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Madagascar: Birding the Eighth Continent - Birding Tour

Tour Overview:

Madagascar’s flora and fauna are so different from anywhere else on Earth that it is often referred to as the eighth continent; five bird families and 120 species are found only here. Madagascar is home to some of the planet’s greatest biological oddities, including other-worldly plants, Jurassic reptiles, and unfeasible birds and lemurs that appear to have their origins in Alice’s wonderland.

Upcoming Departures:



Main Tour: 26 October - 12 November (€7390; single supplement: €1150)

Western Endemics Extension: 22 - 26 October (€2690; single supplement: €380)

Helmet Vanga Extension: 12 - 15 November (€3990; single supplement: €405)



Main Tour: 24 October - 10 November (Price: TBA)

Western Endemics Extension: 20 - 24 October (Price: TBA)

Helmet Vanga Extension: 10 - 13 November (€3990; single supplement: €405)

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Other Tour Details:

Length: 18 Days (26 Days w/ Exts.)

Starting City: Antananarivo

Ending City: Antananarivo

Pace: Moderate

Physical Difficulty: Moderate

Focus: Birding, Wildlife

Group size: 9 + 1 Leader

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Detailed Itinerary

Please note that due to ever-changing flight schedules this itinerary may need to be changed slightly.

Day 1: Antananarivo

We arrive in Antananarivo (often known simply as “Tana”), the island’s capital, and spend a night in a city hotel. 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 fields. Despite being in the mountains, Tana almost feels like an island floating in a sea of rice!


Day 2: Antananarivo to Ifaty

A morning flight takes us to Tulear. After landing, we transfer to Ifaty, surrounded by the strange spiny desert, Madagascar’s most striking and unique natural landscape. Here, the spiny-tentacled octopus trees,  cactus-like euphorbias, and towering baobabs combine to create an eerie scene. Our first birds should include Madagascar Bee-eater, Madagascar Lark, and Madagascar Cisticola. En route we encounter several marshes and wetlands, where we should find many waterbirds, ranging from shorebirds like Greater Sand-Plover, to marsh denizens like the shy Baillon’s Crake.


Day 3: Ifaty

This morning we seek out spectacular semi-desert endemics such as Running Coua, Thamnornis Warbler, and Lafresnaye’s Vanga. The hulking Sickle-billed Vangas give themselves away by their odd wails, that sounds more like a human baby than a bird! There are two very rare endemics here: the cryptic Sub-desert Mesite and the elegant Long tailed Ground-Roller, an elusive bird resembling a colorful roadrunner. We sometimes find these birds by following their tracks in the red sand.


Day 4: Ifaty to Tulear

After another morning birding around Ifaty we head to Tulear to overnight. We may stop for more wetland birding along the way. In the afternoon, we head for the strange coral-rag scrub habitat around the plateau of La Table to search for Verreaux’s Coua and Red-shouldered Vanga, a species only discovered in the 1990’s.


Day 5: Tulear Area

Today, we board a boat to visit Nosy Ve, a small, enchanting offshore islet, whose star attraction is a colony of Red-tailed Tropicbirds, but also often hosts Crab Plovers. We return to the lodge with a stop at Anakao to search for the very local Littoral Rock-Thrush.


Day 6: Zombitse and Isalo

We will wake up very early and drive about 3 hours inland to Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park, where we spend a few hours birding. This park is a forest haven in the dry and mainly de-forested southwest. Our main target is one of the world’s most range-restricted birds: Appert’s Greenbul that is only found in this forest. Other residents in this dry, deciduous forest include Giant Coua, Madagascar Cuckoo Roller, and Rufous Vanga. We often get lucky with day roosting Zombitse Sportive Lemurs, Madagascar (Torotoroka) Scops-Owls, and sometimes even White-browed Owl. By mid-day, we arrive at Isalo, whose sandstone massifs and lush riparian forests rank among the most striking of Malagasy landscapes. When the day begins to cool, we search for the ‘Benson’s’ Forest Rock-Thrush that frequents the hotel grounds. We may also search for any owls that we failed to find on day roosts earlier in the day.


Day 7: Isalo to Ranomafana

Today is a long driving day, but is not without rewards, as we stop to search for the local Madagascar Partridge, and hope to encounter the rare Reunion Harrier along the way. The grasslands of the central plateau are all that separates us from the beckoning eastern rainforests, which we reach this evening at Ranomafana.


Days 8-10: Ranomafana

This is Madagascar’s premier mid-altitude rainforest reserve. We’ll search for a variety of endemics like Brown Mesite, Henst’s Goshawk, Pollen’s Vanga, and Yellow-browed Oxylabes. Higher up we bird Vohiparara, where we look for the highly-localized Yellow-bellied Sunbird Asity. The ridge is also home to the well-named Cryptic Warbler which remained undiscovered until the 1990s! Wetlands in the area give us a chance of locating Meller’s Duck, Madagascar Snipe, and Gray Emutail. Twelve species of lemur, Madagascar’s weird and enchanting primates, are found at Ranomafana, and one night we’ll have the unforgettable experience of Brown Mouse-Lemurs coming to within inches of our faces.


Day 11: Ranomafana to Antsirabe

After a final morning here we drive to Antsirabe for the night. This highland town is in Madagascar’s agricultural heartland, and retains a strong colonial feel from the days of French rule. We usually enjoy an excellent dinner here due to the bounty of fresh, high-quality local produce.Day


12: Antsirabe to Perinet Reserve

We continue on to Perinet, crossing the Horombe Plateau, where roadside markets display a variety of handicrafts, fruit, and meat. We sometimes see Madagascar Pratincole en route along the Mangoro River.


Days 13-16: Mantadia NP and Perinet Reserve

These two areas offer the best chance to see some of the country’s finest rainforest birds. Mantadia is the best ground-roller reserve in Madagascar, and we might see Pitta-like, Rufous-headed, Short-legged, and Scaly Ground-Rollers here. We’ll also search for easier quarry such as Madagascar Flufftail, Madagascar Blue-Pigeon, Madagascar Pygmy-Kingfisher, and