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Mauritius, Reunion and Seychelles:
Mascarene Islands Birding Tour

The tropical islands of Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues are perhaps most famous for their extinct birds - Dodo and Solitaire. However, due to ongoing conservation efforts we have the privilege of seeing the special birds that have escaped a similar fate.

Our week-long tour focuses on the land and seabirds of these far-flung islands, as an extension to our popular Madagascar Tour.

The week starts in Mauritius where conservation icons such as Pink Pigeon, Mauritius Kestrel and Echo Parakeet will be our main targets, along with endemic Mauritius Cuckooshrike, Mauritius Bulbul, Mauritius Grey White-eye, Mauritius Olive White-Eye and Mauritius Fody. A boat trip to the famous Round Island will hopefully produce 'Round Island Petrel'.

Good air connections allow us to make an overnight trip to Rodrigues, where the island's two extant endemics - Rodrigues Warbler and Rodrigues Fody - should be tracked down without too much fuss.

Finally we return to Mauritius and continue onwards to Reunion, home to no less than eight endemics. Land birds should include Reunion Harrier, Reunion Cuckooshrike, Reunion Bulbul, Reunion Grey White-eye, Reunion Olive White-eye and Reunion Stonechat and a pelagic trip should turn up Barau's Petrel and, if we are exceptionally fortunate, the enigmatic Mascarene Petrel.

Featured Leader: Michael Mills

Michael recommends: This tour is well suited to world listers and keen birders with a sense of adventure.

Michael Mills grew up in the Kgalagadi Gemsbok and Kruger National Parks and has travelled extensively in Africa, Asia, South America and Antarctica. He obtained a Masters degree in Conservation Biology and continues conducting bird research, particularly in Angola.

Besides birds, he has a strong interest in mammals, particularly in small carnivores and African primates.

Michael leads tours for Birding Africa to Cameroon , Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana, Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe, Ethiopia, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia, Namibia, Madagascar and Angola.


2017 Tours

Tour name Dates in country Days Details

Mauritius, Reunion and Seychelles

Extension: Madagascar: Endemic Birds and Lemurs Masoala and Main Tours start 1 and 6 Nov 2017

20 - 31 October

 8

see below

* Cost pps = cost per person sharing a room. ** Single = single room supplement.

* Included:
drinks
tips
full board accommodation
Birding Africa tour leader
Birding Africa printed booklet with species lists
activities as indicated on the itinerary
guide fees, entry fees for the parks, reserves and botanical gardens
road transport
flights between Mauritius, Rodrigues and Reunion.

* Not included:
laundry, telephone calls, entry visa, international flights to Mauritius at the start of the tour and leaving Reunion at the end of the tour. Those continuing on to Madagascar can join the tour leader and book a flight from Reunion to Antananarivo; kindly let us know beforehand.


Mauritius Olive White-eye © Mike Buckham
Mauritius Olive White-eye

2016 ITINERARY: Outline - Please enquire for the 2017 details

7 Nov 2016:
arrive Mauritius. Tour starts with dinner and accommodation. Overnight Port Louis.

(Optional flight from Antananarivo 1655-1940).

8 Nov 2016:
morning land birding on Mauritius (Black River Gorges, Bras d’Eau and Isle Aux Aigrettes); afternoon Round Island Pelagic. Target endemics: Pink Pigeon, Mauritius Kestrel, Echo Parakeet, Mauritius Cuckooshrike, Mauritius Bulbul, Mauritius Grey White-eye, Mauritius Olive White-eye, Mauritius Fody. Other: Mascarene Swiftlet, Mascarene Paradise Flycatcher, ”Round Island Petrel”/Trindade Petrel, Barau's Petrel.

9 Nov 2016:
morning land birding on Mauritius; afternoon backup for Round Island Pelagic.

10 Nov 2016:
morning flight to Rodrigues (0850-1020). Afternoon birding on Rodrigues. Target endemics: Rodrigues Warbler, Rodrigues Fody.

11 Nov 2016:
morning birding on Rodrigues, before flying to Mauritius (1520-1700) and on to Reunion (2145-2240).

12 Nov 2016:
morning land birding in highlands of Reunion. Afternoon pelagic for Mascarene Petrel. Target endemics: Mascarene Petrel (br), Barau's Petrel (br), Reunion Harrier, Reunion Cuckooshrike, Reunion Bulbul, Reunion Grey White-eye, Reunion Olive White-eye, Reunion Stonechat. Other: Mascarene Swiftlet, Mascarene Paradise Flycatcher.

13 Nov 2016:
full day on Reunion with pelagic backup. Birding ends mid afternoon. Optional afternoon flight to Mauritius, 1730-1815 (with a discount if you do not use this hotel night).

14 Nov 2016:
Tour ends after breakfast.

(Optional 1430-1510 flight to Antananarivo, Madagascar to join Endemic Birds & Lemurs tour).

ITINERARY: Detail

The far-flung oceanic islands of Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues (collectively the Mascarenes) lie hundreds of kilometres off the east coast of Madagascar. With a good flight network connecting them, and an interesting array of species on offer, they make for an excellent one-week getaway. While sadly their most famous birds are now extinct - Dodo and Solitaire - they still offer a good selection of endemics, some of which have survived only as a result of some heroic conservation initiatives. We start our exploration of this remote region with a couple of days on Mauritius, home to eight land bird endemics. Most of these are best searched for in various sectors of the world-famous Black River Gorges National Park, which will be the main focus of our time spent on this tropical island. Lying in the mountainous south-western interior, the volcanic terrain creates a spectacular backdrop to our birding. The park holds the main populations of Pink Pigeon, Mauritian Kestrel and Echo Parakeet, three species which have been brought back from the brink of extinction, thankfully all on the increase now. The very rare Mauritian Cuckooshrike is also a possibility, although all of these may require considerable effort to track down, and even Mauritius Bulbul can be hard to come by. More common is the Mauritius Grey White-eye and Mauritius Fody.

Other land-based sites to be visited include the sanctuary of Aux Aigrettes Islet, a small offshore islet managed for threatened species. This is perhaps the best site for Mauritius Olive White-eye and home also to Pink Pigeon and Mauritius Fody. In general the lowlands are heavily transformed and cultivated, with only a couple of tiny forest patches remaining. One of these, Bras d’Eau, is the best site for the endemic subspecies (and a possibly future split) of Mascarene Paradise Flycatcher, which we will visit too. The cultivated areas hold several other species too, but almost all of these are introduced, so little time will be spent here.

Weather permitting we also hope to make pelagic trip to Round Island. Although landing on the island is not allowed, we hope to see some of the spectacular seabirds around the island (they are breeding at the time), and locate the rare Trinidade Petrel, here thousands of kilometres out of its main range and mooted as an endemic called 'Round Island Petrel'. Among the other seabirds we hope to find Red-tailed Tropicbird, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, White-tailed Tropicbird, Lesser Noddy, Brown Noddy and Sooty Tern.

More than 500 km east of Mauritius, but politically part of it, lies the more arid island of Rodrigues, home to two further endemics. Fortunately there are daily flights between the two islands, so getting there is simple. We'll overnight on the island, and during the morning and afternoon we should be able to track down Rodrigues Warbler and Rodrigues Fody is some of the few remaining forest remnants. If all goes well we may also have time for a short pelagic trip here (weather and time permitting), where additional birds may include White Tern.

The final segment of the trip will be spent on the island of Reunion, a political and social outlier of France. The rugged, volcanic landscape again creates a spectacular backdrop during our searches for the eight endemics, of which two are breeding endemic seabirds. The mountainous interior (reaching over 3000 m altitude) is best accessible at La Roche Ecrite, where a long hike takes us through luxuriant montane habitats. Dense mist can be a problem, but with an early start we hope to have a few hours under relatively clear skies. The full range of landbird endemics can be found here; Reunion Harrier, Reunion Bulbul, Reunion Grey White-eye, Reunion Olive White-eye and Reunion Stonechat should be seen with relative ease, although the incredibly rare Reunion Cuckooshrike can be hard to find. The island also offers two breeding-endemic seabird. Of these Barau's Petrel is by far the more numerous, and we hope to spot some while sea watching from the southern coast. Mascarene Petrel, however, is incredibly rare. The general location of their nest sites has been narrowed down to the mountainous interior, although no nests have yet been found. If time permits and we have not managed to spot any during our seawatching, we hope to do a pelagic trip to the adjacent oceans where previous trips have had success.

The tour ends in Reunion.



Practical tour information

Focus For keen birders and world listers.
Photography Many participants on our trips are amateur wildlife photographers. And when we get excellent views of a bird or mammal, some time is usually spent watching and photographing it. However, this is not a photographic tour and once the majority of the people have felt that they have absorbed the animal or bird to their satisfaction, then we move on in search of the next encounter. Thus, while the photographic opportunities are very good, the group will only occasionally wait for somebody who wants to spend even longer getting better photos.
Fitness A moderate level of fitness is required.
Timing  
Climate  
Comfort Moderate to basic comfort in small hotels, guest houses and lodges.
Transport A combination of four-wheel-drives and minibuses
Getting There Please enquire. The trip start in Mauritius and ends in Reunion.
Group Size Please enquire. May vary depending on the tour.
Top birds Mauritius: Pink Pigeon, Mauritius Kestrel, Echo Parakeet, Mauritius Cuckooshrike, Mauritius Bulbul, Mauritius Grey White-eye, Mauritius Olive White-eye, Mauritius Fody.
Rodrigues: Rodrigues Warbler, Rodrigues Fody.
Reunion: Mascarene Petrel, Barau's Petrel, Reunion Harrier, Reunion Cuckooshrike, Reunion Bulbul, Reunion Grey White-eye, Reunion Olive White-eye, Reunion Stonechat.
Booking Your booking can be secured with a booking form and deposit. You will receive confirmation and our tour information pack with practical information on what to expect and how to prepare for the tour. The balance is due 150 days before the tour. Contact us to enquire about availability.


About Birding Africa

Birding Africa is a specialist birding tour company customising tours for both world listers and more relaxed holiday birders. We combine interests in mammals, butterflies, dragonflies, botany and other natural history aspects and will guide you to Africa's and Madagascar's most diverse birding destinations. Our guides' knowledge of African birds and birding areas is our greatest strength and together we have rediscovered species, shared exciting observations with the birding community and had a fun time exploring our home continent. We've even written two acclaimed guide books on where to find Southern Africa's and Madagascar's best birds. Birding is more than our passion, it's our lifestyle, and we are dedicated to making professional, best value trips filled with endemic species and unique wildlife experiences. Since 1997, we've run bird watching tours in South Africa and further into Africa for individual birders, small birding groups and top international tour companies. We've run Conservation Tours in association with the African Bird Club and work with and consult for a number of other top international tour companies and the BBC Natural History Unit.

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Black Harrier photograph courtesy of Keith Offord.
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