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kittykat23uk

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PA303891 Reniala Reserve Ifaty by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA303893 Reniala Reserve Ifaty by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA303895 Reniala Reserve Ifaty by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

 

 

The other guides were now practically handing our lacklustre guide sightings. We managed to see Red-tailed Vanga high up in a tree, not particularly easy to see. Jenita, the lucky sod, saw a Blue Vanga, but I dipped it as it zipped off. Then we were led to some small bushes on the edge of the spiny forest. As we waited by a gap between two clumps one of the other guides went around the back and slowly started moving through the undergrowth. The reason for this odd behaviour became clear, as a pair of Long-tailed Ground Rollers came into view. As the birds moved one way, the guide expertly herded them back the other so that they remained in view for an extended period of time, enough so that I could get some nice shots of these spectacular Ground-rollers.

Three-eyed Iguanids scuttled over the red sandy soil. I got the sense that the guy was leading us back towards the entrance so I asked Jenita if he could find out if we could see Sickle-billed Vanga. With a bit of prompting our guide perked up and led us to a more open area, where a family group of Sickle-billed Vangas were easily seen making their way between the taller trees. Having seen a few vangas by now, I was taken aback by how large these birds were. Similar in size to wood-hoopoes, I couldn’t believe we might have left the site without being shown these spectacular black and white birds with their impressive decurved bills! What was wrong with this guy? Then another impressive bird, a Madagascar Harrier Hawk flew over. As we made our way back to the park entrance, Madagascar Coucal and Lesser Vasa Parrots were also in evidence. I also spotted a couple of Chabert's Vangas.

 

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PA307579 Long-tailed Ground Roller by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307583 Long-tailed Ground Roller by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307585 Three-eyed Iguanid Lizard (Chalaradon madargascariensis). by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307588 Archbold's Newtonia by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307592 Common Newtonia by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307594 Three-eyed Iguanid Lizard (Chalaradon madargascariensis). by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307595 Crested Drongo by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307596 Cicada sp. by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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red-tailed Vanga by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307604 Madagascar Bee-eater by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307616 Sickle-billed Vanga by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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sickle-billed vanga adj by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307621 Madagascar Harrier Hawk by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307627 Chabert's Vanga by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307637 Common Jery by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307647 Lesser Vasa Parrots by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307650 Madagascar Coucal by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307661 Lesser Vasa Parrots 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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I have to stop.... there are so many wonderful, wonderful creatures that I can't take any more in. Page 3 is like being a little boy in a candy store and I am full!! What luck with the Fosa on the road. Best of all, I can't view the videos at work and so I haven't even finished yet. Seems like you looked for and found nearly everything for us.

 

Madagascar is full of wonders. Anja looks magnificent.

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kittykat23uk

Thanks Paul, Anja and King Julien's posse were a definite highlight of the trip! :D

 

Here's a video for the above excursion:

 

 

We returned to the hotel and I mentioned to Jenita that I was tempted to take the snorkelling trip in the afternoon, unless he had anything else planned for us. He didn't, so I thought I might as well get some lunch and then locate the guy for the snorkelling. Black-winged Stilts and Whimbrels were making their way along the beach as the tide was now out. We agreed a time of 2pm so I had a lie down for a little while.

Then as the time approached I got my kit together and met up with the local guy who I had booked with. He'd left the boat some way further down the beach and so it was a bit of a trek to get there. Then we seemed to hug the coastline for a fair old way before turning to head out to sea. There wasn't much wind so the sail wasn't all that useful and they had to make progress with the oars. I began to regret not bringing some water with me as I had no idea it was going to take so long to get to the reef.

 

When we finally arrived and moored up the snorkeling was a bit of a disappointment truth be told. There were quite a few colourful fish, but the reef itself was dead for the most part. I had heard that Madagascar's reefs had suffered a lot from coral bleaching, so I guessed this was the cause of the devastation there. The water was also not very warm and the reef was just a little too deep to really appreciate the remaining life from the surface. So I was ready to head back after only about forty minutes or so, which was a shame given the amount of effort it had taken to get there. The guys had been hopeful that the wind would speed us on our way back, but unluckily for them it suddenly died, so they had to row most of the way back.

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Vid of the rather disappointing snorkeling trip:

 

 

By the time I got back, it was late afternoon but there was still about 45 minutes of light left so I had a quick walk around the grounds in front of the hotel. I noted that it seemed to be used as a dumping ground for litter. Nothing new sighted, but more Chabert's Vangas, Madagascar Coucals, Common Newtonias and Sakalava Weavers were around. As I wandered back into the hotel grounds, a Madagascar Kestrel was perched in one of the trees. I photographed the sunset and then rested for a little while before heading to the restaurant for dinner. I ordered a rum and coke and sat outside. I noticed movement in the trees in front of me and a Western Tuft-tailed Rat ran towards the roof of the veranda. On closer inspection there was also a pair of Grey-Brown Mouse Lemurs occupying the same tree, leaping from branch to branch. I rushed back to my room to get my video camera and started to film them. Soon it was too dark to see them and, as dinner was ready, I took a table in the dining room.

 

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PA307667 Sakalava Weaver by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307675 Sakalava Weaver by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307696 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307703 Madagascar Green Sunbird by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307708 Common Jery by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307717 Madagascar Kestrel by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA307731 Madagascar Kestrel by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA303899 View from Ifaty by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

I got chatting to a couple of Dutch ladies on the table next to me. They had been scuba diving and apparently the reef they dived on was quite pristine, which sounded encouraging. Not that I would have time to do any diving here. Then an animated member of staff came running up to me and ushered me to follow him back outside. He wanted to show me a Malagasy Cat-eyed Snake Madagascarophis meridionalis. Then bats started to appear, flitting around by the lights of the swimming pool. I'm not sure what species they were.

 

 

 

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31st October Day 11 “This is sea water!”

Oh, you don't swallow it. It's just temporary until we get the plumbing in...”

 

Today we left the Bamboo Club Hotel at 6 am to get back to Toliara in order to connect with the boat that would take us across the bay to Anakao. We were told to be there for between 8-8.30. We spotted Madagascar Hoopoe and Madagascar Lark on the way and arrived into Toliara around 7.30 and so stopped for breakfast. Jenita noticed that one of the dishes was “Vi vi” this translates as whistling duck, which Jenita told me is a threatened species and shouldn't be served. He had strong words with the serving staff but unfortunately the boss wasn't available for comment. Jenita also became increasingly concerned that the meal he'd ordered for his breakfast was taking a long time to arrive. I had opted for a simple croissant and preserves so was finished long before his had even arrived. So I had a quick look in the clothing store next door. Jenita told the boat company that we were going to be a little late, but that turned out not to be a problem.

 

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PA317737 Madagascar Hoopoe by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

 

 

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PA317742 Madagascar Lark by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PA313903 How to get to the boat- by Zebu cart! by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

In fact, when we arrived, we were told the boat was now not going until 09.30. Mora Mora strikes again! It would have been nice to see what birds were around the harbour, but with all my luggage I was reluctant to leave it anywhere. So I just waited patiently in the fly-infested office and read my book. Jenita went off into town to use an internet cafe for a little while. With the tide now well out, we were loaded onto a cart pulled by zebu to cross the shallow lagoon out to the boat. The boat trip was uneventful and after an hour or so we arrived into the sleepy resort of Anakao.

 

I thought this would be reminiscent of Tofo in Mozambique, but this hotel, Longo Vezo was far more basic than I had imagined. The hosts were friendly, as I received a warm welcome. I was shown to my beachfront chalet, which could easily have slept a family of five. But the chalet had no plumbing. One was expected to wash with buckets of seawater, this was definitely not the level of comfort that I was hoping to end my trip with. We went up to the restaurant to order lunch. There wasn't much that really appealed to my taste but I opted for the crayfish spaghetti. I then went for a swim before heading back to the restaurant for lunch. The nice thing was that we all ate together, but that limited the times when meals were available, plus only the barman seemed to speak much English.

 

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PA317774 Littoral Rock Thrsh by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

We had trips planned out for the next couple of days, one to the island of Nosy Ve and another to Tsimanampetsotsa National Park. However, there was a problem with the latter trip as the price that Longo Vezo had quoted Jenita had increased since he booked. He was quoted 100 Euros for the trip originally, but when we arrived was told that this price no longer included the cost of fuel. So he wanted to go into the village to see if anyone else could offer the trip cheaper. With nothing else to do, I decided to go for a walk with him.

It was a fair old trek to the village and there really wasn't much there to see. Just few restaurants, and food stands. We picked up some bottles of water after Jenita had made some enquiries. After seeing what was there I decided to head back. Jenita walked with me back to Longo Vezo and then set out to return to the village to make some further enquiries. During the afternoon, I saw a few new birds. A pair of Red-tailed Tropicbirds flew in off the Mozambique Channel right over my head. Up by the restaurant, Littoral Rock Thrush and Subdesert Brush Warbler were regular sights along with Souimanga Sunbird and Sakalava Weaver.

 

Whilst waiting for dinner Jenita was chatting to an Italian lady called Liza. She was travelling alone, she also spoke a bit of English, although was obviously more comfortable speaking French. Jenita suggested that Liza join us for the next two days, which I was amenable to because it would be nice to have some company as well as helping Jenita by splitting the costs of these two trips.

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kittykat23uk

1st November Day 12 Kicking our heels in Anakao

 

We had breakfast whilst waiting for Michel, who was organising the boat to take us to Nosy Ve. The same birds were frequenting the bushes near the restaurant, but nothing new was seen. However the lodge owner seemed a bit dubious about the weather and the time of our departure became more and more uncertain. Michel arrived and the boat was prepared. As we were about to get in, the wind picked up and a little squall came over, showering us with rain. We sheltered under a parasol and waited for the weather to improve. After a while, Michel decided to risk it and we all piled into the traditional dugout pirogue.

 

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PB017776 Littoral Rock Thrush Female by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB017784 Littoral Rock Thrush by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

 

His crew tried to set the sail but it soon became clear that the sea breeze was too strong, pushing us back onto land. The waves were building and one crashed over the front of the boat, drenching my bag containing my camera. Thankfully I had taken the precaution of double bagging my gear in a dry bag before we left. The little pirogue was not equipped for this head wind and we had to abandon our trip. We tried with no luck to secure another sturdier boat with an outboard motor to get us over to Nosy Ve and, after waiting in vain for the weather to improve, we were eventually told that the trip was not going to happen.

 

By now it seemed too late to make any other plans. So Jenita told me he was going into the village to eat at Michel’s restaurant. In the absence of anything else to do, I decided to join him. We sat and ate lunch and chatted over a few drinks for most of the afternoon. The only birds to be seen were the occasional Pied Crow, Humbolt Heron and Ruddy Turnstones. I tried a couple of the local cocktails.

 

 

Later we met a salty French bloke who gave us a lift back to his place, which was just down the beach from our hotel. We met his wife and I smiled and nodded as they all rambled on in French for a while, Jenita, as always, doing his best to translate for me. Eventually we arrived back at the lodge early evening and I decided to have a lie down. I don’t know what they put in those cocktails, but I fell into a deep sleep and didn’t wake up until midnight. Realizing that I’d missed dinner, I checked my alarm and then went back to bed.

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2nd November Day 13 Note to self, Malagasy cocktails are a bad idea...

 

We had arranged to go to Tsimanampetsotsa National Park with Liza today, although there had been a lot of toing and froing about the exact plan to get there. As such, it would have been very difficult to change plans and try for Nosy Ve again. We went from planning to drive, to getting a boat and back to driving again. The last information I had been told was that we were meeting at 5 am. So my alarm went off at 4.30 am. Feeling significantly the worse for wear, I contemplated what they’d put in those cocktails, as I was violently ill in the bathroom. But still, a plan is a plan and after checking for any late messages or notes under my door I dragged my sorry carcass up to the restaurant in time for our meet up. Aside from the barman there was no sign of life, I wondered where everyone else was...

 

After 45 minutes I was rapidly getting chilled sitting up on the dune so I returned to my room, figuring that the plan must have changed. After being violently ill for a second time, I crawled back in to bed and lay there, drifting off into a fitful sleep. Eventually there was a knock at the door at 07.30. Jenita said they were just getting breakfast and planned to leave at 8. I grumpily recounted the way I’d spent my morning and about ten minutes later joined him and Liza at the restaurant, not that I really felt like eating much.

 

Eric, one of the owners of the lodge got his rickety jeep ready and there was then a very bumpy drive of about an hour and a half to the park. We stopped on the way at a scenic spot. Jenita then commented that this was where we would have landed if we’d come by boat. So I asked how the rest of the journey would have been done. It transpired that we would probably have had to walk or get a zebu cart to the reserve from there. We carried on; it was still quite a long drive to the park. I commented that I was very glad we didn’t get the boat in that case.

 

The park is named after the lake, which means “lake without Dolphins”. Because of the chemical composition of the saline lake, no fish can survive in it. The park comprises 430 km² of spiny forest and wetlands. This area was already protected in 1927 due to its biodiversity (90% of the flora and fauna is endemic) mainly as habitat for water birds, and became a National Park in 1966. We were given a really good guide who knew all about the medicinal usage of the plants as well having good all round naturalist skills.

 

We drove to the start of the first trail, spotting Verreaux’s Coua on the way. We took the Tsiamaso circuit, where we were led to a cave. Greater Vasa Parrots were nesting nearby and screeched their aggravation at our presence. Our guide led us further into the natural cave and scooped up one of the endemic blind fishes for us to see. A Dumeril’s Boa was also seen curled up under a rock. We saw some interesting red Hemiptera bugs, and a Three-lined Girdled Lizard as we made our way along the calcareous Mahafaly plateau. We stopped overlooking a sinkhole to admire a most amazing specimen of Ficus benghalensis (Banyan) the roots of which flowed like a waterfall over the edge of the precipice.

 

 

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PB027785 traditional dugout pirogue by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB027786 Radiated Tortoise by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB027793 Greater Vasa Parrot by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB027794 Dumeril’s Boa by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB027796 Dumeril’s Boa by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB027797 Blind fish by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB027802 Red Hemipteran bugs by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB027805 Zonosaurus trilineatus Three-lined Girdled Lizard by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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Getting there so late meant that we’d probably missed the best time for seeing birds as we walked along the Andalamaike circuit, but we did spot Chabert’s Vanga and admired the many large baobabs. We arrived at the campsite where we had started our walk and then drove to the lake.

 

We stopped to see both Radiated Tortoise and Spider Tortoises on the way, and a party of Ring-tailed lemurs crossed the road in front of us but did not hang around. A Green-capped Coua helpfully perched in a tree. Then we encountered a Bernier's Striped Snake which appeared to be hunting. Lizards such as the Dumeril's Madagascar Swift were commonly sighted, sunning themselves on the rocks. A stunning Boulder Mabuya (skink) ran across the path and disappeared down a crevice before I had time to photograph it. This little skink had the most exquisite markings. The top half of it's body was black with white polka dots and the lower half and tail were a deep russet red, very unusual.

 

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PB027808 Chabert's Vanga by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

 

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PB027810 Radiated tortoise by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB027811 Radiated tortoise by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB027812 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB027816 Green-capped Coua by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB027821 Bernier's Striped Snake Dromicodryas bernieri by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB027827 Bernier's Striped Snake Dromicodryas bernieri by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB027828 Oplurus quadrimaculatus Dumeril's Madagascar Swift by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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S1050001 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

We arrived at the lake where we hoped to see the “greater and dwarf flamingos forming big colonies” as described on the Wild Madagascar website. But sadly, only one Greater Flamingo could be seen close by. The rest were miles away and Eric was not prepared to take the vehicle along the really bad roads required to get us closer. It was such a disappointment as this was the main reason for making the trip (after my hope of camping there to see Grandidier’s Mongoose had failed to materialise owing to increased banditry in the area). A Madagascar Kestrel was seen perched in a tree overlooking the lake. Red-knobbed Coots were the only other water birds around. We stopped by the lake for our “picnic lunch” but I really didn’t fancy eating much, particularly as the only thing on offer seemed to be a single bread roll containing an omelette and tomato.

 

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PB027832 Madagascar Kestrel by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB027841 Pied Crow by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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Here is the video for the park visit:

 

 

I almost didn’t walk up to the viewpoint after lunch, but “in for a penny” and all that. I must admit the view of the lake was spectacular. Another Dumeril's Madagascar Swift iguanid was sunning itself and this one was huge in comparison to the others we’d seen. The guide we had continued to show us a lot of the native plants, citing their medicinal uses such as for fevers, stomach cramps etc. He pointed out one species of shrub, which were apparently sought after by women for their skin-tightening properties (which apparently works both topically and internally).

 

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PB027852 Dumeril's Madagascar Swift by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB027853 Dumeril's Madagascar Swift by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

He also talked extensively about marital relationships in Madagascar and in doing so came across as a bit of a player and a bigot. In the Malagasy culture it was perfectly acceptable for a man to have a harem of wives in certain places, but if a woman showed an interest in another man this was seen as not the done thing. It was clear that this guide of ours had been burnt before, but he did not seem to consider his behaviour of seeing several women at the same time as being equally hurtful to them. Liza and I had fun taking him to task on that score!

 

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PB027854 Tsimanampetsotsa National Park by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB027865 Yellow-billed Kite by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

 

We returned to the picnic spot to find Jenita had gone AWOL. He returned a short while later with video footage of more flamingos, but it was too far for us to head back there with him. It was time to leave the park so we began to head back, we came across a couple more groups of Ring-tailed Lemurs as we drove back through the park, one luckily stayed still long enough for Liza to grab a couple of shots (I resisted). Eric drove really fast on the way back and it was a very uncomfortable, given my condition.

 

I rested for the rest of the afternoon as I was still feeling really unwell. I resurfaced later afternoon and took a few shots of the sunset. Whimbrels and Ruddy Turnstones were the only birds to be seen. I returned to the restaurant for dinner and watched a litter of kittens playing on the bookshelf in the lounge area. Later on we made plans for the next day with Liza. After dinner I retired to bed.

 

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PB023912 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB023925 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB023928 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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3rd November Day 13 Dodgy dealings and dodgy tums..

 

Something I drank or ate had really knocked me for six. I wasn’t sick but had a rather upset stomach the next day, which would last for over a week. Today we had to leave Anakao for our return flight to Tana that evening. Liza was on a different boat to us, but as we both had time to spare in Toliara we had all agreed to share transport and go to the arboretum together. So she would meet up with us back in Toliara.

 

We had breakfast and Jenita and I went to settle up, but they’d unhelpfully given us just a single bill, not separated out the lunch and drinks that I would normally have paid for. As we waited for our boat, Jenita scrutinised the bill. He’d made the booking months ago and had asked if I could get a beachfront chalet. Eric’s wife had originally told Jenita that one was available and at no extra cost. But in scrutinising the bill he realised that Eric had reneged on this and charged extra for the room. In addition to this and the extra expense of the fuel for the trip to the park we were also charged extra for the picnic lunch. This lunch was 80,000 ariary (about £23)! For comparison, a main meal is usually around 13000 to 16000. He did query it but apparently it included sandwiches for Eric and the park staff too. In which case it should have been split between us and Liza, but even so for what we all got, this seemed a complete rip off!

 

After taking an uneventful boat trip back to Toliara, followed by another zebu cart to get us to shore, we met up with Liza. She and Jenita wanted to visit an internet cafe so we headed there first. I sent a few emails and posted a note in Safaritalk, but I quickly became frustrated with the AZERTY-style keyboards and sat patiently waiting for them to finish, passing the time watching my videos. Then we headed off to the arboretum.

The arboretum contains many endemic plants native to the region, as well as a few that have been brought in from other areas. We had a good guide who gave us a whistle-stop tour, citing all the different medicinal uses of the plants. This place is a botanist’s paradise, our guide pointed out Euphorbia stenoclada, Euphorbia leucodendron, Moringa drouhardii, Delonix floribunda, Jatropha mahafalensis and many more, such as Aloes, Alluaudias and Pachypodiums.

 

Our guide also found us a sleepy Grey-brown (Rufous-Grey) Mouse Lemur in its day roost, as well as a pair of Madagascar Nightjars, Green-capped Coua, and Madagascar Button Quail, all of which I managed to capture on video. We then came up to the edge of the arboretum, which bordered on a group of dwellings, where a local guy who was taking a shower al fresco-style got a bit of a shock and quickly covered himself up! We finished up with an old car that had been the owner’s prime runabout until it died. Now it was acting as a glorified plant pot.

 

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PB023932 Beach chalet- Anakao Longo Vezo by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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Finally caught up. Loved every bit of it. And what I loved most - even more than the lemurs - are the birds! So many beautiful species that I had never even heard of!!

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kittykat23uk

Thanks Jochen! Madagascar has some really great birds, lots of endemics as you'd expect. The couas and ground rollers in particular were well-represented on my trip. Some of the vangas are pretty amazing too. Especially Sickle-billed. It is a pity I didn't have time to find Helmet Vanga or many of the asities but to me, the lemurs were the stars! :)

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kittykat23uk

Here you can take a tour of the arboretum with me!

 

 

We ate lunch at the on-site restaurant and then headed back into Toliara. We had a look around a very small craft market and I picked up a nice ammonite specimen as a souvenir, but the rest of the stuff on offer was tackier than the sole of a gecko’s foot! We hoped to visit some of the clothing stores, but one of the biggest ones wasn’t open. I checked out the others but they didn’t have the design I wanted in the right combination of colour and size. I resigned to checking at the airport. We stopped at the same restaurant where we’d eaten breakfast on the way to catch the boat and just relaxed for a while. After whiling away an hour or so, it was time to head to the airport.

 

As soon as we arrived, porters grabbed our luggage and moved it the few metres inside the terminal where we joined an already substantial queue. Of course they expected a tip for their minuscule efforts! After getting me through checking, Jenita went over the arrangements for the evening. A driver would meet me at the airport and take me to Jenita’s house where his cousin would give me dinner and sort me out with a room. Then the next morning the driver would be back to take me back to the airport. After this, he bid me a fond farewell.

 

I then spotted a familiar face, Kathy the American from Andasibe. We spent a bit of time catching up. She’d had a great trip too. Finally it was time to board the plane for our short flight to Tana. The in-flight service consisted of a cheese roll. I wasn’t feeling that hungry, having had a reasonably substantial lunch, but as I wasn’t sure what awaited me at Jenita’s house, I decided to eat some of it anyway.

 

On arrival in Tana, Jenita’s driver was waiting for me and we were on our way in a clapped out old Citroen 2cv. We picked up his cousin, who didn’t really speak much English and headed on to his house. Usually, I am not too bothered about discomfort. I am, after all, a seasoned bush camper! But I hadn’t had a decent shower in three days; I was feeling ill and rather tired. So I wasn’t really in a good frame of mind when I arrived at his house.

 

The first thing I was shown was the outside loo, which had a broken toilet seat and no toilet paper; then the cold water shower next to it, not exactly inviting on a cool night (it now being around 8pm) although, to be fair, I had been warned. I was shown inside. A House Mouse scurried across the kitchen worktop, under the counter laid an old car engine and a moped was parked next to it. I was given a choice of bedrooms, the first one I came to had a bed that was as hard as a rock. His cousin left me briefly to get settled in.

 

I was beginning to wish I hadn’t agreed to him putting me up in his own house. At the time I felt a bit guilty realising that he had actually managed to pull of such an amazing trip at a really cheap price, despite some unexpected costs. Then his cousin re-emerged with a beaming grin and dinner. “Dinner” consisted of whole fried fish that looked like they had been spawned by the mutated offspring of some deep sea angler fish, all bone and no meat, accompanied by rice and some insipid looking green spinachy thing. They had also been cooked some time ago and left to go cold.

 

His cousin then left me alone again; I took one look at the food and started to feel rather queasy. Jenita had commented that fish in Tana was expensive so this was probably a luxury dish! So I texted Jenita to ask him how I could politely tell his cousin that I just couldn’t face anything to eat. He quickly rang back, concern mounting and I explained the situation. By now it was getting on for 9pm, so I said I would just make the most of things and try and get some sleep.

 

On inspection, the second bedroom had a more comfortable bed, and with the addition of some blankets, I felt I would be comfortable enough. No loo paper materialised, but at least I still had a small pack of pocket tissues to get by with. In the end it didn’t matter how comfortable the bed was, as I was up most of the night with terrible stomach cramps.

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kittykat23uk

4th November Day 15 A bit of a croc up..

I had discussed with Jenita ideas for a last minute trip before my light. The ideas we had included going to a nearby lake to do some birding or to go to the crocodile farm, which was much closer to the airport. However, for some reason I had it in my head that my flight was at 11.45, so expecting that there would need to be a 3 hour check in I had concluded that there really wouldn't be time to stop off anywhere unless I got up at the crack of dawn, which, given the long journey ahead of me I thought I ought to avoid. Since I also didn't want to put his friend out, I decided we'd leave it at that and he organised that I'd be taken to the airport at 08.30.

Since I couldn’t sleep, it was no surprise that I was up and about at 5 am anyway. I spent some time organising photos and putting together a collection for Jenita. Then his cousin brought me breakfast of fresh baguettes and Nutella. Just what the doctor ordered!

When I checked my flight at the airport I noticed that the flight time had changed to 13.00. It was only about 8.45. Also check-in wouldn’t open until 11.30. With nothing to do at the airport, an official came to my rescue and organised a car to take me to the nearby croc farm. I spent a good couple of hours wandering around this small park. The entrance led through to a small aviary containing a Greater Vasa Parrot and some much smaller enclosures containing a Barn Owl and Golden Pheasant. Then the path brought me to a more open area with a variety of low level enclosures housing tortoises and turtles. Mainly the same species that we saw at Tsimanampetsotsa.

 

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PB047874 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

There was also a small indoor area containing a variety of endemic reptiles and amphibians, including several spectacular tree frogs, such as Painted Mantella as well as geckos and chameleons, including Panther Chameleon, which I didn’t see in the wild. There were also several tanks in the same complex that were labelled as containing mouse lemurs, although if they were in there, they were keeping a low profile, as I didn’t see them.

 

 

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As I moved on, I then came to a fenced enclosure which was the home of two Fosas. These ones were quite a bit bigger than the ones at Vakona. Up in the trees were a party of free-roaming Coquerel’s Sifakas. They were tempted down on the promise of some tasty banana and I was encouraged to feed them. I enjoyed spending quite a lot of my time watching them. I even got to see them “dancing” as they leapt along the roofs of the buildings.

 

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PB047950 adj by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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kittykat23uk

I continued on, now accompanied by one of the park staff and was shown the pools in which resided different ages of crocodile (the products of which were served in the restaurant and sold in the shop). As I made my way around the park. The guide pointed out a Malagasy Civet also in a fenced enclosure, although it at least looked more at home there than the fosas. Further on, another pool containing crocodiles, big ones this time. But of more interest to me was the large colony of nesting egrets and herons. There were Cattle and Dimorphic Egrets as well as the more diminutive Squacco Herons. A single Black-crowned Night Heron also flew in. The guide indicated that this was the end of the tour and I was content to spend the rest of my time photographing the egrets as they brought nesting material in. As I wandered back, the lemurs were all relaxing in some blooming non-native jacaranda trees.

 

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PB047957 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB048083 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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kittykat23uk

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PB048109 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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PB048111 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

 

Soon it was time to head back to the airport and check in for my flight. On the first leg I asked for a window seat and managed to snap off some aerial shots of the devastated landscape.

 

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The journey home was much longer than the journey there because of an 8 hour layover in Nairobi. At least there were a few shops that I could peruse. I utilised the time to pick up a replacement Masai Mara hat for my Dad who’d had hers stolen by baboons in Kruger National Park. I also took advantage of the good restaurant to get some decent food in me (the meal on the flight was one of the worst I’ve ever had). Sweet-talking the check in guy in Tana made the journey more comfortable as he allocated me a seat by the emergency exit on the Nairobi to Heathrow leg, so I had loads of room. So having eaten a good meal, I tried to get my head down on the long flight home. I finally arrived home at lunchtime the following day, still feeling rather rough but with the cry of the indri a lasting memory from another amazing trip!

 

THE END. :D

Edited by kittykat23uk
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Game Warden

You'll have to go on more expeditions to write more trip reports...

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kittykat23uk
:) well I'll hopefully get to India next, although I haven't had much luck getting any other STers along, which is a pity..
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Well done KK. - Now to start your next trip planning. :)

 

You were so fortunate to see what you saw, and I think you got lucky with your guide and planned very well. In hindsight - our guide wasn't that experienced, and couldn't understand the appeal of seeing their endemics.

 

A few days ago I watched David Attenborough's 50 years return to Madagascar and thought of this report, and what he saw 50 years ago. Together with this report, it has stimulated interest in Madagascar again. It truly is unique. Maybe I will drop by again.

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Sangeeta

So one question, Jo. Did you feel you had enough quiet time with the wildlife, specifically the lemurs, and specifically in parks where there were other tourists being led by their own guides? Was there a possibility of spending an hour or more at a sighting if that is what you wished to do?

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kittykat23uk

Hi Sangeeta,

 

The great thing about going on your own is that I could decide how long I wanted to spend at each sighting. In terms of quiet time, or time alone at a sighting, this varied quite a lot. The worst sightings for crowds were Andasibe at the Indri and Diadamed Sifaka sightings and on the night walks at Andasibe (noisy, mainly French people).

 

The quietest sightings we had were the Milne Edwards Sifakas where there was just myself and two other guests (because I think very few people actually know about Lemur forest camp). In Mantadia there were less people around the B&W ruffed lemur sighting, just me and a few others, so that was wonderful. In Ranomafana, we pretty much had the golden bamboo lemurs to ourselves in the afternoon, the park is much quieter than in the morning.

 

At Anja, there were not too many other people around so we didn't have any issues spending time with the ringtails. Isalo got pretty crowded, but then the swimming pools and scenery is the draw more than the wildlife. Didn't have any issues with crowds in Zombitse (I think we were the only ones there after the birding group left). So yeah, it was mainly in Andasibe that we had the issues with crowds. :)

 

In terms of generally having enough time, I think you will have gathered that I am an early riser on holiday and I did get frustrated that I had to really push the park guides to get out earlier than, say, 7-8ish. In hindsight we might have seen more birds on the first day If I had insisted on getting up earlier, but then I would probably have missed breakfast and we wouldn't have then found out about the mating Fosa, which then led me to choose to go to Mantadia which was a last minute thing so we were a bit late getting there and of course then we had that great sighting of the B&W Ruffed Lemurs.

 

Even if we had gone out earlier in Andasibe on the second full day we would probably not have seen much more because of the foggy start. But I do think we missed a few good areas for birds in the afternoon and I think there is a perception amongst the guides that you can't see as much in the afternoons so why bother to be out. Again you'll have no doubt read my thoughts on that!

 

From what I have learnt, you also have to keep on at them if there are specific things you want to see. Otherwise they think their job is done when you have seen just a few lemurs and chameleons. Reading Ad's report, there are places between some of the sites that I wish we could have explored (i.e. a lake near Ifaty for birds, scanning the harbour in Tulear for waterbirds etc). To be honest I think I should have been more vocal at times.

Edited by kittykat23uk
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Brian's Art for Animals

Excellent report! The wild b/w lemurs and the Foosa must have been amazing to see, two of my favorites. It was interestings to see the crocs, as usually you don't hear much outside of lemurs for Madagascar wildlife. Thanks so much for posting.

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Super LEEDS

Epic TR, KK. And I don't mean that in the modern-speak way! :)

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kittykat23uk

Thanks Brian and Leeds, Yep the Fosa and the B&W Ruffed lemurs were two of the biggest highlights of the trip :) I was just so lucky to see them! :)

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