Madagascar… the name alone conjures up images of exotic landscapes filled with wonderful and unique creatures. Madagascar is like no other place on Earth. Almost 90% of the species here are found nowhere else, giving this island nation the highest rate of endemism in the world. And the only way to see Madagascar’s plants and animals in the wild is to travel there. Similar to the Galapagos Islands, all naturalists, both amateur and professional, are drawn to Madagascar, to see for themselves what makes it so special. If visiting Madagascar has been a dream of yours, we invite you to join Wild Latitudes on this 15-day tour, to visit many of the most fascinating locations this mysterious island has to offer.
Madagascar is, literally, a world apart, and has been for over 80 million years. After breaking away from India in its final separation from Gondwana, Madagascar drifted alone in the Indian Ocean, freeing its flora and fauna to evolve on their own, to speciate into new and unique forms. This geographic isolation gave rise to the island’s massive number of endemic species, plants and animals found only there.
Today, Madagascar is the number one hotspot in the world for primates, with well over 100 species & subspecies of lemurs. And though Madagascar’s has less than 300 species of birds, 115 of these are endemic, with more unique genera than any other country in all of Africa.
It doesn’t stop there: Madagascar is also home to almost 100 species of chameleons, arguably the most interesting group of lizards on Earth. With luck, we’ll encounter several species on this tour.
Finally, there is the inviting culture and warmth of the Malagasy people, happy to share their island and their smiles with all who visit. We’ll have time to visit many villages along the way, and we’ll end the trip on the Southwestern coast of the island, in the fishing village of Ifaty, where the warm waters of the tropical Indian Ocean lap up against palm-fringed beaches of white sand… We’ll have the chance to relax a bit in the sun, reflecting on our trip before heading back home.
On arrival at Tana International Airport, the group is welcomed by their Wild Latitudes guides and our local guides. We’ll make brief introductions then travel directly to our nearby hotel for refreshments, getting everyone to their rooms for as early an evening as possible.
We’ll enjoy a delicious breakfast at the lodge after which we’ll give an overview of the tour, then head to the airport to fly to the city of Mahajanga. We will then transfer to vans and drive to our lodge near the Ankarafantsika National Park. Ankarafantsika NP has one of the largest remaining sections of dry deciduous forest in Madagascar, filled with critically endangered and endemic species.
After breakfast, we’ll spend the day exploring and birding Ankarafantsika National Park. The name “Ankarafantsika” literally means “thorny mountains,” and refers to the park’s ancient sandstone formation that has weathered in such a way as to form an unusual, spiky-like terrain. We’ll see this today, along with large Baobab Trees, wonderful relics of another time. We'll go birding in the nearby forest in search of birds like Schlegal’s Asity, White-breasted Mesite, Van Dam’s Vanga, Rufous Vanga, Chabert Vanga, Blue Vanga, White-headed Vanga, Cuckoo-Roller, as well as endemics like the Madagascar Crested Ibis.
We’ll drive back to Mahajanga. Depending on the flight schedule, after lunch we may will visit wetlands near Mahajanga where we have a good chance to find White-faced Whistling-Duck, African Pygmy-Goose, Red-billed Teal, Kittlitz’s, Three-banded Plover, Olive Bee-eater, Madagascar Lark, Madagascar Cisticola, and Madagascar Mannikin. We Fly back to Tana (Antananarivo), then shuttle to our lodge.
Today we drive eastward out of Tana to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, home to the Perinet Rainforest, where we will spend 3 nights in this exceptionally rich area. We'll begin our pursuit of rainforest birds, which include an impressive four species of ground rollers: the Rufous-headed, Scaly, Pitta-like, and the Short-legged. We'll also want to spot the Tylas Vanga, as this endemic is best found here. We may go for a night walk to see animals such as Parson’s, Short-horned, and Pale-bellied Chameleons, several species of endemic Malagasy Tree Frogs, and the Madagascar Tree Boa.
We will spend the day birding and exploring between Perinet Forest and Mantadia National Park, with our activity reflecting the rhythm of the animals’: we’ll be most active in the morning and evenings, less so during the heat of the day.
Another day spent exploring this rich area.
After an early breakfast at the hotel, we’ll enjoy one last bit of birding in Perinet or Mantadia National Park, with a special effort to spot any key species we may have missed. We’ll then load the vans and drive back to Tana, where we overnight.
We fly to Tulear on the Southwestern Coast of Madagascar, the region where we’ll be spending the last several days of our trip. After arriving, we take a 3 -hour drive to Isalo National Park. This extraordinary route features nice scenery, and the drive is well worth it, as Isalo National Park is one of Madagascar’s most popular nature destinations. Eighty-one bird species have been recorded at Isalo NP, of which 27 are endemic to Madagascar.
We drive back towards Tulear to visit Zombitse National Park hoping to see the highly localised Appert’s Tetraka, Giant Coua, Hubbard’s Sportive Lemur, and other specialties of the park. We then enjoy a picnic lunch before we drive back to Isalo NP to spend the afternoon exploring/hiking/birding.
We explore the park a bit more after breakfast, then drive back towards the coast and on to the spiny forest of Ifaty, a favorite locale to botanical enthusiasts and birdwatchers alike. We’ll head to our beach-front lodge in time to enjoy the beautiful setting. The small fishing village of Ifaty is an ideal place to relax after touring Madagascar. Its idyllic, palm-fringed, white-sand beaches and warm tropical water can soothe the most weary traveler.
After breakfast, we’ll head out for a morning expedition in the park try to find Madagascar Plover, Green Pigeon, Long-tailed Ground-Roller, Thamnornis Warbler, Lafresney’s Vanga, Archbold Newtonia, and more. We’ll return mid-day to give folks time to enjoy the beach and the village.
As this is our last full day in Ifaty, the schedule is open-ended. We will offer another birding outing for sure, or folks may wish to visit the village, walk on the beach, read a book in the sun, go snorkelling on the coral reef just offshore… this is a day to relax and enjoy as you like.
Today we fly back to Tana, and the day’s schedule depends on that of our flight’s. We hope to have time to visit the Arboretum of Antsokay, where many wonderful examples of the plant of Madagascar may be found, and we may see the Green-capped Coua and the Madagascar Buttonquail, as they often frequent the grounds.
Today we fly home, schedule dependent upon flights.
PRICE of TOUR: $6,395
START DATE: August 20, 2021
DURATION: 15 days
GROUP SIZE: Up to 14
TRIP FOCUS: Birds and Wildlife
A true lover of the natural world, Steve Robertson has been a student of nature his entire life. First, as a little boy, who caught every creature he could for the mini zoo he kept in the garage, then later as an adult, leading scientific research expeditions into some of the most remote regions of the world, searching for rare species in such places as Tasmania, Madagascar and the upper Amazon Basin. With degrees in Wildlife Biology, advanced biology & education, Steve has worked in the field of Environmental Education for over 30 years. From 1998 to 2017, he served as the Education Director for the Audubon Society of Portland, creating a number of innovative programs including International Ecotours, a program that has won hundreds of accolades from around the country. During his time with Audubon, Steve personally designed and led Ecotours to over 20 countries, spanning six continents.
Ivan Phillipsen, Co-owner of Wild Latitudes, is a passionate naturalist with a background in scientific research. He holds an M.S. in biology and a Ph.D. in zoology. Natural history is Ivan’s true passion and what he is most excited to teach to others. Although he is fascinated by just about every aspect of nature, Ivan is particularly fond of birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, plants, and geology. Everything is interconnected in nature and Ivan takes a holistic approach when teaching about the natural world.
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