
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Mongoose lemur, a species we can see both on the Comoros and in northwestern Madagascar
Mongoose lemur, a species we can see both on the Comoros and in northwestern Madagascar
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Boettger's Chameleon at Amber Mountain
Boettger's Chameleon at Amber Mountain
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Moheli White-eye, a very typical-looking white-eye!
Moheli White-eye, a very typical-looking white-eye!
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High-elevation habitat on Mount Karthala
High-elevation habitat on Mount Karthala
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Mayotte White-eye, perhaps the best-looking of the Comoro white-eyes
Mayotte White-eye, perhaps the best-looking of the Comoro white-eyes
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Crested (Madagascar) Drongo has only recently colonized Anjouan
Crested (Madagascar) Drongo has only recently colonized Anjouan
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Comoro Blue Vanga, sometimes split and sometimes lumped
Comoro Blue Vanga, sometimes split and sometimes lumped
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Sakalava Rail is our main quarry at Lake Kinkony
Sakalava Rail is our main quarry at Lake Kinkony
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Madagascar Sacred Ibis on the red mud of the Betsiboka, near Majunga
Madagascar Sacred Ibis on the red mud of the Betsiboka, near Majunga
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"Comoro" Blue Vanga, probably a good split from the Blue Vangas of Madagascar
"Comoro" Blue Vanga, probably a good split from the Blue Vangas of Madagascar
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Moheli Scops-Owl of the rufous morph
Moheli Scops-Owl of the rufous morph
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Crab Plover on the mudflats of Mayotte
Crab Plover on the mudflats of Mayotte
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"Grand Comore" Madagascar Sunbird, a field guide shot!
"Grand Comore" Madagascar Sunbird, a field guide shot!
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Grande Comore Drongo is one of the tougher endemics to find
Grande Comore Drongo is one of the tougher endemics to find
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A stop at the Katsepy lighthouse may reward us with a sighting of Crowned Sifaka
A stop at the Katsepy lighthouse may reward us with a sighting of Crowned Sifaka
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A Red-headed Fody of the Mohéli subspecies
A Red-headed Fody of the Mohéli subspecies
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The Mayotte Red-headed Fodies are quite different from the ones on other islands
The Mayotte Red-headed Fodies are quite different from the ones on other islands
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"Comoro" Blue Vanga is only found on Mohéli
"Comoro" Blue Vanga is only found on Mohéli
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Moheli Humblot's Sunbird
Moheli Humblot's Sunbird
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Heathland above treeline on Mount Karthala
Heathland above treeline on Mount Karthala
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Greater Vasa-Parrot
Greater Vasa-Parrot
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The Madagascar Paradise-Flycatchers on Mohéli and Anjouan should probably be split as "Pale" Paradise-Flycatcher
The Madagascar Paradise-Flycatchers on Mohéli and Anjouan should probably be split as "Pale" Paradise-Flycatcher
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Seychelles Flying Fox is a huge bat that is very common throughout
Seychelles Flying Fox is a huge bat that is very common throughout
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"Grand Comore" Madagascar Sunbird female
"Grand Comore" Madagascar Sunbird female
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Madagascar Green-Pigeon of the Comoro subspecies
Madagascar Green-Pigeon of the Comoro subspecies
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Anjouan Scops-Owl, dark morph
Anjouan Scops-Owl, dark morph
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White-breasted Mesite is possible both in Ankarafantsika and Ankarana NPs
White-breasted Mesite is possible both in Ankarafantsika and Ankarana NPs
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Anjouan Scops-Owl of the brown morph
Anjouan Scops-Owl of the brown morph
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Little Bittern on Kinkony
Little Bittern on Kinkony
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White-throated Rail near the pochard camp
White-throated Rail near the pochard camp
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Mayotte Scops-Owl closeup
Mayotte Scops-Owl closeup
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Barn Owl is an almost universal bird found even on the Comoros
Barn Owl is an almost universal bird found even on the Comoros
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Moheli Bulbul, very similar to Grand Comoro Bulbul, but slightly larger and darker
Moheli Bulbul, very similar to Grand Comoro Bulbul, but slightly larger and darker
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We should see Red-capped Coua at Ankarafantsika
We should see Red-capped Coua at Ankarafantsika
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Madagascar Rail in a rare extroverted moment
Madagascar Rail in a rare extroverted moment
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Another view of Anjouan
Another view of Anjouan
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Mayotte Scops-Owl
Mayotte Scops-Owl
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Benson's Brush Warbler is not colorful, but is distinctively different from the other Malagasy region warblers
Benson's Brush Warbler is not colorful, but is distinctively different from the other Malagasy region warblers
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Grand Comoro Drongo
Grand Comoro Drongo
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Cuckoo Roller of the Comoran race, which is sometimes split
Cuckoo Roller of the Comoran race, which is sometimes split
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Comoro or Humblot's Flycatcher
Comoro or Humblot's Flycatcher
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Gray Emutail thrives in the wetlands around the pochard site
Gray Emutail thrives in the wetlands around the pochard site
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Mayotte Sunbird, a real beauty
Mayotte Sunbird, a real beauty
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Comoro or Humblot's Flycatcher thrives in mossy cloud forest
Comoro or Humblot's Flycatcher thrives in mossy cloud forest
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Coquerel's Sifaka is a feature of Ankarafantsika National Park
Coquerel's Sifaka is a feature of Ankarafantsika National Park
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Northern Madagascar is excellent for Eleanora's Falcon
Northern Madagascar is excellent for Eleanora's Falcon
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Beautiful forest on the trek up Mount Karthala
Beautiful forest on the trek up Mount Karthala
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Anjouan White-eye was only recently split
Anjouan White-eye was only recently split
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Madagascar Harrier is more common on the Comoros than on Madagascar!
Madagascar Harrier is more common on the Comoros than on Madagascar!
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Red Owl is a specialty of the "pochard site"
Red Owl is a specialty of the "pochard site"
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"Comoro" Ashy Cuckoo-shrike, another likely split
"Comoro" Ashy Cuckoo-shrike, another likely split
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Benson's or Mohéli Brush Warbler
Benson's or Mohéli Brush Warbler
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Madagascar Grebes thrive on the pochard lake
Madagascar Grebes thrive on the pochard lake
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"Pale" Madagascar Paradise-Flycatcher
"Pale" Madagascar Paradise-Flycatcher
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Mohéli airport, quite an informal affair!
Mohéli airport, quite an informal affair!
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In our brief stop at Ankarana NP, we have a chance to see the very local Ankarana Sportive Lemur
In our brief stop at Ankarana NP, we have a chance to see the very local Ankarana Sportive Lemur
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The distinctive race of Madagascar Green-Pigeon on the Comoros seems worthy of splitting
The distinctive race of Madagascar Green-Pigeon on the Comoros seems worthy of splitting
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Mayotte Scops-Owl of the brown morph
Mayotte Scops-Owl of the brown morph
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Benson's or Mohéli Brush Warbler
Benson's or Mohéli Brush Warbler
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Humblot's Sunbird, a gem of a bird
Humblot's Sunbird, a gem of a bird
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Forest Rock-Thrush, a gem of the forest interior
Forest Rock-Thrush, a gem of the forest interior
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Benson's or Mohéli Brush Warbler, an oddly plain-faced and arboreal brush-warbler
Benson's or Mohéli Brush Warbler, an oddly plain-faced and arboreal brush-warbler
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Madagscar Jacana on Kinkony
Madagscar Jacana on Kinkony
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Decken's Sifaka can be seen around Lake Kinkony
Decken's Sifaka can be seen around Lake Kinkony
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Anjouan Brush-Warbler, an understory skulker
Anjouan Brush-Warbler, an understory skulker
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Red-headed Fody on Grande Comore
Red-headed Fody on Grande Comore
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Lesser Vasa-Parrots on Grande Comore, very different from the Malagasy subspecies
Lesser Vasa-Parrots on Grande Comore, very different from the Malagasy subspecies
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Red-headed Fody on Grande Comore
Red-headed Fody on Grande Comore
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A stream near the "pochard site"
A stream near the "pochard site"
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Kirk's White-eye is a very yellow bird, with a broad eye ring
Kirk's White-eye is a very yellow bird, with a broad eye ring
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Sakalava Weaver, common in the west of Madagascar
Sakalava Weaver, common in the west of Madagascar
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Mossy forest in northern Madagascar
Mossy forest in northern Madagascar
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Madagascar Paradise-Flycatcher on Grande Comore, a probable split
Madagascar Paradise-Flycatcher on Grande Comore, a probable split
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Humblot's Flycatcher on Grande Comore
Humblot's Flycatcher on Grande Comore
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Grande Comore Brush-Warbler
Grande Comore Brush-Warbler
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Lake Kinkony is a waterbird paradise. Species like this Glossy Ibis abound.
Lake Kinkony is a waterbird paradise. Species like this Glossy Ibis abound.
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Frances's Goshawk of the brutus subspecies on Mayotte
Frances's Goshawk of the brutus subspecies on Mayotte
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Comoro or Humblot's Flycatcher
Comoro or Humblot's Flycatcher
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Seychelles Flying Fox showing its foxy face
Seychelles Flying Fox showing its foxy face
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Tranquil coastal landscape on Anjouan
Tranquil coastal landscape on Anjouan
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Madagascar Green-Pigeon of the Comoro subspecies
Madagascar Green-Pigeon of the Comoro subspecies
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This is a rugged tour to a rarely-visited part of the world. We’ll spend four nights camping, and make a couple of tough drives on dirt roads. It’s a good tour for the adventurous birder eager to see some places that are way off the beaten path. Tropical Birding’s Madagascar office is at the center of this region, giving us an unsurpassed capacity to handle the tricky logistics of this tour.

Day 1: Arrival in Antananarivo, Madagascar. As soon as we land in this city, it’s obvious that we are in a very different part of the world. Quaint two-story red brick houses rise from a landscape of endless rice paddies. Despite being in the mountains, Tana almost feels like an island floating in a sea of rice. The night will be in a comfortable hotel, with some fine French-Malagasy cuisine for dinner.

Day 2: Flight from Tana to Moroni, Grande Comore. A couple hours in the air will bring us to the Comoros’ capital city of Moroni, a rather sleepy and forgotten corner of the world. We will spend the afternoon searching for the oddly scarce Grand Comore Drongo in some scrubby secondary habitat. Here we also have chances for our first encounters with other endemics like Grande Comore Green and Humblot’s Sunbirds, and Gramd Comoro Fody.

Day 3: Full day trek up Mount Karthala. This bulky mountain has the largest caldera of any of the world’s active volcanoes. It also holds two rare endemics, the Karthala White-eye and Scops-Owl. The latter is our reason for spending the night camping on the mountain.

Karthala White-eye, found only in moorland on the heights of its namesake mountain
Karthala White-eye, found only in moorland on the heights of its namesake mountain (Markus Lagerqvist)

This will be a long and strenuous day of hiking, with over 1700m (5500 feet) of elevation gain. Thankfully there will be loads of birding along the way. We  should run into Comoro Blue Pigeon, Lesser Vasa Parrot, Kirk’s White-eye, Madagascar (Grande Comore if split) Cuckoo-Roller, Comoro Olive Pigeon, Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher, and Comoros Cuckooshrike. The high moorlands on the top of the mountain are where we search for the endemic Karthala White-eye, and also may hold Madagascar Harrier. The Karthala Scops-Owl is found in the lower-lying montane forest, and finding it will require an adventurous night walk.

Day 4: Karthala to Moroni. We make the long hike off the mountain, though this time with gravity on our side! Along the way, we’ll have chances to continue savoring the unique and rarely-seen birdlife of Grande Comore. By the evening, we’ll have returned to the relative civilization of Moroni, where we’ll enjoy a hearty dinner and some cold drinks.

Day 5: Flight from Moroni to Moheli. Depending on the flight schedule, we may have an easy morning of sleeping in to recover from our Karthala trek. Around town, we might pick up a few terns or shorebirds. A short flight will bring us to our next of the Comoro islands: Moheli. Here we will spend this evening searching for Moheli Scops-Owl, perhaps the best of the 4 scops-owls endemic to these islands.

Mohéli Scops-Owl, perhaps the best of the Comoran endemic owls
Mohéli Scops-Owl, perhaps the best of the Comoran endemic owls (Markus Lagerqvist)

Day 6: Mohéli. This will be a long day of hiking the central mountains, which hold the island’s remaining forest and endemic birds. These include Mohéli Fody, Mohéli Green Sunbird, and Mohéli White-eye. The Mohéli Brush Warbler is another target endemic, and an interesting case, as unlike most members of this genus, it is found high in trees rather than skulking in the undergrowth. Mohéli is the best place to find the local race of Madagascar Blue Vanga, which may be a full species. This beauty is the only vanga found outside of Madagascar. Mohéli Green Pigeon is perhaps the most difficult endemic. We’ll watch carefully for flyovers and for birds feeding in fruiting trees.

Day 7: Boat from Mohéli to Anjouan. We should have a final morning to clean up anything we might have missed on the island, before catching a boat that brings us across to Anjouan. From the boat, we’ll watch for Bridled and Sooty Terns, Masked Booby, White-tailed Tropicbird, and the endemic breeding race of Persian Shearwater.

Day 8: Full day Anjouan. The birding on Anjouan is a bit easier than on Grande Comore and Mohéli, and long days of hiking won’t be required. Here we’re looking in the remaining forest patches for Anjouan Brush Warbler, Anjouan White-eye, Anjouan Sunbird, and Anjouan Fody. At night, we hope to come face-to-face with yet another scops-owl, the Anjouan Scops-Owl.

Comoro Blue Pigeon is among the islands' top endemics
Comoro Blue Pigeon is among the islands' top endemics (Markus Lagerqvist)

Day 9: Flight from Anjouan to Dzaoudzi, Mayotte. Although it is biogeographically part of the Comoros, Mayotte is a piece of sovereign French soil. As such, it’s much more developed for tourism, and we will spend the night in a comfortable lodge.

Day 10: Mayotte. We have a full day of easy birding in which to find Mayotte White-eye, Sunbird, and Drongo. In the evening, we’ll search for the Mayotte Scops-Owl, hopefully completing our set of these exquisite owls. If time allows, we will bird some mudflats for Crab Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Terek Sandpiper, and others.

Mayotte Sunbird is a real beauty
Mayotte Sunbird is a real beauty (Markus Lagerqvist)

Day 11: Flight from Mayotte to Majunga, Madagascar. We leave French soil and return to Madagascar, flying into Majunga on the northwestern coast. We’ll spend the night in a comfortable waterside hotel with good food and even a swimming pool. 

Day 12: Majunga to Lake Kinkony. This will be a long day of driving that includes a couple of adventurous ferry crossings. Although we don’t do a lot of birding, there are chances for Madagascar Sandgrouse, Madagascar Pratincole, African Openbill, and Madagascar Fish-Eagle along the way. This journey is also a chance to see authentic Malagasy culture, far off the path travelled by most tourists. We’ll spend the night camping in a nice site that lies adjacent the vast marshes of Lake Kinkony, one of the best wetlands left in Madagascar.

Madagascar Fish-Eagle is possible along the way to Lake Kinkony
Madagascar Fish-Eagle is possible along the way to Lake Kinkony (Ken Behrens)

Day 13: Lac Kinkony to Katsepy. On a morning trip in a small boat, we will seek the enigmatic endemic Sakalava Rail. During the search, we will find loads of other waterbirds, including species that are rarely seen in most of Madagascar, perhaps including Little Bittern, Glossy Ibis, Madagascar Jacana, and Yellow-billed Stork. In the afternoon, we’ll start retracing our steps back towards Majunga.

Day 14: Katsepy to Ankarafantsika. In the morning, we’ll take a boat trip on the Betsiboka Delta for a couple more of the island’s rarest birds, namely Madagascar Sacred Ibis and Bernier’s Teal. We’ll also see and a variety of shorebirds. In the afternoon, we make the short drive to Ankarafantsika National Park, situated in the rich western deciduous forest, a paradise of vangas, couas, lemurs, and a variety of reptiles.

Day 15: Ankarafantsika to Antsohihy. We will spend the cool hours of the morning birding the dry forest of this wonderful national park. Targets will include White-breasted Mesite, Schlegel’s Asity, and Van Dam’s Vanga. We might spot lemurs including Western Avahi, Coquerel’s Sifaka, Milne-Edward’s Sportive-Lemur, and Mongoose Lemur. In the afternoon, we drive several hours to Antsohihy, where a simple but comfortable hotel makes a good stopover.

Mysterious lake where the Madagascar Pochard was rediscovered
Mysterious lake where the Madagascar Pochard was rediscovered (Ken Behrens)

Day 16: Antsohihy to Bemenavika. Today, we venture away from the coast and into the interior to the mysterious and only recently discovered last bastion of the Madagascar Pochard, which was thought extinct for decades. Reaching the remote paradise isn’t easy; this is a tough drive on a very bad road. Steep slopes, mud, and river crossings will make for a truly adventurous day. As long as all goes well, we should be scoping the incredibly rare and recently re-discovered Madagascar Pochard by nightfall.

Day 17: Pochard site. The pochard is easy to see, but here we also have more elusive quarry in the form of two of the island’s rarest and most mysterious species: Red Owl and Madagascar Serpent-Eagle. Our ability to find these species will largely depend on whether the Peregrine Fund staff are currently tracking any individuals of either or both species. The wetlands of this isolated paradise also hold Madagascar Rail, Madagascar Snipe, Madagascar Grebe, Meller’s Duck, Madagascar Partridge, Madagascar Harrier, and Gray Emutail.

Madagascar Pochard, one of the world's rarest birds.
Madagascar Pochard, one of the world's rarest birds. (Ken Behrens)

Day 18: Pochard site to Antsohihy. After a final morning of birding the lakeside forests, we’ll head out of the mountains, back to the hot lowland town of Antsohihy. One bonus of our stopover here is the excellent local seafood – succulent prawns in particular.

Day 19: Antsohihy to Ankarana National Park to Joffreville. Although this is a long day’s drive, we we do have time for a short stop at Ankarana National Park, with a very different environment from any of the places on the normal birding circuit. Ankarana if famous for the tsingy, an endless beautiful landscape of eroded limestone. It also holds some excellent western deciduous forest where we may see birds like Sickle-billed Vanga, Crested Coua, White-brested Mesite, and Sakalava Weaver. By evening, we’ll find ourselves in the misty mountain refuge of Joffreville, on the slopes of Amber Mountain.

Sickle-billed Vanga is possible at Ankarafantsika and Ankarana
Sickle-billed Vanga is possible at Ankarafantsika and Ankarana (Ken Behrens)

Day 20: Joffreville to Diego-Suarez. We’ll spend a full morning hiking, hoping to connect with the local endemic “Amber Mountain” Forest Rock-Thrush, plus mammals like ring-tailed mongoose, crowned lemur and sanford’s brown-lemur. In the afternoon, we’ll make our way to the bustling and surprisingly cosmopolitan town of Diego-Suarez, home of Tropical Birding’s Madagascar office.

Day 21: Flight from Diego-Suarez to Tana. A short flight takes us from the northern tip of Madagascar, back to the capital at the island’s center, where we will connect with our international departure flights.

Day 22: International departures from Tana

Madagascar Grebes thrive on the pochard lake
Madagascar Grebes thrive on the pochard lake (Ken Behrens)

Crab Plover on the mudflats of Mayotte
Crab Plover on the mudflats of Mayotte (Markus Lagerqvist)

Pitta-like Ground-Roller is a Malagasy gem that we stand a good chance of seeing
Pitta-like Ground-Roller is a Malagasy gem that we stand a good chance of seeing (Ken Behrens)

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TRIP CONSIDERATIONS

CLIMATE: Most of the sites on this tour are low-lying, hot and humid. Mount Karthala, on Grand Comore, can be quite cool.

DIFFICULTY: Moderate to difficult. One long trek and a night of camping are necessary on Grand Comore. There is a long day of hiking on Moheli, to reach the island’s remaining forests. There will be three nights of camping on the Madagascar portion of the itinerary, though all of the walking will be fairly easy. Most of the driving is not difficult, but there is one drive on a horrendous road to reach the Madagascar Pochard site.

ACCOMMODATION: Four nights of camping. Otherwise moderate to good.