Just when you thought you had had the best day forwildlife the day before - granted it was the first day with no yardstick for comparison - along comes another one to challenge the notion. The second of the two full days in the Andasibe area was planned to be a morning at Mantadia. This is a huge reserve, dwarfing Andasibe by many fold. It is also more difficult to see the wildlife here, due to the size and spread of the groups. The drive from Andasibe takes well over an hour, due in whole to the very rough road linking the two. We were lucky to be in a 4x4, which soaked up some of the ruts. When we arrived at the entrance, there were a couple of mini buses pulled up alongside deep mud with a job on of turning. The "facilities" are also interesting, consisting of no more than a hole in the wall for a toilet surrounded by three walls and a roof. No door of course.
There are some well laid out tracks to follow from here, but as with yesterday, some of the wildlife had to be searched for off piste. The forest is fairly thick, but not impenetrable, which leads to some interesting detours. Things started well, after finally pinning down a Cuckoo-roller through a window in the canopy, and a Tylas Vanga while waiting for the guide to return from searching for a nightjar. Thus led to a small climb and the reward of a small group of Common Brown Lemurs. They were unperturbed by our presence, feeding peacefully on the trees in front of us.
We descended back down to the main track, with the guide hoping for a glimpse of Sifakas. These are also quite difficult to track down, but progress was good with various good birds in the menu. A Pygmy Kingfisher was at eye height for some time over the main track, and a short diversion found a stunning Blue Coua. The only real bird party we came across was predictably led by White-eyes, but added Paradise-flycatchers and a couple of Nuthatch Vangas which had been missed yesterday. A white male Paradise-flycatcher was seen much later in the morning. Before reaching an open track and direct sunlight, a small group of Lesser Vasa Parrots was generally very approachable. The open track passed almost hidden Brush Warblers in the undergrowth, and ended at a small pool, which had a pair of Madagascar Grebes at the rear. A single Common Brown Lemur was in trees to the side, and Madagascar Spine-tailed Swifts and single Madagascar Bee-eater over head.
Returning to the forest was a brilliant move. We should have been heading for the vehicle by now, but we then came across another guide who had seen Sifaka further down the tracks. Passing a Blue Vanga on the way, we went up smaller tracks and were lucky enough to find the small group of 8 Diademed Sifakas. We were the only observers in the half an hour or so that we followed them in the forest, even coming across our first few leaches. A dose of 50% deet soon sorted them out! The Sifakas entertained throughout, including a very young baby trying its climbing skills. They were often either just above us or only metres away. A real treat.
The return to the vehicle found a few Magpie Robins, a Long-billed Bernieria, and finally a Madagascar Cuckoo which could be located finally. They had been calling regularly throughout the trek, and only poked out of the canopy this once. When near the entrance, the guide spotted a Fosa just off the track. A little too quick for me at the back, but seen briefly by my wife. She now has the stick to beat me with!