Madagascar Oct 29—Nov 18, 2009
Posted by David Bishop
This was VENT's second comprehensive tour of Madagascar—The Eighth Continent—and what a fabulous trip it was. We enjoyed some wonderful encounters with the Madagascan wildlife, including (just as we did last year) all five of the world's species of ground-rollers; several very vocal cuckoo-rollers; a clean sweep of the couas; superb views of two species of mesites; 13 species of vangas; three species of sensational asities; and an absolutely mind-boggling experience with the pygmy kingfisher. What could be better! Add to this all the gorgeous lemurs, adorable tenrecs, and some wonderfully weird chameleons, geckos, and insects, and you have the makings of a very special natural history experience.
This was my third tour to Madagascar since the early 1980s, and I can't believe the hugely positive changes that have taken place during those years—and continue to take place. The improvement in the roads is generally impressive; some of the lodges at which we stay are as good as any at which I have stayed anywhere in the world; and the font of knowledge, especially among our local guides, concerning where to find birds, mammals, and reptiles, coupled with several attractive and immensely useful field guides, greatly enhances any tour to this country. And all this despite a French-inspired coup and the world recession! Undoubtedly, a VENT tour to Madagascar is one of the premier natural history experiences of our world. If you haven't visited this country, then you really must do so. I, for one, cannot wait to return!
Madagascar is truly a remarkable country with an assemblage of plants and wildlife that is nothing short of astonishing. While a report such as this tells something of what we saw and heard, it only tells part of the story and can never really convey the wonderful overall sights and sounds of Madagascar and its delightful people. Remarkably, we recorded 183 species of birds, 30 mammals, 38 reptiles, and several species of frogs. Some of the highlights included:
• Exceptional views of all five ground-rollers, including prolonged, point-blank views of a very confiding Rufous-headed Ground-Roller;
• An impressive 21 species of lemurs, including fine studies of black-and-white and red-bellied lemurs, the incomparable indri, and gorgeous Coquerel's sifakas;
• A fine sighting of the elusive Madagascar Crested Ibis at dusk at Perinet;
• A spectacular mixed species flock on our first afternoon at Perinet, including a dazzling Blue Vanga and male Velvet Asity—quite simply, WOW!!!!!!!!!
• Eleven species of chameleons, many of them multiple times;
• A surprise dawn visit to the Lavaka—a weird but magnificent, eroded bluff replete with fine views of Sooty and Peregrine falcons;
• Fabulous close encounters with the very rare and endangered Bernier's Teal;
And last, but most certainly NOT least:
• Three species of endearing tenrecs, which our wonderful guides tracked down and showed everyone, much to your leader's joy.
It is always a privilege to explore a place as exciting and brimming with fascination as Madagascar, especially in the company of such a wonderful group. To return to this spectacular island with such enthusiastic participants was sheer joy. Thank you one and all. Thanks too, to all the people in Madagascar who helped make this trip so much fun and so successful. In particular I should like to pay special tribute to Fano, my remarkable colleague and in-country co-leader extraordinaire. Thanks too, to all our drivers, assistants, local guides, park rangers, and boatmen who helped make our tour such a success, and to the delightfully friendly people of Madagascar who made our time in their country so enjoyable.