The Panther Passion Tour

11 - 12  days  in  late january 2009*

5 people signed up (as of September 15, 2008)

 

The "Panther Passion Tour" is a specially organized tour by Bill Love Blue Chameleon Ventures.  The goal is to see as many variations of panther chameleons and other chameleons in the wild as possible.  We'll also conduct 'light research' on each, record its habitat / flora, and observe as many behavioral aspects of biology as possible.  And, take lots of photos, of course!  Although chameleons are the main targets, we'll also encounter plenty of geckos, lemurs, boas, and many of the other endemic animals and plants that make Madagascar a naturalist's playground.  Chameleons are just the focal point to open the doors of an unforgettable trip.  This will be a unique experience that only a handful of people in the world will ever experience in their lifetimes.  

NEWS FLASH :  Our newest confirmed tour member is renowned chameleon authority and author Gary Ferguson of Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth, Texas.  And better yet, Gary has a detailed research agenda involving Furcifer pardalis during the trip which he hopes we'll all participate in carrying out with him.  You may read a more complete account of his goals HERE.

Summer (late December - March in Madagascar) is the only time of year that it's feasible to view many chameleon species active in the field looking their best for breeding season.  It'll be hot and humid.  We will be staying in hotels for a significant portion of the tour, but there will be a couple days of primitive camping where we're going; all camp gear is provided.  We'll make the travel as comfortable as possible, but please understand that this will not be a total luxury tour.  Walking over unimproved terrain will be a necessity, and mud, bugs, heat and humidity will be factors we'll have to contend with at times.  It will be warm, probably hot (mid-eighties to low 100s) most of the time, and rain is likely on many of the days.  Please consider this carefully when deciding if this adventure trip is for you.

Here is a rough summary of the plan we'll follow; please note that the order and means of travel is subject to change depending upon local conditions and other factors beyond control.  

PART  1,  the  NORTH  ---   Five to six days in the north - northwest of Madagascar.  The destinations here include explorations of the Antisiranana (Diego-Suarez) region ("rainbow panthers"), the wet forest on Amber Mountain (high chameleon and gecko diversity), and the tsingy and caves of the Ankarana Massif (lemurs, Oustalet's chameleons, bats, scorpions, etc.), the Ambilobe - Sirama region where the variable 'Picasso' race of panther chameleons live, then on to see the world's most gorgeous, cobalt blue-banded chameleons around Ambanja, and finally the 'pink panthers' of Ankaramy.  Finally we'll visit the tropical islands around Nosy Be -- Nosy Komba and Nosy Tanikely, and make the journey to the island of Nosy Faly too (where even Bill has never yet ventured).  Below are herps I've seen in these regions on past trips....

Mad. ground boa (Acrantophis madagascariensis) from Ambanja region.

Peeling plated lizard (Zonosaurus tsingy) in breeding coloration, Montagne des Francais.

Male pink panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) from Ankaramy.

In particular, this is the most exciting part of the country for anyone with a passion for panther chameleons (Furcifer pardalis).  Blue highlights many specimens to one degree or another.  Bill has a huge amount of experience in the north and will put his best effort forward to maximize encounters with all the gorgeous morphs there.  We'll fly up and back, but explore the area in between in 4WD vehicles of my trusted friend's tour company in Diego-Suarez at the northern tip of Madagascar. 

Male Nosy Be panther chameleon.

Male and female panther chameleons from Ambanja.

Male panther from north of Ambanja.

PART  2,  the  EAST  ---   During this 5 - 6 day leg of the tour, we'll go to the east coast and explore the area around Tamatave, drive up through Foulpointe and end up at Soanierana-Ivongo where we'll cross over to Nosy Boraha (Ile Ste. Marie) by ferry.  The panthers here are odd grayish, but I've never been there during the best season to see what colors they may attain.  Nosy Boraha is also known for Parson's chameleons and lined leaftail geckos.  This holiday island is also a great tropical place to relax and enjoy some fruits des mer (seafood).

Giant day gecko (Phelsuma madagascariensis) eating a 'house' gecko on a hotel wall after dark.

Male panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) as found crossing road near Foulpointe.

Tomato frog (Dyscophus antongili), Maroantsetra

We'll continue up to the town of Maroantsetra and stay at accommodations there.  Day geckos abound, and the 'ripest' tomato frogs on all of Madagascar can be unearthed there.  This is in the 'armpit' on the upper east coast where very red panthers also live.  We'll have a day and night to visit tiny Nosy Mangabe by the Masoala peninsula where the large leaftail gecko Uroplatus fimbriatus can usually be found in relative abundance, plus mantella frogs, tree boas, mouse lemurs, and more.  Aye-ayes, the weirdest mammals in the world, are also seen here more readily than anywhere else, plus black and white ruffed lemurs abound on the island too.  We'll then proceed up to the Sambava - Andapa area further up the east coast where the most inland population of panther chameleons (that I'm aware of) occurs.  This is the heart of vanilla growing, so plan on stocking up with the real beans to take home.

Adult minimal ground chameleon (Brookesia minima) on finger tip.

Lined leaftail gecko (Uroplatus lineatus), east coast.

Male panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) from east, in stress coloration.

* * *  We will be able to handle, photograph, and study all the live chameleons we find, but we will not be able to take them home.

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GENERAL INFO:    *To take this trip, you must be able to be away from approximately January 10th until February 3rd of 2009.  The exact trip will not be that long, but the 11 - 12 days' dates are still not set in stone at this time.  They will be decided in Oct. 2008 once the number of tour members has been determined.  It has gotten increasingly more difficult to book tours ahead with exact dates due to constantly the fluctuating exchange rate with the Euro (on which all tour pricing for me is based) and shifting Malagasy airline schedules that far in advance.  For this reason, I must advertise the dates approximately and ask everyone signing on to be flexible in scheduling their time off to do this trip until Oct. 2008 when I have the number of tour members determined.  

The tour will commence upon our arrival in Antananarivo.  By mid-Oct. 2008, Blue Chameleon Ventures will provide all paid tour members with its travel agent and flight information from the U.S. to Paris for those who wish to also book the same flights.  

We'll spend approximately 11- 12 days inside Madagascar.  Our 4WD vehicles at all venues will have air conditioning.  Each vehicle will seat the driver and one tour leader in front and four tour members in the rows behind.  Your luggage will be securely stored on roof racks, and smaller pieces (cameras, etc.) inside as space permits.  

The trip will be co-guided by Bill Love, a seasoned leader of 12 trips to Madagascar since 1991.  All inquiries about trip logistics should be directed to Bill Love - bill@bluechameleon.org 

The cost for the tour will be approximately $4500 per person --- price subject to change without notice due to fluctuating airline costs for interior Mad. flights, and the fluctuating exchange rate with the Euro, and fuel costs until each tour is paid and ticketed.   

Included:   All lodging and meals in Madagascar as per the itinerary, all domestic flights inside Madagascar, all airport transfers and taxes within Madagascar, the services of one or more English-speaking Malagasy guides within Madagascar (in addition to Bill and Peter), services of vehicle(s) and driver(s) as needed throughout the trip, and all entrance fees and fees of local guides in any parks and reserves.

Not included:   Airfare to and from Madagascar (you should estimate approximately $2000 per person for this.  DO NOT book this yourself before speaking to Bill Love about this.  I get a discount on Air Madagascar for groups over 10 people), which will save you if the group meets or exceeds this.  Also not included are tips, beverages (including non-alcoholic, and water), personal items such as telephone / fax calls and laundry, etc., and any special services of a personal nature away from the group.  The price is based on double occupancy in all lodgings (or tents); single (private) rooms / tents would be an additional fee of $250.  

All tour members must be 'signed up' with full balances paid in full by Sept. 30, 2008.  Your deposit is safe, and will be refunded in full if we are not able to find enough tour members to fill this trip.  If you must cancel on the tour before November 15, 2008, all money paid, minus a $300 handling fee, will be refunded.  

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After November 15, 2008, no tour money can be refunded; please consider purchasing 

trip cancellation insurance to cover you in case of an emergency need to cancel. 

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If you would like to be notified by email when this page is updated, or if you have questions, please email me at bill@bluechameleon.org .   You may call between 10am and 10pm Eastern Standard Time 

Sincerely,  Bill Love

TELEPHONE:  (239) 464 - 6642

 

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