Madagascar Highlights: Nov 05—20, 2014

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Price: $8,195
Departs: Antananarivo, Madagascar
Tour Limit: 8
Operations Manager: Margaret Anderson
Download Itinerary: PDF (129.7 KB)

Route Map

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Tour Leaders

Hobcroftdion

Dion Hobcroft

Dion Hobcroft has been working for VENT since 2001. He has led many tours (more than 130) to...


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Register for this Tour

Register for this tour by phone (800/328-VENT or 512/328-5221), or by downloading a tour registration form. Signed and completed forms can be faxed, mailed, or scanned and emailed to the VENT office.

Velvet Asity

Velvet Asity— Photo: K. David Bishop

This exceptionally weird and fascinating large continental island features a unique and highly distinctive variety of endemic birds, reptiles, mammals, and plants; expect endemic bird families, lemurs, chameleons, and critically threatened habitats.

Unique is the adjective most often used to describe Madagascar. This extraordinary and notably massive island hosts an exceptionally high degree of endemism not only among its birds, but also its plants, trees, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Much of this wildlife is remarkably tame, approachable, and visible; as a consequence, this tour represents a truly superb natural history experience. Of the birds, six entire families are endemic to the Madagascar region: the mesites, ground-rollers, cuckoo-rollers, asities, Madagascar warblers, and vangas. An endemic subfamily of large cuckoos, the couas, also forms an important part of the avifauna.

October/November is the best season for seeing Madagascar’s wildlife, as breeding activity begins immediately prior to the rains, which begin in the latter part of the month. Birding here at times can be delightful, while at other times it can be a bit challenging, for the diversity is not high, the habitats are often dense, and bird populations are low (40% of the endemic species are considered endangered or at risk), but the rewards are very high.

Known colloquially as the “eighth continent,” Madagascar first began to split away from the African continent during the age of the dinosaurs and has since followed an independent evolutionary course, allowing an amazing variety of life forms to evolve from a few colonizing ancestors. Ranging from the bizarre to the sublime, this is island evolution gone wild, and there is no other destination quite like it.

Few places in the world are as threatened as the native environments of Madagascar and its nearby islands. Fortunately, international conservation agencies have come to the aid of Madagascar, and more areas are being set aside as reserves and national parks. Each year new species are discovered and described, and species previously thought extinct or nearly so are rediscovered. In addition there is a growing realization that foreign tourists are interested in the wildlife of Madagascar; as a result, the infrastructure is improving and attractive lodges are being built in some of the best birding areas. Our tour is designed to visit a wide range of Madagascar’s habitats, with enough time in each to seek out the special endemic birds, lemurs, tenrecs, chameleons, and other weird and wonderful creatures.

Verreaux's Sifaka

Verreaux’s Sifaka— Photo: K. David Bishop

The lemurs are undoubtedly the most famous of Madagascar’s wildlife. These “primitive primates” range in size from the tiny mouse lemurs (at 7 inches in length, the smallest) to the child-sized and very vocal indri. These attractive and appealing animals are found throughout Madagascar’s forests and woodlands. Of the 90+ surviving species, some are colorful, social, and diurnal, while others are drab, solitary, and nocturnal. Other larger mammals are few on the island, but include primitive insectivores like the tenrecs and several carnivorous relatives of the mongoose. Among the highly endemic reptile fauna is an incredible array of weird and colorful chameleons (over 60% of the world’s species), cryptic leaf-tailed geckos and florescent day geckos, skinks, and other lizards. The flora is surprisingly rich, including over 1,000 species of orchids and many spectacular flowers that have become popular in tropical gardens the world over. In the desert southwest we will find some of the world’s strangest plants in the midst of the peculiar Spiny Forest.

Surprisingly attractive accommodations that range from good to excellent with just one or two rustics; generally easy to moderate terrain; moderate to occasionally more challenging trail walking (including one or two optional more demanding walks); cool to hot and dry and hot and humid weather.