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Her tour just had free time scheduled for the afternoon, so I suggested that she might want to join me for a return to the park. Carol jumped at the chance and so we all piled in to the car and headed back. She didn't have a ticket but found the guide that their group had used that morning and was able to get back in without having to pay for a second time. I was hopeful that we might see a giraffe-necked weevil or a satanic leaf-tailed gecko but neither of these was found.


However, we first sighted another Blue Coua some distance away, then a Giant Millipede and a Giant Snail up in a tree. We passed the sign indicating the territory of the bamboo lemurs and soon we were having excellent views of Golden Bamboo Lemurs again. This time they were much lower down so were much easier to appreciate. One individual was making its way along a horizontal branch, scent marking as it went along.



PA266055 Blue Coua by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



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PA266094 Golden Bamboo Lemur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA266103 Golden Bamboo Lemur (scentmarking) by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA266112 Golden Bamboo Lemur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



As we made our way along a trail, we stopped around a bend watching a bird, I don't recall what, but then Jenita asked me in hushed tones to quickly pass him my packet of biscuits. I did so, and then he ushered us forwards as our guide started tossing crumbs back down the path. As we watched a beautiful Ring-Tailed Mongoose ran up the path towards us, stopping to feast on the pieces of biscuit. The richly russet mongoose, with its long fluffy tail was very confiding and quite happily munched on the biscuits as we stood quietly and watched. After he'd had his fill of biscuits, the mongoose turned and trotted back down the track, before disappearing into the forest.





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PA266120 Ring-tailed Mongoose by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA266125 Ring-tailed Mongoose by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA266134 Ring-tailed Mongoose by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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Day 1 21st October Mini Mouse Lemurs and Siberian Hamsters The long journey was made more pleasant when I met Robin and his family who were returning to Madagascar with a substantial aid package for

As it was now late morning, we headed back to to car and began our drive back to Andasibe. Unfortunately the state of the road got the best of us and we ripped a tyre on the way back. Our driver quick

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The park closes at 4pm so with that sighting in the bag we headed back to the entrance. I joined Carol and the rest of her group for dinner, which made a nice change to eating alone, and we enjoyed a few drinks before retiring to bed.


27th October day 7 Fosa ooh! Fosa aah! Fosa run!


We had originally planned a morning visit of Ranomafana before heading to Anja, but Diamondra, advised that we should aim to get to Anja early in order to see as much as possible. I wondered about the reasoning behind this, as it meant that we wouldn't get any more birding time in at Ranomafana, and leaving at 06.15 we'd also not get to Anja until late morning in any case. But I was content to take his advice. As it happened, this plan put us in exactly the right place at the right time for an amazing sighting.


I was up at dawn as usual and so tried to spend the last hour or so birding around the lodge. I spotted Madagascar Mannikin, Madagascar Fody and Madagascar Bee-eater as well as some Greenbul or warbler type birds that I couldn't ID. I photographed a very atmospheric sunrise and then it was time to leave. I wanted to stop along the river to photograph the roaring waterfalls with my other camera and filter and we stayed just long enough...



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I returned to the car and we continued down the winding road, which was cut into the hillside. Then, the car came to a halt as Jenita emitted a surprised “ooh! Foosa!” The Malagasy top predator ran right by the side of our car as I desperately tried to remove the lens cap and switch on my camera. This male quickly left the road and disappeared down the forested ravine as we leapt out of the vehicle. We scanned the area but couldn't relocate him, but we'd had good clear, if brief, views of him right by our car, we were all on a high! Jenita has never seen Fosa in the Ranomafana area where they are not habituated and difficult to see, so we were just very lucky to see one at all.


So we returned to the car and resigned ourselves to the fact that our sighting was over. But then, not much further along the road, stone me but there was a second Fosa making her way along the road! We stopped the car and tried to approach her on foot. She dived into cover, emerged further down the road, dived back into cover and then emerged onto the road again. She seemed to be following the large male we'd just sighted. She reappeared on the road as a lorry bore down upon her and I managed to snap a series of distant shots. Then she dived into cover again, passed us and re-emerged further down the road. We tried to catch up to her on foot, sighting her several more times before she vanished away down the ravine, presumably in search of her mate.


We couldn't believe our luck! Two Fosas! On the main road! Wow!! I had resigned myself to not seeing a Fosa on this trip as I knew the only reliable site was Kirindy where there are some who have become habituated, so this was a real treat worth skipping the morning birding for.



PA276180 The Fooosa!!! Foosa Run! Lorry is coming! by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA276181 The Fooosa!!! Foosa Run! Lorry is coming! by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA276182 The Fooosa!!! Foosa Run! Lorry is coming! by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


After we lost sight of the second Fosa, we returned to the car and carried on. We stopped at various viewpoints and eventually arrived at Anja Community Reserve at around 11 am. So I think any perceived benefit of getting there early had been negated by the diverting Fosas!

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Anja Community Reserve is a unique environmental and cultural preservation site in the south of Madagascar. As both a nature reserve and a growing Malagasy town, Anja is an example of how humans and nature can co-exist and flourish. This ecological reserve is a dry forest nestled at the base of three spectacular granite mountains.



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The forest in Anja was designated a protected area reserve by the Government of Madagascar in 1999. The reserve extends over 30 hectares. The space is enriched with an ecological wealth of flora and fauna species, most notable for its dense population of 300 or so semi-tame ring-tailed lemurs. The reserve also boasts a wealth of endemic flora many of which are said to have medicinal properties. Since 2001, members of the local community have been chosen to independently manage Anja's natural resources. Called the Anja Miray Association, this community group also contributes to local development through community projects.


One way the association has offset the need for fuel wood resources inside the forest is to encourage and grow kininana or eucalyptus with tree nurseries in each of the surrounding communities for wood production and harvesting. Association members can receive additional seedlings for a nominal fee each year. Although harvesting forest products is no longer a legal practice, association members can submit requests for needed plants found within the reserve, and can acquire a small amount for medicinal purposes.

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There are two circuits available, the short 2 hour circuit and a longer hiking circuit that takes 6-8 hours and includes reaching the 1400m summit. As we waited for a guide it began to rain a bit but quickly dried up. We did a short walk before lunch and then the rest of the two hour circuit in the afternoon. On our short walk we first spotted a large colourful Rainbow Bush Locust that looked like something out of a toy shop.



PA276194 Rainbow Bush Locust by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


Then we located our first Ring-tailed Lemur sitting around at the head of the main trail eating some berries. Then more were frequenting some tree further along the trail, including several adorable youngsters and we spent most of our time watching them playing and interacting. I was also shown some bizarre Flatid Leaf Bugs with their white hairy nymphs encrusted on a bush.



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PA276348 Ring-tailed Lemur infant by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



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PA276313 Flatid leaf bugs by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA276311 Flatid Leaf bugs by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA276350 Ring-tailed Lemur infant by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA276354 Ring-tailed Lemur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


Grey-headed Parrots could be found in the tops of trees and we spotted another Madagascar Kingfisher perched in a tree, not far from a lake. Then we were shown a large Oustalet's Chameleon, which was hunting flies. Its eyes scanning all around it, it then caught sight of a likely target, slowly turned then shot out it's sticky tongue, grabbing its prey and swallowing it all in the space of a second or two. It caught several flies and then appeared to have had enough for the time being.



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PA276391 Oustalet's Chameleon by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA276397 Oustalet's Chameleon by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA276401 Oustalet's Chameleon by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


We returned to the park entrance and I took lunch in the local cafe, whilst Jenita and our driver ate with the other guide/drivers. We had planned to meet for the second walk at 2pm, but I was done with lunch by about one, so had to hang around for quite a while. I went for a wander and took some photos of the impressive scenery. When our guide returned we headed back into the park.

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Some videos from the morning- This is from the second card, so I'm able to edit these a bit..



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First we entered a large cave created by overhanging boulders. Then we scrambled across the granite boulders and climbed up to a viewpoint amidst the granite outcrops. After taking in the impressive view, our guide led us down, past a tomb set high into a cave. Then, after scrambling over and in-between the rocks we crept up to another cave in which a group of Ring-tailed Lemurs were holding court. As we watched individuals started to come towards us, leaping over our heads as they left the cave. Some of them sat above us on the boulders just outside the entrance, but as the last few members of the group left their den the party moved off at speed away from us.



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After they left, we carried on and found another group, which we spent the rest of the afternoon with. All the lemurs began barking alarm calls as a Madagascar Harrier Hawk flew over looking for an easy target. As the light began to lengthen into the afternoon, I managed to get a few nice shots of the lemurs (I think I filled up a 16 GB card just on Ring-tailed Lemurs). We began to make our way back, stopping at the lake. Red-billed Teal could be seen out on the water and a Lateral Water Snake slithered through the marginal vegetation. Then some Ring-tails started to appear from the tree line and came down to the lake for a refreshing drink. After stopping to photograph the scenery, we returned to the car and headed back to Ambositra for our night at the Hotel Bougainvillea. I had a huge plate of very tasty spaghetti bolognaise for tea before retiring to my comfortable room.



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PA276822 Bibilava lateralis Lateral Water Snake by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA273823 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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Here are the last few vids from this day:



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Great, something to watch when I break for lunch. Looking forward to it.

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28th October Day 8- Becoming King Julien’s paparazzi


As usual I was up early as we needed to leave for our drive to Isalo. There was just one problem. Nobody was around to check us out (curse the Malagasy mora mora way of life!). The restaurant was not yet open so we couldn't even grab breakfast while we waited. Eventually someone turned up, and we were back on the road. We stopped off for breakfast and then arrived at Isalo mid morning. Jenita suggested we grab some lunch, but I was keen to see the park, so instead I suggested that we grab something to take with us. There was a nice boulangerie so we stocked up on waffles and Danish pastries for our hike. The I got changed into some swimwear as we were planning to visit the plunge pools.


Established in 1962, Isalo National Park protects 815 km² of sandstone massif that rises up from surrounding flat plains. The sandstone massif has been wildly eroded by wind and rain into bizarre ridges (known as “runiformes”) featuring impressive gorges and canyons. Frustratingly, the guide Jenita thought he had arranged turned out to be double booked, so we had to take the first guide who was available. We then drove along the dirt track to the start of the trails. There are numerous circuits that hikers can take, depending on their interests and time available. We took one of the most visited trails, taking in the Blue and Black swimming pools and the Cascade des Nymphs.


In addition to animals we'd seen before, such as Oustalet's Chameleon, Flatid Leaf Bugs, Paradise Flycatcher and Lateral Water Snake, we added Benson's Rock Thrush and Madagascar Cisticola to the bird list. Numerous colourful dragonflies perched on the tall grasses as we walked along the trail. The trail was initially fairly flat, but we had no cover from the blazing sun. We arrived at a shaded campsite where a few Ring-tailed Lemurs were milling about. We watched them for a short while and then carried on, through some woodland.



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PA286835 Common Jery by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA286839 Common Jery by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA286844 Common Mynah by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA286869 Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



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PA286882 Flatid Leaf Bug by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA286884 Flatid Leaf Bug by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



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PA286902 Benson's Rock Thrush by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA286905 Benson's Rock Thrush by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



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Then we entered a gorge and began to ascend up some steps cut into the sandstone. We passed Pachypodium rosulatum subsp. gracilis (Elephant’s-foot), Uapaca bojeri (Tapia), Philippia isaloensis and Dypsis isaloensis (the Isalo Palm) to name but a few of the plants. Someone with more interest in the flora would find the guide here to be incredibly knowledgeable.


As we followed the gorge up into the massif we passed numerous small waterfalls draining into the mountain stream. After a fairly strenuous walk we arrived at the blue and black natural swimming pools. Small waterfalls cascaded into the deep pools. They looked so beautiful, like a setting straight out of a shampoo advert. By now I was quite hot, so I jumped at the chance of taking an ice cold dip in the water. The black pool was initially less busy so I chose that one for my swim.


Soon, other people began to arrive and I attempted to dry off whilst snacking on my Danish pastry. I took some photographs of the waterfalls and, after resting for a while, we packed up and headed back along the canyon wall. Then we turned and carried on up an even steeper trail towards the Cascade des Nymphs. After all the effort of getting there, the waterfall was an anticlimax. Compared to the blue and black pools, this was nothing special. Hardly any water was flowing, what a disappointment!



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PA286927 Waterfall at Isalo by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA286936 Waterfall at Isalo by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



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PA286954 Isalo by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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We made our way back down the trail, arriving back at the campsite. A stunning burgundy coloured Broad-billed Roller posed for photographs. Over by the ablutions block a little huddle of Red-fronted Brown Lemurs were also hunkered down in the bough of a tree grooming each other, whilst a more adventurous youngster had made it's we to a precipitous position at the end of a tree branch, but it seemed quite at home there.


People were gathered around a boulder on which sat a small troop of Ring-tailed Lemurs, some of which had infants. I couldn't help myself, I started snapping photos. I seemed to have become King Julien's paparazzi, but Ring-tailed Lemurs are so endearing!



PA286983 Broad-billed Roller by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA287005 Red-fronted Brown Lemur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA287015 Red-fronted Brown Lemur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA287016 Red-fronted Brown Lemur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA287021 Ring-tailed lemur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



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PA287025 Ring-tailed lemur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA287026 Ring-tailed lemur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA287031 Ring-tailed lemur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA287037 Ring-tailed lemur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA287041 Ring-tailed lemur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA287049 Ring-tailed Lemur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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PA287052 Ring-tailed Lemur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA287077 Red-fronted Brown Lemur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


Then as we began to return we spotted two Verreaux's Sifakas feeding in trees on the other side of the valley. They were very distant though and I really hoped we would see them a lot closer than that.

As we left we found a Crested Drongo sitting on a nest. We watched as it flew off briefly before returning. A bird of prey flew over, but was so high up it was difficult to identify it with any certainty. Finally, as we drove back along the dirt track, we stopped to watch a Madagascar Partridge having a late afternoon dust bath.


It was still light by the time we returned, and so I had a quick walk around the small town, popping into the little souvenir shop, before watching the sun set. Later I ate alone outside the restaurant and watched as flocks of little birds came to roost in the hotel's trees. I'm not sure what these birds were, but I am guessing they may have been Madagascar Mannikins. After dinner I retired to my room to perform my usual ritual of sorting through the images and videos from the day and copying files to my net book, writing up the day's events and taking a hot shower before hitting the sack.



PA287093 Crested Drongo by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA287096 Crested Drongo by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



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PA287129 Madagascar Partridge by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA287130 Madagascar Partridge by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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Vlad the Impala

This is a great trip report KK23UK, I'm really enjoying it. You saw a good variety of lemur species and some great birds too. I particularly like the Coquerel's, and Milne's Edwards' Sifaka's. (I really wish now I'd made an effort to see the latter when I visited Madagascar in 2005 - they are really stunning).

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Hey KK


Brilliant TR! So glad you stuck to your guns at the start. Sorry, I may have missed it, but did you deem your trip the success it seems to have been?


Also glad you managed to see a fossa :D what a creature. I saw one in the Bronx Zoo and just thought they were so different.

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Thanks Vlad and Superleeds. Oh yes it definitely was a success! I got all bar one of the lemurs I hoped to see, and really amazing views of them all really. Plus seeing the Coquerel's at the croc farm on the last day was unexpected, (though they can't count towards the wild total). The Fosas were an amazing bonus, as I'd pretty much ruled them out with not going to Kirindy. The ring-tailed mongoose was just awesome too. I totally maximised the time I had, as far as possible, bearing in mind the mora mora attitude, which is what I wanted. The only disappointment was not getting to Nosy Ve really and that was due to the weather mainly (more on that later).


I had the back of the vehicle to myself so had room to spread out (both cars were pretty new and comfortable). Jenita was a real gentleman throughout the trip, the car was always cleaned at the end of each day, he always opened the door for me, always carried my gear and did most of the filming for me too whilst I was snapping away with my camera.


In terms of price, I was originally quoted 960 euro for the trip with the guys, but then that changed to 1360 because late in the day the organiser said I'd have to pay a single supplement. I only paid 1900 euro (£1560) for my solo trip which included extending by a day. Plus I decided to take an internal flight back to maximise time there, which was about £160. The rooms were nearly all of good quality by Madagascan standards, probably the same quality as you would get on any group trip there. Really, there were groups from Undiscovered Destinations and so on that were staying in the same places as me.


I may have seen more different birds (asities, vangas, LBJs and waterbirds primarily) if I had been with a birdy group, but the trade off would have been less time with the lemurs.


If you compare what I saw to e.g. Naturetrek's Madagascar's Lemurs tour (which is the nearest equivalent to the tour I did) I think I did pretty well really... http://www.naturetrek.co.uk/reports_new/MDG04_report_120913_Madagascars_Lemurs.pdf


Their tour costs are £3145 (plus a £550 single supplement) for the land only tour.

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And some Vids from this day:


Goat in the road:


Broad billed roller:




Red-fronted Brown lemurs:



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Well done, KK! Glad it was a great trip for you. The first bit of the others changing the plans would have riled me somewhat so its nice to see all worked well :)

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29th October, Day 9 Making mora mora work for me


I was hoping to see more birds, so we had arranged to meet at 6.15 to get to the start of the trails by seven. We were the first people to enter the park and it was lovely and peaceful. Madagascar Cisticolas zitted between the bushes and Madagascar Bee-eaters were perched in the trees. A smart male Common Stonechat perched giving us a clear view. The guide then pointed out some strange insects camouflaged against the trunk of a tree, he didn't know the English name, but said they were related to cicadas. I did a bit of digging when I got back and believe they might be Pyrops Madagascariensis I think- a species of Lantern Bug.



PA293876 Views from Hotel in Isalo by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA293877 Views from Hotel in Isalo by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297134 Madagascr Cisticola by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



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PA297150 Stonechat by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297161 Pyrops madagascariensis I think- A Lantern Bug by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297169 Pyrops madagascariensis I think- A Lantern Bug by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


We arrived at the campsite; the lemurs seemed to be having a lie in, so we focused on looking for more birds. After a quick search of the leaf litter, our guide located a family of Madagascar Button Quail including three chicks. We also searched within the canyon for water birds, but the area was very quiet and only the Benson's Rock Thrush and Madagascar Magpie Robins were to be found. A Madagascar Black Bulbul was seen hunkered down on a nest and we watched colourful butterflies fluttering on the early morning breeze. A Spiny-tailed Iguanid posed on a rock as we made our way back.



PA297175 Madagacar Button Quail by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



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PA297198 Madagascar Black Bulbul on nest by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297209 Madagacar Magpie Robin by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297216 Madagascar Bee-eater by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297226 Madagascar Bee-eater by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



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PA297244 Madagascar Spiny-tailed Iguana by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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We arrived back in town, hoping that the Boulangerie would be open for breakfast, but it sadly remained closed. So I ate in the hotel whilst Jenita and our driver went off to a local Malagasy place to eat. Afterwards, we stocked up on some water from the local store and checked out. We seemed to get to Zombitse in no time, but I think that was because I drifted off for a bit.

Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park was established in 1997 and covers 363 km² of dry forest, marshes, and savannas, although you wouldn't know if from the small remnant that we explored. In fact, this National Park exemplifies the biggest environmental problem in Madagascar: deforestation. Hundreds of year of slash-and-burn agriculture and tree felling have turned the landscape into an arid and almost lifeless plateau. The local Bara and Mahafaly populations are zebu herders who need more and more space to feed their herds and grow rice and corn. Only a patch of protected forest remains nowadays in the middle of this devastation which gives shelter to an abundant fauna and flora biodiversity and this is the area that we planned to explore. Of the plants, Madagascar’s only native cactus, Rhipsalis baccifer subsp can be found here, hanging high in the trees. Leonotis menthifolia (Lion’s Tail), Commiphora simplicifolia, Uncrina leandrii, Euphorbia tenophora, Aloe vahombe and Cedrelopsis grevei are also present. But it was the birds and mammals that interested me.

When we arrived, it was already late morning. We walked to the park office but Jenita was told that no English-speaking guides were available. We were advised to go and have an early lunch and then return later. As we returned to our car, I saw a group of English-speaking birders chatting around their vehicle. I quickly struck up conversation with them and discovered that they had just finished their visit and their guide should be available. He had done really well and found them all their targets so I asked Jenita to try and locate the guy. That didn't prove to be a problem so we were soon exploring the dry forest.

There are four different short and pretty easy circuits (from one to five hours walk) available for people to explore the area. As we had limited time, we only explored one of the shorter routes, but we still saw a wealth of wildlife in this brief time. First we encountered a group of four Verreaux's Sifakas lazing about in the trees. We could walk right underneath the boughs of the trees and watch as the sleepy lemurs peered down upon us. “I like to Move it, Move it!” was clearly not on their agenda!




PA297250 Gecko Sp. by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297265 Verreaux's Sifaka by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297267 Verreaux's Sifaka by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297274 Verreaux's Sifaka by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


Then as we continued our guide pointed out a Coquerel's Coua, as it strutted through the leaf litter. Further on, the first of several near identical, but much larger, Giant Couas was seen. The guide showed us one of the delicate orchids that were growing on a host tree and then he spotted a Long-billed Greenbul, along with the dumpy grey Common Newtonia. A France's Sparrowhawk gazed upon us before flying off and a pair of Madagascar Buzzards glided overhead.



PA297287 Coquerel's Coua by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297304 orchid by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297308 Long-billed Greenbul by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297313 France's Sparrowhawk by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297341 Giant Coua by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297348 Giant Coua by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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Our guide pointed out another Oustalet's Chameleon before we encountered another Giant Coua. We left the trail and scrambled through the undergrowth, coming to a tree to which clung a nocturnal Hubbard's Sportive Lemur, it's sleep hole within easy retreat for when it got nervous of visitors. Yet another Giant Coua put on a good show for us. As we left one section of the reserve to cross the road into the other parcel, we stopped at an interpretation board where several colourful Standing's Emerald Day Geckos (a local endemic) were resting. Then, leaving the trail once more our guide led us to the endemic White-browed Owl. I also sighted another greenbul with a white throat and greyish head which I believe may have been Appert's Greenbul but as the guide didn't get on to it (and I'm no expert) I can't be certain what it was. Greater Vasa Parrot flew over flew over as we arrived back.



PA297352 Hubbard's Sportive Lemur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297355 Hubbard's Sportive Lemur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297367 Giant Coua by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297375 Oustalet's Chameleon by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297377 Giant Coua by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297387 Giant Coua by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297411 Standing's Day Gecko by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297412 Standing's Day Gecko by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297420 White-browed Owl by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA297436 Flatid Leaf bugs by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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You certainly had a magical trip to Mad. I'm thoroughly enjoying your pics and vids...those button quail chicks must have been so tiny!

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Thanks Ovenbird!


Here's some videos:




We had to leave as we still had a long drive ahead of us to get to Ifaty. We stopped for lunch at an odd little restaurant-cum-function room. The tables were decorated with bowls of plastic fruit. A couple of day geckos kept us all company as we ate. Then we were back on the road heading for Toliara. We passed through the town and the need for a 4x4 became abundantly clear as the tarred road ran out and we turned right onto a very bad dirt track which took us up towards Ifaty. We passed numerous pools and I glimpsed Madagascar Plover. Caspian Terns and Swift (Greater Crested) Terns followed the coastline as we continued on. I also caught sight of a large, dark, falcon with long wings and tail, which I believe was Eleonora's Falcon. If I'd have thought about it, I might have asked to stop frequently to do some birding en route, but I didn't know how long it was going to take to get there and it was already getting late.



We arrived at Bamboo Club Hotel in the late afternoon and I was show to one of the beachfront huts. It seemed reasonably well appointed but spent ages searching for a power point. After realising there wasn't one I grabbed batteries and charger and took them to Reception, where they helpfully charged them up for me. Jenita left me to get settled in whilst he went off to make arrangements for the visit to the spiny forest the next day. The tide was in and the water was covered in debris so was not particularly inviting. The pool was also out of commission, having been drained the day before for a clean. There was a little gift shop, which was closed, and a dive centre, which was also closed. So I thought I might as well sit on the beach and simply see what birds might pass by. However, any plans for a peaceful spot of birding were disrupted by very a persistent bunch of street hawkers trying to sell me a variety of sarongs and tacky souvenirs.


I was interested in the sarongs and picked up a couple of nice ones, one for myself and one as a Christmas present for a friend and a guy offered a snorkelling trip that sounded like a bargain price so I tentatively said I might be interested in that for tomorrow afternoon. Unfortunately, far from being satisfied with the sale, my purchase just spurred them on to try and sell me other things I didn't want, such as a massage, braiding and rather tacky trinket boxes.


I became increasingly frustrated as my polite words of “no thank you” fell on deaf ears. I tried to ignore them, but they kept on and on at me. So eventually I just left the beach until they moved on. By now the sun had gone down so I was just sorting out a few bits ready for dinner. Just as I was locking up my room, a lady walked up to me and started speaking French. I just looked at her blankly for a second and then she asked me “Oh, you don't speak French?” To which I replied, “Not much, I'm British”. Then she looked at me and I looked at her as a dawning recognition crept upon us and we realised that we had met before at the Rutland Bird Fair. Deidre had been the one who had looked at my original itinerary and pointed out that the whole idea was crazy. So after that realisation, we chatted briefly and I told her how amazing my trip had been so far. She was leading a tour group so had to get back, but it was nice to see a familiar face.


I went to get dinner and Jenita arrived to tell me that he'd spoken to a guide and we were going to meet at 05.30 for our visit to the spiny forest. Great! A nice early start for the birds. I was looking forward to that.




PA293881 View from Ifaty by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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30th October Day 10 What the *&%# is wrong with this guy??



PA303887 View from Ifaty by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


This morning we were out at 05.30 for our visit to Reniala Private Reserve. This is a small protected area of only 60 ha, managed by an environmental association called Reniala (which means baobab in Malagasy) that is trying to develop eco-tourism in the area. In addition to the many species of endemic flora, Reniala is well known for several sought-after species of birds, which were the targets of my visit. But our visit began with further frustration as the guide Jenita had arranged suddenly seemed to be leading another, larger group (a Rockjumper birding tour by the look of it).


So we were given a young guy who seemed to have a very strange way of leading us. We started seeing birds straight away, with a flock of Grey-headed Lovebirds that flew over the car park and a Madagascar Green Pigeon feeding in some bushes. Our two groups split up at the first fork in the trails, with our guy being told to go left whilst the Rockjumper tour went right.



PA307438 Madagascar Green Pigeon by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


I spotted a coua, pointing it out to our guide. “Running Coua” he replied, in a somewhat disinterested fashion. We had several sightings of Sakalava Weavers as our walk progressed, a Thamnornis Warbler, Sub-desert Brush Warbler and Common Newtonia. He pointed out a Lafresnaye's Vanga on a nest. Namaqua Doves seemed quite common, I photographed one perched in a tree.



running coua by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA307448 Thamnornis Warbler by kittykat23uk, on Flickr




PA307457 Common Newtonia by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA307474 Lafresnaye's Vanga by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA307477 Namaqua dove by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


We also saw a number of Adansonia rubrostipa (Red-stipuled Baobab), as well as Didierea madagascariensis (Octopus Tree), Boscia madagascariensis, Euphorbia stenoclada, Catharanthus roseus (Madagascan Periwinkle) and several Commiphora sp. In addition to Aloe divaricatus (an Aloe).


Then our guide disappeared off for about 20 minutes, apparently looking for something, but it was rather disconcerting not knowing where he had gone. I snapped a few scenic shots and some of the newtonias and raised my concerns with Jenita. The guide finally returned, but with nothing new to report. Jenita had a quiet word with the guide that he must tell us before wandering off and try not to be gone for so long.


Not long afterwards, the guide set of at a sprint and I lost sight of him. Jenita was further back down the trail, when he joined me he asked me where the guide had gone. I replied that I had no idea and explained what had transpired. The guide took some time to reappear, he'd thought he'd seen a Subdesert Mesite but he hadn't managed to relocate it. By now I was getting really frustrated about him disappearing off with nothing to show for it and I was glad when we eventually came across some of the other guides. One of whom had come back to find us to show us a Subdesert Mesite.


As we arrived, the other group was just leaving; we left the trail and walked the few yards to find the bird sitting frozen in a tree. I was pleased to see this bird, but also disappointed as I had made it very clear to Jenita that I did not want the guide to flush the bird into a tree. The Southern Africa Bird Finder clearly states how essential it is that these social ground dwelling birds are not stressed in this way. But what could I do? The bird had been flushed, presumably so that the other group could view it. I quickly snapped a few shots then left it be.



PA307493 Subdesert Mesite by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


We were also shown another Sportive Lemur. The classification of which appears to have been revised since Garbutt's Mammals of Madagascar was last released. Having read many trip reports and after reviewing the pictures against the description in this guidebook, I believe this was a Petter's Sportive Lemur.



PA307497 Petter's Sportive Lemur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA307511 Petter's Sportive Lemur by kittykat23uk, on Flickr


Then I spotted another coua, this time perched in a tree “Crested Coua” Our guide said, and carried on walking, as I stopped to rattle off a couple of shots.



PA307517 Crested Coua by kittykat23uk, on Flickr



PA307519 Crested Coua by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

Edited by kittykat23uk
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