Madagascar Nov 01—21, 2008
Posted by David Bishop
If you haven't visited Madagascar, then you really must do so. This was my first tour there since the early 1980s, and I couldn't believe the huge, positive changes that have subsequently taken place. The improvement in the roads was generally impressive; some of the lodges at which we stayed were arguably 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. Undoubtedly, a VENT tour to Madagascar is one of the premier natural history experiences of our world.
This 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 196 species of birds, 29 mammals, 38 reptiles, and more than six 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-ruffed lemurs, the incomparable indri, and gorgeous diademed sifakas;
• After a protracted chase we all enjoyed memorable, close views of the spectacular Helmet Vanga. What a bird!
• Three sightings of the elusive Madagascar Crested Ibis, including a pair attending a nest;
• A spectacular convocation of Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asities at a favored flowering tree;
• Nine species of chameleons, many of them multiple times;
And last, but most certainly NOT least:
• An endearing lesser tenrec, which our wonderful guides at Ifaty tracked down and showed everyone, much to your leader's joy.
What a place!
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 the spectacular eighth continent with such a great group 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. I should also like to thank David Hoddinott and Glen Valentine for the opportunity to co-lead with them; what fine, friendly, and knowledgeable colleagues. Thanks, too, to all our drivers, assistants, local guides, park rangers, and boatmen who helped make our tour such a success.