Madagascar Oct 31—Nov 19, 2010
Posted by David Bishop
This was VENT's third comprehensive tour of Madagascar, "The Eighth Continent," and what a fabulous trip it was. We enjoyed some memorable encounters with the Madagascan wildlife, including the most astonishing experience with not one, not two, but three fossas at Ranomafana! This was a mammal I had only dreamt of ever seeing. Just as in previous years, we enjoyed: sensational views of all five of the world's ground-roller species; several displaying and very vocal cuckoo-rollers; a clean sweep of the couas; superb views of two species of mesites; all of the vangas except one, which was heard only; 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.
Fossa, Madagascar— Photo: K. David Bishop
This was my fourth tour to Madagascar since the early 1980s, and I can hardly believe the hugely positive changes that have taken place during those years—changes that 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. 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 Madagascar, you really must do so. I 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, 32 mammals, 38 reptiles, and several species of frogs. Some of the highlights included:
• Three fossas courting in the canopy of the forest at Ranomafana;
• 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 lemur including fine studies of black-and-white and red-bellied lemurs, the incomparable indri, and gorgeous Coquerel's sifakas;
• A spectacular mixed species flock on our first morning at Vohiparara including Pollen's Vanga—quite simply, WOW!
• Eleven species of chameleons, many of them multiple times;
• Fabulous close encounters with the very rare and endangered Bernier's Teal;
And last, but most certainly NOT least:
• Four species of endearing tenrecs, 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 the tour such a success. And thanks to the delightfully friendly people of Madagascar who made our time in their country so enjoyable.