Madagascar Birding Tours
Birding Madagascar, our world’s fourth-largest island, is quite simply, unique. Six bird families and five mammal families (including the lemurs) are endemic to this massive island, and half the world’s chameleons, weird and wonderful endemic plant families, and tons of other wildlife can be found here. An astonishing 120 bird species are endemic (including such exotic groups as vangas, ground rollers, cuckoo roller, couas, asities, and mesites). Lemurs vie for attention, from the tiny mouse lemurs to the marvelous sifakas and the amazing indri with its calls that resound through the forest. Our tours visit a range of habitats: grasslands, dry deciduous woodland, the bizarre spiny forest with its odd octopus trees (Didiera madagascariensis) and elephant’s foot trees (Pachypodium rosulatum), lush eastern rainforest, as well as lagoons and mudflats.
The birds that we’ll look for include the roadrunner-like Long-tailed Ground Roller and the stunning Pitta-like, Scaly, and Rufous-headed Ground Rollers, as well as the highly-prized Subdesert Mesite, the unforgettable Giant Coua, the astounding Velvet Asity, and Madagascan Ibis, to name just a handful. We invite you to join us on a special birding and wildlife tour to experience the fauna and flora of this amazing, vast island! We’re sure to also do night walks for the nocturnal lemurs, birds, Giraffe-necked Weevil and other non-diurnal wonders.
Some of the many sites we visit during our Madagascar bird watching trips are Perinet Special Reserve and the wider Andasibe-Mantadia National Park (where Indri and Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur often steal the show, even though this is also a great place to see four of the ground rollers, Nuthatch Vanga, Blue Vanga, Madagascan Flufftail and other beautiful birds), Nosy Ve for its Crab-plovers, tropicbirds and Littoral Rock Thrush, Ranomafana National Park, Lake Aloatra, Ankarafantsika and Berenty Reserve, among many other superb sites.
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The Masoala Peninsula extension, to our main “best of” Madagascar bird tour, can generate the unbelievable Helmet Vanga, Brown Mesite, and Short-legged Ground Roller, as well as the largest, and most bizarre, nocturnal lemur, the Aye-aye, and a stack more (Red Ruffed Lemur is common in this area). Tomato Frog, Lowland Streaked Tenrec and many other weird and wonderful creatures can also be seen.
The northwestern extension is also very rewarding. Ankarafantsika National Park has an impressive bird list of 129 species, more than half of them endemic to Madagascar. They include Van Dam’s Vanga, Rufous Vanga, the elusive Banded Kestrel, and the more easily observed but Critically Endangered Madagascan Fish Eagle, which can often be seen at Ravelobe Lake. The Endangered Humblot’s Heron can also be seen at Lake Ravelobe. The Betsiboka Delta is another site we visit in northwestern Madagascar, and this can add some rarer Madagascan endemics to our list, e.g. Malagasy Sacred (White) Ibis and Bernier’s (Madagascar) Teal.
Then, our Berenty Reserve tour extension is particularly good for some of the best-known lemurs, including Ring-tailed Lemur and the famous dancing Verreaux’s Sifakas. Berenty is also a haven for birdwatchers, like the other sites, also boasting a great many Malagasy endemics. With a little bit of luck, we usually find Madagascan Sandgrouse, Madagascan Green Pigeon, Torotoroka Scops Owl, and perhaps even Madagascan Cuckoo-Hawk here.
We also enjoy running our remote Madagascar trips to Bemanevika where we look for the Critically Endangered Madagascan Pochard, (Madagascan) Red Owl, Madagascan Serpent Eagle, Slender-billed Flufftail and other species. We are also able to find Tsingy Wood Rail, Sakalava Rail, Red-tailed Newtonia (when access to the site is deemed safe) and other species usually missed on standard Madagascan birding tours.
Madagascan Pochard was thought to be extinct until the Peregrine Fund rediscovered 26 of them on Lake Matsaborimena in 2006. The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Madagascar’s government work with the Peregrine fund in helping to conserve this bird, along with some of the other rare species mentioned above.
We highly recommend that you combine your Madagascar trip with smaller Malagasy islands such as Mauritius, the Seychelles, the Comoros and Mayotte. Madagascar is also very conveniently combined with our South African birding tours as most people get to Antananarivo (Tana) to start their Madagascar tour, via Johannesburg (although some tour participants also fly directly from France or elsewhere). The dates for our Madagascar tours also allow you to combine them with our Namibia/Okavango/Victoria Falls birding and wildlife tours.
Madagascar is one of those birding destinations where you simply cannot ignore the non-birding aspects. On our Madagascar birding tours, we have a high success rate at finding all the avian targets, while also allowing adequate time for nature photography and viewing. We definitely stop to enjoy all the lemur species, tenrecs, reptiles and a plethora of chameleons along the way.
We can also arrange bespoke tours to the Avenue of Baobabs, Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park with its spectacular rock formations, Nosy Be and other famous sites. We do arrange a lot of private and tailor-made nature and birding tours to amazing Madagascar, so please do ask.
We highly recommend that you read our timing for Madagascan birding/wildlife tours blog as certain times of the year can be challenging, so we suggest a narrow window, September through December, basically, as detailed in this blog.
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Testimonials from our Madagascar birding tours
With 153 species, 113 of them new species for me, this trip met and exceeded expectations. The effort put in by our
guides to find our target species was monumental. All our guides were knowledgeable and personable and persistent,
ensuring good views of many of the hard-to-see skulkers.
Between Dom and Fan, all the details were handled seamlessly, the two of them worked well as a team with the many
local guides that were engaged. I was not really up to the rigorous level of this trip but Fan and Dom made sure one of
the local guides were keeping an eye on me or one of them lent a hand over particularly rough terrain, for which I am
It was a great tour; unique country, Malagasy people, wildlife and scenery. Being in this unique environment with local
guides who knew and loved their home was uplifting and sobering. Masoala was an incredible start to the trip, 2 hours
on a boat to a remote and beautiful location, getting out of the boat in front of a village unchanged through time to a
path in the rainforest to the "Ecolodge Chez Arol" was surreal. To a thatched hut with minimal electricity no glass in
the windows where you became part of the forest at night was also magical.