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The NATURAL HISTORY OF MADAGASCAR

led by Mark Smith
and Rivo Rarivosoa

September 23 - October 15, 2017

Madagascar, the eighth continent! Biologically speaking, this 1000 mile-long island, fourth largest in the world, is another continent. Some 160 million years ago the island broke from Gondwanaland, the ancient megacontinent that was comprised of Australia, India, Africa and Antarctica. This long separation has fostered the evolution of thousands of endemic species of plants and animals.

Lemurs are the most famous of Madagascar's endemic fauna, and during our travels we will likely encounter sixteen or more species of these beguiling primates, including the superb black and white Indri, the graceful white Sifaka, and tiny Mouse Lemurs. In addition to lemurs, Madagascar is the only place the hedgehog-like, insectivorous tenrecs exist. The Island is home to 70% of the world's bizarre chameleons, and of the 250 bird species half are endemic, including such spectacular groups as Vangas, Ground-rollers, Mesites, Asitys, and Couas. The plants of Madagascar have also been isolated for millions of years and have evolved beautiful strange forms like bloated Baobab and Elephant Foot trees and the spindly, spiny Didiera trees. There are also more than 1000 orchids. Over 80% of this diverse flora occurs nowhere else. Culturally, too, Madagascar is not a part of Africa. The first humans arrived over 1500 years ago from Indonesia, and today much of Madagascar's fertile high plateau is covered by terraced rice paddies.

Saving Madagascar's remaining wildlands is one of the highest priorities in world conservation. Fourteen species of large lemurs, the massive Elephant Birds, and a Pygmy Hippopotamus are already recently extinct. In the 1980's the government was convinced of the value of its natural heritage and currently several international conservation groups are working with Madagascar to establish and protect reserves throughout the country. It is hoped nature tourism will supply parkside communities with alternatives to slash and burn agriculture.

Our tour, led by Rivo Rarivosoa, a Malagasy naturalist who speaks French, English and Malagasy, visits the dry forests of the northwest, rainforests on the east slope, desert spiny forests in the south, and fine coral reefs and beaches. We will have leisurely nature hikes, night walks searching for nocturnal lemurs, superb ocean snorkeling and swimming, and shopping time for fine crafts. Photo opportunities are unlimited, with spectacular landscapes, intriguing peoples and close-ups of lemurs, showy insects, flowers, and colorful harmless snakes and lizards. Join us in Madagascar, for the totally endemic time of your life!

September 23 - October 15, 2017

GROUND COST: $5750

LEADER: Mark Smith & Rivo Rarivosoa

LIMIT: 9, 6 or fewer typical in recent years

Madagascar itinerary
Mark Smith Photos from Madagascar
Field Guide to Common Sea Shells of Madagascar

Western Avahi Lemur photo by Diana Bradshaw
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