Madagascar Bugs

I recently met someone who specializes in spiders and insects on Madagascar. I wanted to check if there would be any interesting by anyone in participating in an organized trip to Madagascar to search them out. The timing would be in the Jan - April 2025 timeframe.

Daniel has written various guidebooks and wildlife guides to Madagascar.

Update from @danielaustin on proposed itinerary and pricing:

A 14-night trip would be optimum, so as not to rush. This is longer than we were at first proposing, so we can look at the feasibility of options closer to my original 11-night suggestion if people are short on time. For now, the guideline quote is based on that, with the following assumptions:

Six people in the group. Obviously there would be some limited economies of scale if it was a larger group, reducing the per-person price a little.

The price is £4,795 (approx US $6,000) per person sharing in a twin or double room (for those wanting solo accommodation the price would typically be about 15% more).

The price includes all accommodation, all meals, the internal flight, all transfers and transportation in 4x4 vehicles, services of myself as tour leader as well as the various drivers and local guides etc, all excursion and activities, park/reserve permits, park/reserve guiding fees, and bottled water on excursions/journeys.

So the price includes pretty much everything except: your international flights, and obviously any extras (like drinks, souvenirs or laundry etc), and tips.

ROUTE & HOTELS:
Day 1: Arrive, overnight near airport
Day 2-4: Drive to Andasibe for 3 nights at Mantadia Lodge
Day 5: Head back to Antananarivo, overnight there
Day 6-7: Fly down to Tulear, drive to Ifaty, 2 nights at Paradisier
Day 8-9: Up the RN7 to Isalo for 2 nights ar Jardin du Roy
Day 10: Continue up RN7 to Ambalavao, overnight Betsileo Country Lodge
Day 11-13: Continue up RN7 to Ranomafana, 3 nights at Hotel Thermal
Day 14: Overnight Antsirabe, Couleur Café
Day 15: Departure

As a side note, the Magic Eyes of Masoala is a stunning, big, heavy coffee-table book with about 500 pages and tonnes of incredible photos. Mainly about the moths. The work was done in Masoala (northeast) but a lot of the species are found throughout the rainforest belt including Andasibe and Ranomafana that feature prominently on our proposed itinerary.

@amzapp, @annikaml, @bacchusrock, @baxter-slye, @bosqueaaron, @brandonmeadows, @brencero, @brentano, @butterflies4fun, @cameralenswrangler, @centratex, @chasingchickens, @currenfrasch, @connlindajo, @daltonlawing, @devinpedraza, @eaneubauer, @elytrid, @franpfer, @gcwarbler, @gwaithir, @immortalwhat, @inhat83, @isaaceastland, @jcochran706, @jeff_back, @jeffmci9, @jgw_atx, @k8thegr8, @katherinedaniels, @knightericm, @kimberlietx, @laurahaynes, @lorimalloy, @lovebirder, @lulubelle, @mammelton50, @megachile, @mpintar, @mikef451, @oddfitz, @observerjosh, @pfau_tarleton, @pynklynx, @prairie_rambler, @rkostecke, @rymcdaniel, @sagaciousoctopus, @sambiology, @steven_bach, @swissagnes, @tadamcochran, @wildcarrot

Publicado el noviembre 3, 2023 09:37 TARDE por bacchusrock bacchusrock

Comentarios

Oh my goodness, how I would LOOOOOOVE to go on this trip. Alas, I'm not able to go financially or at this time (a few things already on my schedule for fall). If you do go, I would soooo live vicariously through every observation!

Publicado por sambiology hace 9 meses

Yes, yes, yes, yes! :-)

Publicado por annikaml hace 9 meses

September is pretty much the only month I can’t take time off for work. But with enough time to plan, October might be possible… 🤔

Publicado por observerjosh hace 9 meses

I would love nothing more. We'll see how life goes, a few changes are happening this year.

Publicado por k8thegr8 hace 9 meses

Oh wow, that would be amazing! Affordability would be a major determining factor...

Publicado por bosqueaaron hace 9 meses

Adding @pfau_tarleton who I would have missed because I copied potential participants from his Timberlake post.

I've been corresponding with Daniel and I have additional information on route and timing. I thought at first we could time it before his October 2024 Madagascar tour but he says September is too dry to be productive for bugs. Note that the price of the tour I posted includes flights from/to London and quite a few Madagascar internal flights and is for 20 days. November and December are super busy with tourists so he is recommending a January 2025 time frame which would also mean lower hotel costs. I'll post more later today.

Publicado por bacchusrock hace 9 meses

Ooooo, Jan 2025 may be doable for me!!!

Publicado por sambiology hace 9 meses

We are already getting close to the minimum number of participants needed, between 6-8 is what I remember him mentioning but it may be possible to increase that number since we're terribly good at exploring ourselves and don't need hand-holding. I am going to post his long message to me without any modifications, so I'm not interpreting what he said. If anyone has specific questions, I'm happy to relay back and forth. I'll find out, however, if I can get him connected directly here in iNat.

Publicado por bacchusrock hace 9 meses

How many days [for a reasonable tour] is always a tough question. Madagascar is a huge country (4x area of England) made seemingly all the larger by its poor infrastructure. Its north-south dimension is not all that much more than the UK's, yet Land's End to John O'Groats can be driven in a tenth of the time an equivalent trip would take in Madagascar. So, short of booking your own private helicopter tour – and some wealthy folk do (Leonardo diCaprio was there last month doing just that!) – it needs at least a couple of weeks to see a reasonable cross-section of what the island has to offer.

When building an itinerary for a general wildlife tour, we try to include at least some of each of: rainforest (the east and far north), dry deciduous forest (the west) and spiny forest (the far south), ideally with some tsingy (limestone karst formations) and baobab trees. That way, clients can get a good sample of most of the things Madagascar is famous for, and see a good range of lemur and chameleon species. My small-group tours tend to last around three weeks, and here's a few of the itineraries depicted on maps to show the amount of the country that can be covered in that amount of time. (Red is driving; blue dotted lines are flights.)

Most of these trips are already quite fast-paced (by which I mean not much downtime) so trying to fit anything more than this into a three-week window means you would spend most of the time "on the road" and rather little time to enjoy each place when you get there. If I seem to be labouring the point, it's because I am frequently sent people's planned itineraries for my comments, and almost invariably I find they have misjudged the size of Madagascar and trying to be far too ambitious into their planned route.

Having said all that, for a bug-centred trip, it would not be critical to include all of the many aspects that we try to cram into an itinerary for general wildlife interest. It would be possible to do a really decent and productive tour in less than 14 days and also keep the price down by including just one domestic flight. The route I would propose for a limited-time bug-centred trip would be the one shown in the last of the map thumbnails above. This is essentially the Route Nationale 7 southwest from the capital down to Toliara (930km total), then fly back to the capital and go east on Route Nationale 2 to Andasibe (140km).

With a couple of nights at Andasibe (rainforest; good place to find giraffe weevils and moths), a couple at Ranomafana (more rainforest; there are some spectacular moths there, incl comet moths if we are lucky), a couple at Isalo (open sandstone landscape with dry forest in canyons; great for stick insects, scorpions, flatid leaf bugs), calling in at Zombitse (transition forest) and then staying at Ifaty (spiny forest zone), all that should come to around 11 days without rushing too much. There are various interesting add-ons that we could look at if you wanted to make it longer.

Publicado por bacchusrock hace 9 meses

Regarding timing of the trip, he said "September would be a nice time, but I think not the optimum as it is the austral early spring and still rather dry. The rains pick up over the period from November to January, and wildlife activity increases with that. You may have read that Jan-Apr is the "rainy season" and is accordingly the low season for tourism. That's true but it's only really the north and west of Madagascar where places become inaccessible (the problem of the rainy season is not so much the rain itself as the fact that in some regions the roads turn into mudbaths and some rivers become uncrossable as they rise); however, the RN7+RN2 route that I have recommended is accessible year-round. The problem with Oct/Nov/Dec is that I am not available, so if you are keen for me to lead the tour then that doesn't work. In addition to that, this is peak season for wildlife tourism so if you are looking at going in 2024, we would likely struggle with hotel availability at some places (in October especially, hotels can be booked out 18+ months before). Looking beyond that season into Jan/Feb, though, the number of other tourists drops off dramatically and we would have the pick of the hotels, and also benefit from the low-season hotel rates."

Looking at his calendar, we would be looking at around Jan 8, 2025 as a start date, but we will be able to figure that out once participants are confirmed.

Publicado por bacchusrock hace 9 meses

I like the 11-14 days length better than 20ish and I think most of us wouldn't be as interested in seeing as much of the country as possible, but rather being able to really dig in to certain locations. I could be wrong though, what do y'all think?

Publicado por bosqueaaron hace 9 meses

Just curious -- do you have a ball-park estimate of total cost (including a rough cost of flights)? $4k? $8k? Any idea?

Publicado por sambiology hace 9 meses

Not knowing the exact destination airport, I saw that expedia has round trip flights between 2000 and 2500 from DFW, but will only let you see out to Oct. '24.

Publicado por bosqueaaron hace 9 meses

We would be flying in to Antananarivo so you can check prices on that. The 20 day tour Daniel had shared with me was $12,000 but that included flights to/from London and quite a few flights internal to Madagascar. The link seems to be broken right now. I'll check with Daniel what is going on. If we did 11 days and only one Madagascar internal flight, I'm guessing it would be closer to the $6-$8k range, but I'll ask Daniel for a ball park figure when I ask him about the broken link. Seeing more of the country would increase the cost as more flights would be required. It is a trade off.

Publicado por bacchusrock hace 9 meses

I also asked him about mothing (bringing our own kits) and his response was: "Re the mothing, indeed one could set up one's own light traps. It may require advance permission if intending to do actually inside parks and reserves, but the lodges are generally outside the official protected area so there should be no issue to set them up at most of the places we stay, which are often close to the periphery of protected areas. Indeed Vakona Forest Lodge in the Andasibe area has its own permanently set up light trap for mothing, and is very productive despite that particular lodge being a few km from the actual protected areas."

Publicado por bacchusrock hace 9 meses

Found a link that works to the 21 day tour (https://www.rainbowtours.co.uk/tours/africa/madagascar-wildlife-endangered-oddities-and-icons-with-daniel-austin) and it looks like there are 3 internal flights.

Publicado por bacchusrock hace 9 meses

The 11 day, 6-8K one would would difficult, but I'd do everything in my power to make it happen. 21 days would be totally impossible for me. Also, connecting in London seems unnecessary for us. I see he's willing to work with other airlines..

Publicado por bosqueaaron hace 9 meses

We can book our own flights; it doesn't need to be done through Rainbow.

Publicado por bacchusrock hace 9 meses

I'm still REALLY interested in this. I'll have to save up a bit, buuuut I'd sure like to do this.

Publicado por sambiology hace 8 meses

See if he can give us some prices for the 11 days assuming we book our own flight.

Publicado por bosqueaaron hace 8 meses

I have asked, but haven't heard back yet. I'll give it another week before asking again. I did get an update on timing that anytime between January and April could work so we have a bit of flexibility, however, if we schedule it when he's already in Madagascar, then we won't have the cost of flying him there.

Publicado por bacchusrock hace 8 meses

So I have started looking into this, and the 20-days trip is unfortunately outside my budget. Shorter trip is still doable.
I'm with Aaron, I don't need to cover the whole country, I'd be happy to spend more time in fewer spots. And traveling that far, I'd definitely be interested in seeing other things than just bugs, like lemurs, chameleons, birds, plants, anything new and exciting.

Publicado por annikaml hace 8 meses

We would definitely have the opportunity to see everything else that Madagascar has to offer in terms of biodiversity. Daniel will be able to help us find those that hang out in the area we cover. The 20 day trip is designed to cover the different habitats to get as many species as possible. He does have an iNaturalist account, @danielaustin and you could explore what he and others have seen in the area of Madagascar that Daniel has proposed.

Publicado por bacchusrock hace 8 meses

Update from Daniel: He's been crazy busy with leading tours but will jump in as soon as his schedule permits over the coming weeks.

We have time to plan this out.

Publicado por bacchusrock hace 8 meses

I have updated the introduction of this journal to include a proposed itinerary and pricing.

Publicado por bacchusrock hace 8 meses

Thanks for always keeping us updated on this @bacchusrock !
Alas, September-October is bonkers busy for me every year (master naturalist and other conferences), so I likely won't be able to make it during that time.
Nonetheless, I really really hope that you all get to go and observe everything so I can live vicariously through the observations!!! :)

Publicado por sambiology hace 8 meses

Oops @sambiology Forgot to update the timing comment based on Daniel's feedback. It would be in the Jan - April 2025 timeframe,

Publicado por bacchusrock hace 8 meses

Ah! Ok, well, then maybe I can still come!!! :) Especially if it's earlier in the year (Jan-Feb-ish) -- as we get closer to spring, my schedule gets bonkers. :)

Publicado por sambiology hace 8 meses

We would decide timing as a group.

Publicado por bacchusrock hace 8 meses

I would absolutely love to go, but this is beyond my financial reach, unfortunately.

Publicado por lulubelle hace 8 meses

We would absolutely love to do this, but price is pretty steep... going to start saving! Please keep me involved in the communications. A shorter trip (11-14 days) would likely be more do-able for our budget.

Publicado por wildcarrot hace 8 meses

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