Jump to content
janzin

Fabulous, Frustrating Madagascar

Recommended Posts

janzin

This report has been difficult to start due to a few reasons. First of all, the very recent and comprehensive report by @Atdahl covered more areas than we visited, and saw many things we didn't. Also, our trip was very different than most reported on here, because we went with an organized group birding tour. So much of it might not apply to the usual independent traveler here.

However, I do have some different perspectives and hopefully some useful information, and lots of folks kindly asked me to post my report, so I will proceed. For most locations, I won't do a day-by-day recounting but will just summarize the highlights (and lowlights), although a few special days I may recount more in full.

 

We've been wanting to visit Madagascar for quite awhile, but I always felt it was too complicated to go independently, or at least more complicated than I wanted to deal with. I of course had heard about all the logistical issues with transport and I really didn't want to have to deal with them on our own. Also to be honest I was a bit nervous about traveling there and wanted a very experienced guide and back-end company who could handle potential problems. Finally, as fairly serious birders we wanted to be sure to get a guide/company who would really know their birds and not just a general naturalist guide.

 

We chose to go with Rockjumper Birding, based in South Africa, because we had had a great trip with them to Cuba (another place we didn't want to do independently) and because of all the birding tour groups, they had the most experience in Madagascar, leading 6-8 trips there per year, rather than the one or two of most companies.  The guide we had, David H, was one of their most senior and had done Madagascar at least 10 or 11 times, so we felt we were in good hands. Also, they maxed the trip at 8 participants...other companies usually had more, and they had a shorter "Highlights" trip which was only 14 days...most other companies were 18-21 days. And the price was very reasonable!

 

I'll cut right to the chase before continuing with the actual report. Similarly to @Atdahl, we returned with some sense of disappointment and frustration...but not for entirely the same reasons. Our main issues involved being with a group tour.  Although there were definitely some benefits, we returned vowing up and down that we will never, ever join a group tour again...we will only travel with a private guide from now on, or if in a group, one that we put together ourselves with like-minded friends.

 

Not to say we didn't have some great experiences...

ring_tailed_lemur_JZ8_3670a.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
janzin

A word about the group and the guide. We actually didn't have any issues with the 8 folks in the group. All were nice people, personable, no one obnoxious, no one caused trouble ;) All were Americans with varying levels of birding ability...but three were very serious listers/twitchers. And unfortunately, our guide really catered to those three twitchers while often--literally--leaving the rest of us behind in the dust. Or in the mud, as it were. The guide was very "type A" and intent on finding the endemics, get the bird, run run run to the next. The trip was advertised as being "moderately paced" but we found it nothing of the sort. We physically couldn't keep up with the pace, and once when I said to the guide, why are you running, he said "I'm not running, this is a moderate pace" which wasn't helpful. Because of this we really felt like we missed a lot, especially the reptiles and plants.

 

Of course, they would stop for lemurs and we did stop when there was an obvious chameleon, etc, but they didn't do much active searching for them. One of our major disappointments was never seeing a leaf-tailed gecko...especially after seeing how many @Atdahl saw. Our group just didn't spend much time actively searching them out (except on night walks...more details later.)

 

We were always accompanied by a local guide, Guy, who was excellent and probably saved our lives (not kidding!) a few times. He always kept an eye on us, helping us on the trails, etc. when David was far, far ahead. We can't speak highly enough of him. In most places we were accompanied by park guides as well, and they were often the ones who stopped for the chameleons etc.

 

It didn't help that because of Air Madagascar (who's domestic wing is now called Tsardia), we lost several half-days, days that were supposed to have at least a 1/2 day in the field ended up being fully travel days due to cancelled/late flights. I'll get into that later.

 

The delays started before we even started out, as on our arrival, we were informed that our original itinerary had to be changed due to there no longer being a direct flight between two of our destinations.

 

Here was our original itinerary--followed by the itinerary we ended up with. More or less ;)

 

itinerary.JPG.a84fdc61e6a05647ab13d6e9960216c4.JPG

 

The important thing to note is that originally we had two nights in Tulear, and three internal flights. But, as we learned on arrival, the direct flight from Tulear to Fort Dauphin was no more. Now we had to lose a night in Tulear, return to Tana, spend another night in Tana, before heading to Fort Dauphin. Three flights became four. Here's a map of our route

 

Blue=original route

Green=revised route

Red=changes

 1421371004_actualmadroute.jpg.dbeb55d118927bf65498ccd5c5b74dd3.jpg

 

Thankfully, all of these changes were handled expertly and we didn't have to think about any of it. This also extended to all our later delays and check-ins at the airports, hotels, etc. We never had to even talk to an agent at the airport, except security. So this was definitely a plus and Rockjumper handled everything without fuss.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
janzin

We booked an additional pre-trip night in Tana so as to be sure not to miss anything on the first day. Turned out, everyone else did as well (some of our party arrived two days before.) We traveled Delta/Air France via Paris, and two others from the trip were on our same flights. (It turned out these two gentlemen, John and Jerry, were two of the very serious twitchers, but they were the folks we got along best with on the trip.)  One of them worked in forestry, and was very into plants which was very good for my spouse, as he's also very into plants, especially orchids. We arrived tired, but without incident, around midnight or so and checked into the very pleasant Relais de Plateaux Hotel.
 

Our first outing with the group was to be post lunch on our first day, so we had a leisurely morning to rest. There were lots of birds around the grounds so we entertained ourselves with some photography. (Since we were back at this same hotel four times(!) I am going to aggregate all the birds I photographed there into this one post.
 

Some birds around the Relais des Plateaux:
 

African Stonechats were nesting on the premises.  Although some split these into a separate species from those in Africa, our preferred listing authority, AOU/Clements, does not.

 

african_stonechat_JZ8_3269a%5B1%5D.jpg

 

Female African Stonechat

african_stonechat_JZ8_3264a%5B1%5D.jpg

 

Endemic Madagascar Bulbul

 

madagascar_bulbul_JZ5_7817a%5B1%5D.jpg

 

Couldn't get enough of the Red Fodys

 

red_fody_JZ8_3320a.jpg

Female Red Fody

red_fody_JZ8_3299a.jpg

red_fody_JZ8_3352a.jpg

 

red_fody_JZ8_3356a.jpg

 

Other birds seen around the hotel were Madagascar Wagtails (but I have better photos from elsewhere), Madagascar Bee-eater (too distant for photos) and every night we heard Madagascar Nightjar, but never did see it ourselves there (others did.)

 

The hotel itself was very comfortable and we found the food excellent.  

 

IMG_6306.jpg.ece7f3ae4638ba73ce60249fd0e09cac.jpg

 

IMG_6308.jpg.f60eb114fd6f4d6152db6f4935382c2b.jpg

 

We had a delicious lunch sitting by the pool. I had a tuna burger (and here I felt safe enough to eat salad, but no where else.) And they had fantastic fries. We found a lot of French influence in the food...so excellent "French fries" and breads everywhere. And almost every place we went had chocolate mousse for dessert!

 

IMG_6309.jpg.a3140f29471a09c609e5e45b210a0460.jpg
 

The restaurant had this amazing chocolate tasting platter for dessert and on many of the nights they ran out of it because just about every one in our group ordered it--multiple times!

IMG_6312.jpg.d343d7e1a9c173455b331f7d772f779d.jpg

 

 

BTW, although we were very careful not to eat raw veggies or salad (other than here), we ate plenty of (peelable) fruit and juices, with no ill effects. Great paypaya, mango, melon, etc. Neither my spouse nor I got ill at all on the trip. A few of our group did get some stomach upsets but we were fortunate, I guess. It may have helped that we were taking Doxycycline as our anti-malarial, which, as an antibiotic, may protect against some of the bugs.

Edited by janzin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TonyQ

I am delighted you are doing the trip report!

Some fantastic bird photos to start us off 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Galago

Interesting about the guide. I've heard this about some of the specialist birding companies based in the UK and avoided them for that reason because, while I'm a keen bird watcher, I'm not a twitcher and rushing from one tick to another just ain't my cuppa tea. And, anyway, a good guide ensures that everyone has a chance to see the bird in question and doesn't go charging off. Really not impressed by that. It must've been so frustrating, especially when you wanted to see all sorts of critters as well as birds. On the upside, aren't the Mad Fodys just fabulous - that blob of brilliant scarlet zooming around!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
janzin
9 minutes ago, Galago said:

Interesting about the guide. I've heard this about some of the specialist birding companies based in the UK and avoided them for that reason because, while I'm a keen bird watcher, I'm not a twitcher and rushing from one tick to another just ain't my cuppa tea. And, anyway, a good guide ensures that everyone has a chance to see the bird in question and doesn't go charging off. Really not impressed by that. It must've been so frustrating, especially when you wanted to see all sorts of critters as well as birds. On the upside, aren't the Mad Fodys just fabulous - that blob of brilliant scarlet zooming around!

 

I don't want to imply that he didn't try to get everyone on the bird--he did. Well, most of the time ;) But it was rush, rush, on to the next. Its just that often we were not in a position to even get to the bird (more on that later too.) And there's no doubt he was an excellent birder...and in fact he was a nice guy, we liked him generally. He just wasn't the right guide for us. 

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
janzin

Our first official outing was to be to a lake within the city of Antananarivo (Tana), called Parc Tsarasaotra, or sometimes just Lac Alarobia, which is the name of the lake inside this small park. The park is right in the center of the city and you'd think it couldn't possibly have much wildlife--but you'd be very wrong! Since 2005, this park has been declared a Ramsar site (a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention), and is the only privately owned Ramsar site in the world.

 

Our Rockjumper guide was actually going to meet us at the park, because he was just arriving on a flight from South Africa and coming to us straight from the airport. So we started out with Guy and another local guide.

 

Traffic in Tana was as we'd heard...crazy!

 

IMG_6372.jpg.f298a3ab09bf9b984db54300f5a9143d.jpg

 

IMG_6373.jpg.a7976f5bb03e0e135b99bf7243c3ef1f.jpg

 

We parked outside the park and entered this surprising oasis.

 

IMG_6374.jpg.aff76f67d5e3d4cf05c7e2a234b5eebe.jpg

 

There is basically one trail that circles around 3/4 of the lake...you can't go all the way around, although it shows that in the photo above; there's a horse corral which you can't pass through.

 

lac_alarobia_FJ301228a.jpg

 

Look at all those birds!!

 

Most of the birding tours visit this park because it is home to several endemic species, and the best place to find some of them, including the very rare Meller's Duck. We did see this duck, in fact several of them, but only with scope views, so no photos. (Our guide of course had a spotting scope.) It also hold the endangered Madagascar Pond Heron; again, seen well in the scope but no decent photos as they were on the island in the middle of the lake.

 

lac_alarobia_FJ301393a.jpg

 

 lac_alarobia_FJ301381a.jpg

 

We actually visited this park twice (once unplanned--more on that later!) so again, I've combined the photos from both visits.

 common_moorhen_JZ8_2246a.jpg

 

white_faced_whistling_duck_JZ5_7836a.jpg

 

Some birds were familiar!

 

black_crowned_night_heron_JZ5_7847a.jpg

 

cattle_egret_JZ5_7850b.jpg

 

red_billed_teal_JZ5_7989a.jpg

 

white_faced_whistling_duck_JZ5_7880a.jpg

 

I just love how Whistling Ducks line up in a row :)

 

white_faced_whistling_duck_JZ5_7886a.jpg

 

Some were endemic, like this Madagascar or Malagasy Kingfisher (I've noticed that some sources seem to use Madagascar, and some Malagasy, for many of the birds.)

 

malagasy_kingfisher_JZ5_8027a.jpg

 

This was a great place for the Kingfisher as you could get fairly close, and they seemed used to people.

 

malagasy_kingfisher_JZ5_8035a.jpg

 

Got a fish!

 

malagasy_kingfisher_JZ5_8088a.jpg

 

We heard and saw the Madagascar Bush Warbler and Swamp Warbler, but I only got a shot of the Swamp.

 

madagascar_swamp_warbler_JZ5_7990a.jpg

 

Not quite endemic, as it is found also on neighboring islands, but a regional endemic.

 

white_throated_wood_rail_JZ5_7978a.jpg.dffafbc573691acc60d23ac3ea01c572.jpg

 

And, some chameleons! Our only Oustalet's of the trip. These were actually seen the 2nd time we visited.

 

oustalets_chameleon_JZ8_2217a.jpg

 

oustalets_chameleon_JZ8_2142a.jpg

 

There were many butterflies and dragonflies too, but very difficult to photograph...they just wouldn't sit still, perhaps because it was late afternoon and quite warm.

I believe this is the Royal Blue Pansy.

 

JZ5_7893.jpg.81bc58d60db8d048a872829af0e36218.jpg

 

Finally...a horrific site for an arachnophobe,  a nest of spiders. We saw a few of these on the trip, at least this time we didn't have to walk under it, but only past it :o

JZ5_7894.jpg.fe89dcc2653e8424cea71d38147a9235.jpg

 

All in all a good first afternoon, at this point we hadn't yet experienced any of the issues we had later.

Tomorrow, we head off by road for five nights in Andisabe/Mantadia.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by janzin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
mapumbo

Happy that you are starting your TR @janzin.   I have been second guessing whether we want to attempt a trip there.  It is a few down on the list now for sure.  Still lots of neat things to see there.  Maybe when you finish your report we will reevaluate.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
janzin

@mapumbo we are not at all sorry that we went; only that we did it in the way we did. We actually loved Madagascar as a destination and would love to go back someday to see the things we missed and do it at a slower pace. Although, with so many other places we want to go, its probably unlikely we'll get back.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Treepol

@janzin I'm so pleased that you have decided to do a report of your group tour to Madagascar as I am thinking bout a Field Guides itinerary sometime.  All perspectives are useful when thinking of future travel options.

 

The Red Fody is magical, how amazing that is was plentiful in the hotel grounds. Lac Alarobia looks to be teeming with birds.

 

What % of the birds you saw in Madagascar would you have already seen in Africa?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
janzin
2 hours ago, Treepol said:

 

 

What % of the birds you saw in Madagascar would you have already seen in Africa?

 

Actually very few.

@Treepol I would say about 2/3 of what we saw were new. We had a total of 137 birds, and 95 were lifers, but most of the non-lifers were ducks, herons, shorebirds. Almost all of the land birds were endemic or near-endemic (found on neighboring islands such as Cormoros.)

 

At the end of the report I will provide a list.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kittykat23uk

Great start! I wish I had known about that lake, although I doubt I would have had time to visit. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Zubbie15

Glad your started this report @janzin, some lovely photos, as always, to start. It's unfortunate about the guide, I imagine you had tons where you would have liked to stay longer to get photos but had to move on? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
janzin
2 hours ago, Zubbie15 said:

Glad your started this report @janzin, some lovely photos, as always, to start. It's unfortunate about the guide, I imagine you had tons where you would have liked to stay longer to get photos but had to move on? 

 

Thanks @Zubbie15, indeed, that was another of our issues. Not only that, but out of the 8 of us (9 including guide) 5 had long-lens cameras so there was lots of jockeying for the best position. Hubby and I usually lost out because we were trailing behind, so by the time we got up to the bird we didn't get a good spot for photos. And then there was the one woman who insisted on shooting videos with her cell phone and was always in the way.

 

Photography conflicts were definitely one of the more "Frustrating" aspects as noted in my report title!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
janzin

The next morning, after an early breakfast, we headed out to Andisabe/Mantadia. The drive was to take about five hours, and the plan was to arrive at our lodging in time for lunch.  Because we would need 4-wheel drive vehicles once we were in the reserves, we drove in a convoy of three SUV-type cars. I don't remember what they all were, but they seemed in good shape and were comfortable enough. 

 

I attempted to take some photos out of the vehicle as we drove, with either my phone or my Fuji XT-30 which I was using for scenery; here are some of the landscape outside of Tana.

 

Brick-making is a big industry in the surrounding fields, along of course with rice.

 

brickworks_FJ301400a.jpg

 

A typical "village" on the outskirts of Tana.

 

tana_outskirts_FJ301223a.jpg

 

tana_outskirts_FJ301225a.jpg

 

Rice is the main crop of the country, as well as the primary stable food. So rice paddies were ubiquitous.

 

rice_paddies_near_tana_FJ301224a.jpg

 

We did make a couple of short stops along the way to look at birds. At this stop, we found the photogenic Bob Marley Cafe (or Epi-bar, whatever that is!) but the main point of interest were dozens of swirling swifts overhead, including Malagasy Spinetail, African Palm Swift, and Madagascar Swift. They were quite high up, so no photos.

 

marley_bar_FJ301233a.jpg

 

marley_bar_FJ301239a.jpg

 

We were driving parallel to the river and many people were working (notice the brick works again) and washing.

 

river_workers_FJ301238a.jpg

 

We also made a pit stop at a gas station which had a very extensive shop, similar to our 7-11's or WaWa here in the USA, with a fairly extensive selection of snacks and sundries, so most of us stocked up on cookies and chocolate (to supplement the granola bars we'd brought along.) Some folks picked up extra toothpaste etc...it was really a well-stocked shop! Unfortunately, we discovered that Diet Coke or Coke Zero or similar is simply unavailable in Madagascar, at least we never found it anywhere, even in the Relais de Plateaux. Quelle tragédie! :angry:

 

The less said about the "bathrooms," the better :o

 

We arrived at our lodging, Feon'ny Ala, in time for lunch. As usual, I forgot/neglected to take any photos of the lodge itself, but it was actually quite nice. (Since I have no photo, here's a link to their site, only in French. https://www.feonnyala-hotel.com/ ) You can see on their opening page the orieintation of the chalets; it is best to be in the first row overlooking the forest (which we all were.) The 2nd row wouldn't have as good a view. Rustic but comfortable chalets which overlooked the forest. Lemurs and chameleons on the grounds. Full time electricity and amazingly tons of hot water--in fact they warn you that it is scalding, which it was! It is Chinese-owned, and the restaurant menu reflected that, with a wide range of dishes many of which had a Chinese-influence (lots of noodle dishes, soups, etc; but also plenty of western-style dishes including a very good chicken with vanilla sauce, an excellent grilled pork chop, and a spaghetti Bolognese (made with zebu, of course) which was quite popular with our group. Since we were there for five dinners we appreciated the wide menu variety. And of course...chocolate mousse for dessert!

 

One thing I learned fairly early in the trip was NOT to order zebu steak, as it was invariably tough and overdone.

 

The routine here, as well as with some other lodges, was to select your dinner when you returned from your afternoon activity, then go get your shower, rest, whatever...in this way the groups' dinner would be ready as soon as you got to the dining room. This was a very efficient system as there was no waiting around when hungry and tired and seated at the table. It was nice to be able to select whatever we wanted and as many courses as we wanted.

 

Here are a couple of photos which were taken from the balcony of our room (not actually on our arrival day.)

 

This Brown Lemur and her baby were scavenging the trees right below our room for fruit.

 

brown_lemur_JZ8_0965av.jpg

 

One afternoon, when we had retreated for awhile to our room due to rain, several Blue Vangas appeared in the tree across from our balcony. This was actually the best view we had of them, even though it was raining at the time.

 

blue_vanga_JZ8_1293a.jpg

 

One of our group, who wasn't feeling well one day, stayed back at her room and told us that she had a whole troop of Indri come by! So there is lots of wildlife right around the resort.

 

Anyway, after settling in and getting lunch (of which I have no memory) we headed out for our first trip into the park. A word about the nomenclature of the park. The Andasibe-Mantadia National Park has two major sections, but the Andisabe section is also known as  Reserve d'Indri  Analamazaotra . To make matters more confusing, the old name for  Analamazaotra  is Perinet, which is still also used. I will use that one for this section as its easier to spell :)

Edited by janzin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
xelas

Photography is, as expected, outstanding! The total # of birds decent, as compared to some other birding locations, however with the high percentage of endemics, this trip must have increased your lifers count. Birders are tough folks, specially those with only eyes and ears (and binoculars and scopes).

A small group of like-minded persons is the only group I will ever be part of. Luckily there are many such persons on Safaritalk :).

Edited by xelas

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TonyQ

As expected your photos are stunning. What an amazing bird the Blue Vanga is, really beautiful.

Your itinerary is similar (not identical) to the one we did around 20 years ago so I will follow with great interest.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
michael-ibk

Beautiful photos Janet, the Vanga is stunning! Sorry to hear you wear not entirely happy with the travel mode you chose for this one, hopefully the next ones will be more to your liking. ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
janzin
18 minutes ago, michael-ibk said:

Beautiful photos Janet, the Vanga is stunning! Sorry to hear you wear not entirely happy with the travel mode you chose for this one, hopefully the next ones will be more to your liking. ;)

 

Thanks Michael, not at all worried about the next few :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
janzin

Our hotel was only about 10 minutes up the road from the entrance to Analamazoatra Reserve, aka Perinet so this was to be our first venture into the forest.

 

No idea why they put a Ring-tailed Lemur on the sign, because they are not found here :lol:

 

IMG_6314.jpg.e6e6917c1a0b4a0b27da2f5b1ef5dfb9.jpg

 

I also have no idea which trails we took...we just followed the guides!

 

IMG_6317.jpg.a4e22d992e2c71ec6eed3b845739c420.jpg

 


We entered through a building which housed some exhibits, but there was no time for stopping...and I don't think anyone really wanted to (it looked rather dusty and sparse.)

 

The trails here were for the most part well-maintained, some with paving stones, a few steeper but usually with steps.  It had rained extensively in prior days so trails were a bit slippery and some muddy but not too bad. We were very fortunate that the rain had stopped (at least for now!)

 

In addition to David and Guy, here of course we had to have a local park guide. (It seemed that in all the parks, Guy knew everyone and hand-picked the guides that he'd worked with before.)

 

Within minutes of entering we saw our first lemur, an Eastern Grey Bamboo Lemur.

 

 grey_bamboo_lemur_JZ8_0349b.jpg

 

Of course, as everywhere, David had his "target birds." We hadn't been walking too long before the local guide brought us to the first one...an endemic Rainforest (or Madagascar) Scops Owl on a day roost. Of course the guides knew more or less the exact area he'd be. Although not necessarily the exact tree, they looked around a bit before finding him. He didn't really want to open his eyes.

 

rainforest_scops_owl_JZ8_0457a.jpg

 

Next up, the guide guided us straight to an endemic Collared Nightjar, nesting on the ground.

 collared_nightjar_JZ8_0400a.jpg

 

BTW, for all bird and lemur photos I was using the Nikon D850 +200-500 VR lens.  It's photos like this where the Nikon 200-500 VR really shines...the vibration reduction is just so good. Both of these photos were at 1/20th of a second, handheld.

 

I'm sure we'd never have seen either of these birds on our own.

 

There were other birds of course, but here I began to realize just how difficult photography would be on this trip. Narrow trails, dark rainforest, and five other photographers made photography frustrating.

 

We came across this cocoon which the guide told us was the cocoon of the Comet Moth...a really beautiful, large moth of the rainforest with a very long "tail." However, upon coming home I looked up their cocoon and it looks nothing like this, so I'm honestly not sure what was inside it!

 cocoon_JZ8_0392a.jpg

 

We came upon some Diademed Sifaka, not in a great position for photos. As it turned out, while we did see some again, this was the only photo opportunity I'd have, so I'm including these not-so-stellar shots here.

 

diademed_sifaka_JZ8_0367a.jpg.84011a3bda757b31de0383bf3792f79b.jpg

 

 diademed_sifaka_JZ8_0391a.jpg.3645b43aa59056f86eb22ba3a3a7d18d.jpg

 

Of course, this park is the major reserve for the Indri--the largest and certainly the most vocal of the lemurs. There are several troops that call this reserve home. On this occasion, we heard them in the distance, but did not see them. However, it was certainly not to be our only opportunity, so we weren't worried.

 

As we exited the park, around the parking area we spotted this endemic Crested Drongo.

 crested_drongo_JZ8_0504a.jpg

 

Finally, to end the day here's a House Gecko, taken outside our room, they were common everywhere. 

 

gecko_FJ301274b.jpg

 

BTW, I know that Atdahl has found some of the parks crowded, but we didn't have that experience here at all. We were practically the only ones on the trail, every so often we'd meet up with a couple of folks and their guide, but certainly not a lot of people.

 

Since we'd had a long day starting out in Tana, there was no night walk tonight, but there would be a few to come. Tomorrow, a very early start to head out to the Mantadia section of the park.

 

Edited by janzin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Atdahl

Awesome @janzin, I am glad you started a report.  It will be very interesting to compare experiences. Already, you have had much better food and restaurant service than we did.  And, of course, your photos are amazing.

 

We did find VOIMMA and the "Perinet" parks in Andasibe crowded but we were also there over a weekend so I bet that had something to do with it.  The only other crowded park for us was the main section of Ranomafana.

 

Looking forward to reading more.

 

Alan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
AKR1

Janet

 

Superb images as always. Sorry the trip did not meet expectations but hey, based on the pictures so far and your descriptions, it appears you did fine despite the logistical issues. As is often said in Africa sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and go with the flow. 

What is not cool and bordering on unacceptable is the guide moving too quickly and not catering to the reasonable requirements of ALL paying members of the group. Often people in group settings have issues with other group members having divergent interests. But for a professional guide not to properly look after every member by catering to just a few is bad. Moving too fast for all group members to keep up with is BS. 

Thanks for doing this report. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
janzin
1 hour ago, AKR1 said:

But for a professional guide not to properly look after every member by catering to just a few is bad. Moving too fast for all group members to keep up with is BS. 

 

Yep, that's how we felt.  And believe me we wrote Rockjumper and made our feelings known, on our return.

 

It was actually the next day that this issue first came to the forefront...

Edited by janzin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
janzin

The next morning we had a very early breakfast, I think around 5 a.m., which was served to us at the hotels outdoor restaurant since the indoor area wasn't yet open. We then headed out for an all-day trip to the Mantadia section of the park, taking a packed lunch. The distance isn't far, but we were told it would take at least 1-1/2 hours due to the road conditions.

IMG_6349.jpg.34c344a5a875c72803af1717e51ef56b.jpg

 

The road is paved for a bit but once you get to the area of Vakona lodge (which we passed...)  it becomes dirt...or in this case, since it had rained very recently, mud. Lots of mud. And lots of ruts.

 

 IMG_6350.jpg.38d93a3936c12df18c7d7904a75634d5.jpg

Eventually we got to a place in the road where we stopped to start our hike into the forest. Our goal this morning was several of the ground-roller species, and this was a group I most wanted to see, especially Pitta-like Ground-roller.

 

The trails of course were muddy, narrow, and thick with roots. Steep in some places. Fairly treacherous but of course David was on a fast pace, with the three "twitchers" close behind. Luckily Guy stuck with the rear to help the stragglers. We also had a couple of local guides with us. (These photos are not all from this day but from the same area.)

 

 IMG_6319.jpg.b2e9141b67e6226369fb3c7606be0772.jpg

 

Typical muddy trail (not the steepest parts...couldn't really stop for a photo on those sections!)

 

IMG_6355.jpg.0fbd8114993054e955fa65dd367a0d9a.jpg

 

We did stop for some interesting fauna. Our first Giraffe-necked Weevil!

This is the female, which doesn't have such a long neck.

 giraffe_necked_weevil_FJ301286a.jpg

 

Here's the name-saked long-necked male.

 giraffe_necked_weevil_FJ301299b.jpg

 

There were also some really cool caterpillers. Love the dewdrops on this one.

 

caterpiller_FJ301276a.jpg

 

This group formed a very long chain...I'm not sure of the rationale...perhaps a safety measure, safety in numbers.

 caterpiller_chain_FJ301303a.jpg

 

The chain was really long!

IMG_6324.jpg.2acba7e45cd9918b11f96daa1d839bbc.jpg

 

We saw some birds, but photography was really difficult in the forest. Here are just a couple I managed, not great but I'm including them because they are both endemic and interesting birds.

 

crossleys_vanga_JZ8_0532a.jpg.76c31f8389431fa98343c9d077c2af34.jpg

 

white_throated_oxylabes_JZ8_0564a.jpg.5679758b20e3cc23d718130d1c942e9d.jpg

 

In addition to these we had good looks at Madagascar Cuckoo-shrike, Blue Coua, and several others for which I only have record photos.

 

Suddenly, David heard the call of the Pitta-like Ground Roller. And we're off! The already fast pace became almost a run. We struggled to keep up without slipping in the mud or tripping over roots...(and fall we both did, numerous times on this trip.) We shortly reached a river, and David and the "twitchers" were already there.  The river was running fast, not too deep but definitely fast due to the recent rains. And it was muddy...not a rocky river. Not only that, the embankment in this spot was fairly steep. There was no bridge nor obvious crossing and we could see that the local guides were quickly throwing narrow logs across, pieces of wood, whatever they could find and we were expected to cross this slippery path!

 

David was already hopping across when I put my foot down and said to Guy, I am NOT going across that with my camera (I could just see slipping on only the third full day of the trip and dunking my gear in the river.) Also realizing that we'd have to return across this river to get back! Alan was torn, but he said he'd try and he handed me his camera to hold. The other not-to-serious birding couple were behind us and they hesitated too, but decided to try.

 

Well Alan immediately slipped in the mud going down the embankment and that was enough for him. He came back up and said he wasn't going either. The other two, in the end, went down and I guess managed to get across. Meantime while all this was going on David was already on the other side and we called across to say "we're not coming" and basically, instead of coming back to maybe try to help us across, he just said "If you don't come you'll miss the bird" and then I said, "well then we'll miss it."  David: "okay Guy will take you back to bird the road." :angry:

 

I was pretty disappointed to miss one of the best birds of the trip, but I wasn't going to risk my neck and my camera. In hindsight if it had all happened at a slower pace, if David and the local guides had waited instead of proceeding at a frenzy, we might have tried to get across.  To add insult to injury, on the other side of the river the group found not only the Pitta-like Ground Roller, but two other targets as well--the Scaly-breasted Ground Roller and the Short-legged Ground Roller. And, the Pygmy Kingfisher! All birds I really wanted to see.  :(:angry:

 

Guy led us back to the road and we birded quite a long distance with him, we heard more calls of the Pitta-like Ground-Roller, but couldn't locate it. In fact we saw just about nothing along the road. The others came back after almost an hour and needless to say we were pretty bummed, especially when we heard about all that they saw. Granted, in the end it was our choice not to go and now I sort of kick myself about it but we probably made the right decision. Jerry (one of the friendly twitcher guys) told me that it was a lot of steep bush-wacking on the other side, and he actually fell himself, as did others. Although they crossed back over the river at a slightly easier spot.

 

Sigh, well we still had the rest of the day--it wasn't even lunchtime yet--and David said there would be more chances to find the Ground-rollers again. (To cut the suspense, no, they weren't seen again, at least not by us.) But this is where we started to think that, hmmm, maybe coming with a birding group was a mistake :(

 

We drove a bit further up the road to a different trail-head, which David said should be easier.

 

Edited by janzin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kittykat23uk

Oh what a shame @janzin 😢 I would have been pretty gripped off by those sightings too. That blue vanga is stunning, it's a bird I didn't see well on my trip. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy