The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Comoro Islands Tours

SEYCHELLES, MAURITIUS, RÉUNION & COMOROS – Indian Ocean endemics and seabirds

Wednesday 12th October – Monday 31st October 2022

Leader: Mark Van Beirs

20 Days Group Size Limit 8

SEYCHELLES, MAURITIUS, RÉUNION & COMOROS: OVERVIEW

Birdquest’s Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros birding tours explore a series of far-flung Indian Ocean Islands which offer a truly awesome array of endemic birds! Our combined Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros birding tour provides comprehensive coverage of the islands’ numerous endemic birds and also features fantastic seabirds and some very beautiful island scenery.

At one time or another most of us experience the desire to get away from the stresses of modern life and escape to some idyllic tropical island where white sandy beaches are fringed by coconut palms, their fronds swaying gently in the breeze, where warm blue waters lap softly on the shoreline and nearby coral reefs teem with brilliantly coloured fish. To complete the scene (for the birdwatcher at least), there should be tropicbirds floating gently overhead and Common White (or Fairy) Terns, surely the most delicately beautiful of all the seabirds, tame enough to nest on a branch not far above one’s head!

This picture of paradise is not a fantasy but reality amongst the string of islands that dot the Indian Ocean to the east of the African continent. With good to excellent accommodations, some superb food and mostly easy birding, this tour counts as a real ‘holiday’. We will not only have enough time to look for all 30 of the endemic landbirds and the seabirds of the islands we visit, but will also have a bit of time left over to swim, snorkel or soak up the atmosphere of these pearls of the Indian Ocean. As a consequence, this is also a trip a non-birding partner would enjoy. The tour will visit no fewer than 8 of these delightful isles, each one with its own character and each one completely different from the others. This ’earthly paradise’ is a notoriously expensive part of the world for a holiday, but most visitors consider it worth every penny.

We begin our tour in the Seychelles, a group of ancient granitic islands with some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Here we will visit the islands of Mahé, Praslin, Cousin, La Digue and Aride, each with their own special birds. These delightful islands hold some of the world’s rarest birds, including the endemic Seychelles Scops Owl, Seychelles Magpie-Robin, Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher, Seychelles Warbler and Seychelles White-eye, while additional endemics include Seychelles Kestrel, Seychelles Blue Pigeon, Seychelles Black Parrot, Seychelles Swiftlet, Seychelles Bulbul, Seychelles Sunbird and Seychelles Fody. As a bonus, we will visit the teeming seabird colonies that provide an unforgettable spectacle. Here we will see thousands of Sooty Terns and Brown and Lesser Noddies at their colonies, piratical frigatebirds hanging in the deep blue sky, impossibly beautiful Common White Terns that are utterly fearless of man and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters gliding over crystal clear waters.

Moving on to Mauritius, a verdant volcanic island which is home to some more of the world’s rarest birds, we will explore the remaining areas of tropical forest in search of the endemics: Mauritius Kestrel, Pink Pigeon, Echo (or Mauritius) Parakeet, Mauritius Cuckooshrike, Mauritius Bulbul, Mascarene Paradise Flycatcher, Mauritius Grey White-eye, Mauritius Olive White-eye and Mauritius Fody. We will also make a boat trip to uninhabited Round Island where breeding Red-tailed and White-tailed Tropicbirds circle and ‘Round Island Petrels’ (formerly considered to be Trinidade Petrels, but now known to be a hybrid population between at least three Pterodroma species and perhaps best treated as an endemic species) swoop over the island in dashing aerial displays.

The remote island of Rodrigues is rarely visited by birdwatchers, despite having two endemic landbirds (Rodrigues Warbler and Rodrigues Fody), so our visit here is something out of the ordinary.

Next, we explore the island of Réunion, which lacks sandy beaches but makes up for this by the grandeur of the scenery. Dramatic volcanic mountains with forest-clad slopes rise steeply from the surrounding waters whilst inland are vast craters that tell the story of the island’s turbulent geological past more eloquently than any words. Endemic Barau’s and Mascarene (or Réunion) Petrels breed among the cloud-wreathed peaks and endemic landbirds include Réunion Harrier, Réunion Cuckooshrike, Réunion Bulbul, Réunion Stonechat, Réunion Grey White-eye and Réunion Olive White-eye.

We will finish our journey in an endemic-rich but rarely-visited part of the world, the Comoro Islands.

This exciting tour focuses on the seldom-seen endemics of the Comoro Islands. The Comoro Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands lying between Madagascar and Africa. Known by early seafaring Arabs as ‘The Islands of the Moon’, the Comoro Islands are currently politically divided into two entities, the Republic of Comoros (a sovereign state comprising Grande Comore, Anjouan and Mohéli) and Mayotte (an ‘overseas collectivity’ of France).

Originally colonized by people of Malay-Polynesian origin, the islands were later colonized by waves of African, Arab and Shirazi (Persian) colonizers. Each of the islands has a very different character and there is a wonderful expression in the Comoros which says: “Mohéli sleeps, Anjouan works, Mayotte plays and Grande Comore complains!”

The Comoro Islands have been very much neglected by the ornithological world and very few birders have visited these islands in recent times, in spite of the fact that there are already as many as 26 endemic bird species (and perhaps well over 30 in the future after further research). The islands underwent a period of political turmoil in the 1990s, but have since recovered and are now politically stable. This exciting tour is certainly one that should appeal to those with the spirit of adventure and a desire to see some of the planet’s least-known birds.

During our visit to the Comoro Islands, we will visit all four of the major islands and we have an excellent chance of finding just about all their endemic birds, which include several globally threatened species.

Among the endemics are Comoros Olive, Comoros Green and Comoros Blue Pigeons, Mayotte, Anjouan, Mohéli and Karthala Scops Owls, Grand Comoro and Mohéli Bulbuls, Mayotte, Crested and Grand Comoro Drongos, Comoros Thrush, Humblot’s Flycatcher (a bird in its own genus), Comoros Blue Vanga, Anjouan, Mohéli and Grand Comoro Brush Warblers, Mayotte, Kirk’s and Karthala White-eyes, Mayotte, Anjouan, Humblot’s and Grand Comoro Green Sunbirds, and Comoros Fody.

Birdquest has operated Seychelles, Mauritius and Réunion birding tours since 1987 and Comoro Islands birding tours since 2008.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are of good standard almost throughout. On Anjouan and Moheli the hotels are fairly basic. Road transport is by small coach or minibus/passenger van (possibly also 4×4 vehicles on occasion) and roads are generally good (but rather variable in the Republic of Comoros).

Walking: The walking effort during our Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros birding tour is mostly easy, but there are two moderate grade walks in Mauritius and Réunion.

Climate: It will be generally hot and sunny, although overcast weather can occur at times. At higher altitudes, the temperature ranges from cool to warm. There is likely to be some rain and it will be fairly humid.

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros birding tour are good.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Finding the unobtrusive, tiny Seychelles Kestrel
  • Scoping spectacularly patterned Seychelles Blue Pigeons sitting in the canopy
  • A nocturnal foray in the hills for the lovely Seychelles Scops Owl
  • Strolling through the Tolkienesque Vallée de Mai with its unique Coco-de-Mer palms and its endemic Seychelles Black Parrots
  • A visit to the seabird islet of Cousin, where hundreds of elegant White Terns and thousands of Noddies breed and where very rare Seychelles Warblers, Seychelles Fodies and Seychelles Magpie-Robins thrive
  • A visit to the spectacular seabird island of Aride with its multitudes of White-tailed Tropicbirds and Sooty Terns and its large frigatebird roost
  • Strolling along the scenic granitic boulder strewn beach of La Digue
  • Admiring the very attractive Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher
  • Getting to know Echo Parakeet, Mauritius Kestrel and Pink Pigeon, all of which have been brought back from near extinction on the island of Mauritius
  • That feeling of relief when a Mauritius Olive White-eye finally pops into view!
  • Visiting a patch of woodland on the remote, little visited island of Rodrigues, where Rodrigues Warbler and attractive Rodrigues Flying Foxes live
  • Enjoying the cute little Rodrigues Fody waving its wings
  • A fun boat trip to Round and Serpent Islands with their large colonies of White-tailed and Red-tailed Tropicbirds and their intriguing population of 'Round Island' Petrels
  • Hiking up into the mountains of the very French island of Reunion to find the increasingly rare Reunion Cuckooshrike
  • Watching confiding Reunion Stonechats, beautiful Mascarene Paradise Flycatchers and quartering Reunion Harriers
  • Standing in awe at the edge of a spectacular volcanic crater looking deep into its centre
  • A late afternoon seawatch with excellent views of incoming Barau’s Petrels
  • Visiting the remote Comoro Islands, one of the least birded archipelagos on the planet
  • Seeing four highly-distinctive endemic species of scops owl, including the recently discovered Moheli Scops Owl
  • Climbing (largely by road nowadays!) the impressive Mt Karthala, to see the remote endemics only found on Grand Comoro
  • Seeing the unique Humblot’s Flycatcher, a distinct species that is placed in its own genus
  • Finding the distinct forms of the unique Comoro Thrush, surely soon to be treated as distinct species
  • Seeing the iridescent blue Comoro form of the Blue Vanga, a likjely split
  • Getting a good boost to your sunbird and white-eye lists!
  • Seeing a number of other rare endemics, many of which are globally threatened

OUTLINE ITINERARY

  • Day 1: Morning tour start at Mahé airport, Seychelles.
  • Day 2: Mahé island, then fly to Praslin island.
  • Days 3-4: Exploring Praslin, plus boat trips to Cousin, Aride and La Digue.
  • Day 5: Fly back from Praslin to Mahé. Flight to Mauritius.
  • Day 6: Mauritius, then fly to Rodriques.
  • Day 7: Rodrigues, then fly back to Mauritius.
  • Day 8: Mauritius, including boat trip to Round Island.
  • Day 9: Mauritius, then fly to Réunion.
  • Day 10: Réunion.
  • Day 11: Réunion. Flight to Dzaoudzi on Petite-Terre island in Mayotte. Ferry to Grande Terre.
  • Day 12: Exploring Grande Terre island.
  • Day 13: Cross back to Petite-Terre. Flight to Anjouan.
  • Day 14: Anjouan island.
  • Day 15: Anjouan, then fly to Moheli.
  • Day 16: Moheli island.
  • Day 17: Moheli, then flight to Moroni on Grande Comore.
  • Days 18-19: Grande Comore island.
  • Day 20: Grande Comore. Afternoon tour end at Moroni airport.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.

PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers, boatmen and accommodation/restaurant staff.

We also include these flights: Mahé (Seychelles)-Praslin-Mahé, Mahé (Seychelles)-Mauritius, Mauritius-Rodrigues-Mauritius, Mauritius-Réunion, Réunion-Dzaoudzi (Mayotte), Dzaoudzi (Mayotte)-Anjouan, Anjouan-Mohéli and Mohéli-Moroni (Grande Comore).

Deposit: 20% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)


2022: £8180, $11690, €9520, AUD15080. Mahé/Moroni.

Single Supplement: 2022: £930, $1330, €1080, AUD1710.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

SEYCHELLES, MAURITIUS, RÉUNION & COMOROS BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros: Day 1  Our tour begins this morning at Mahé airport. We will transfer to our hotel on Mahé, where we will overnight.

The island of Mahé is the largest of the Seychelles group and boasts the world’s smallest capital city, Victoria. The friendly Creole population have a carefree manner characteristic of these gentle islands. This happy-go-lucky attitude is infectious and visitors soon become accustomed to the rhythm of island life. The Creole influence on local food has produced a wonderfully varied and exciting cuisine, much of it based on fresh seafood.

Mahé has beautiful beaches, mangrove swamps and extensive areas of mountain forest on the central ridge which rises to around 500m. Some of the peaks are covered in cloudforest which harbours endemic tree frogs and chameleons.

The main avian prizes of Mahé are the endangered endemic Seychelles Scops Owl, which currently appears to have a stable population of 80-160 pairs, and the endangered endemic Seychelles White-eye. The population of the white-eye on Mahé is thought to be only around 30-40 individuals and may still be decreasing, although fortunately a population of about 300 birds has now been found on the uninhabited islet of Conception. Both the white-eye and the scops owl will probably require a bit of effort to locate.

The majority of the other nine bird species endemic to the Seychelles Islands occur on Mahé and as we explore the mountain forests we will easily find Seychelles Kestrel, Seychelles Blue Pigeon (a spectacular deep blue pigeon with a white head and neck and a brilliant scarlet wattle on its crown), Seychelles Bulbul and Seychelles Sunbird.

Among the introduced species that occur here are Malagasy Turtle Dove, Zebra Dove, Indian Myna and Red Fody. Western Cattle Egrets are found commonly in the lowlands and, at the coast, we should see a selection of shorebirds, including Grey (or Black-bellied) Plover, Whimbrel, Common Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and Ruddy Turnstone.

Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros: Day 2  After some more birding on Mahé we will take a flight to Praslin for a three nights stay.

Praslin is sparsely populated and is the epitome of a tropical island paradise. This afternoon we shall visit the beautiful Vallée de Mai National Park where stands of the unique Coco-de-Mer, which produce the strange double coconut that is the largest seed in the plant kingdom, which occur alongside other endemic palms. The main birding interest is provided by the very distinctive endemic Seychelles Black Parrot.

Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros: Days 3-4  From Praslin we will take a short boat trip to the low-lying, mainly wooded island of Cousin.

This tiny uninhabited isle only a kilometre across is a BirdLife International reserve that safeguards one of only four populations of the Seychelles Warbler. Once considered to be critically endangered with a world population of only 30 individuals, the species has now increased to a stable population of around 2500 birds.

We will also be looking for the Seychelles Magpie-Robin, the most endangered of the Seychelles endemics with a total population of only about 170 individuals. The magpie-robins are currently the subject of a BirdLife International conservation project to try to ensure their future.

The Toq-Toq or Seychelles Fody is quite numerous here and its catholic diet not only includes fruit, seeds and insects but seabirds eggs as well! Some of the Malagasy Turtle Doves here may be pure-bred Seychelles race, untainted by hybridization with the introduced Madagascar race (something which has occurred on most of the other islands).

Seabirds will be a feature of the day and we can expect to see White-tailed Tropicbirds, Brown and Lesser Noddies, and Bridled and Common White (or Fairy) Terns. Wedge-tailed Shearwaters nest in cracks in the granite boulders and although they only fly into the colonies at night we may be fortunate enough to see a few individuals even in the daytime.

The island is also home to some introduced Giant Aldabra Tortoises, which we should find leisurely chewing on some vegetation, or lumbering slowly through the more open areas of forest.

The small island of La Digue, which we will also visit, is likewise only a short boat trip from Praslin. This quiet island with its scattered settlement is the home of the most beautiful of the endemic birds of the Seychelles Islands, the Seychelles (or Black) Paradise Flycatcher. The males are a rich, velvety blue-black and have improbably long tail plumes which stream out behind as they flit amongst the shady takamaka trees.

La Digue also has one of the few known Seychelles breeding colonies of Seychelles Swiftlet and we may be able to climb up to their cave to inspect the diminutive nests that cling to the bare granitic rock. Seychelles Sunbirds are particularly common here and introduced Common Waxbills are frequently encountered.

We shall visit a small marsh where Yellow Bitterns, a species that probably colonized the Seychelles Islands naturally, can be found, and we may also find the Seychelles race of the Common Moorhen. The coast of La Digue often has a few migrant Crab-Plovers, a remarkable wader which is placed in its own family. We may see these unusual birds sitting on their haunches with their legs folded beneath them.

We will also make a boat trip to the seabird island of Aride, looking out for Wedge-tailed and Tropical (split from Audubon’s) Shearwaters during the crossing. The rocky hills of this small island are covered in woodland which provides nesting sites for a variety of seabirds.

The island is owned by the Royal Society for Nature Conservation and has some of the largest colonies of tropical seabirds in the Indian Ocean. Pride of place must go to the quarter of a million nesting Sooty Terns, closely followed by twenty thousand White-tailed Tropicbirds. The largest colony of Lesser Noddies in the Seychelles Islands is found here as well as smaller numbers of Bridled Terns, Brown Noddies and delightful Common White Terns. There is a spectacular roost of both Greater and Lesser Frigatebirds on the island.

We may be fortunate enough to find one or two vagrant seabirds, such as Brown Booby or Red-footed Booby.

The experience of the sight, sound and smell of such vast numbers of seabirds at such close range is quite overwhelming and will provide a host of unforgettable memories.

Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros: Day 5  This morning we will return by air to Mahé and then take a flight to Mauritius for an overnight stay.

On the way to our hotel, we shall pass numerous fields of sugar cane dotted with strange black pyramids of volcanic rocks that have been painstakingly cleared from the soil over the centuries. The journey provides us with our first real chance to take a look at the colourful Mauritians, an attractive blend of Asian, African and European peoples with a similarly mixed culture.

Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros: Day 6  The forests on Mauritius are now mostly confined to the mountains of the southwest of the island, where the scenery is spectacular. The volcanic ridges and peaks are dissected by deep valleys cloaked in lush forest where White-tailed Tropicbirds float over the green canopy and the white plumes of waterfalls cascade over cliffs to the valley floor far below.

Since the island was discovered by man in 1598 the natural vegetation has suffered greatly with the result that many of the native island birds have dwindled almost to the point of extinction through a combination of habitat destruction and some unfortunate introductions of both birds and mammals. Some species became extinct, notably the Dodo which has since become a symbol of man’s failure to live in harmony with nature.

Nowadays the surviving but endangered birds of Mauritius are subject to intense conservation efforts in a successful effort to save the species concerned.

Amongst the birds, we will be searching for are the lovely Pink Pigeon, the beautiful Echo (or Mauritius) Parakeet and the extraordinary, short-winged Mauritius Kestrel. We should see all three fairly easily, in spite of the fact they are some of the world’s rarest birds.

The Echo Parakeet is now the rarest of these three species. Ousted from many areas by the very similar introduced Ring-necked Parakeet, it was for many years thought to be only a subspecies of the latter and its plight consequently ignored.

The Mauritius Kestrel has made a remarkable comeback in recent years, having also reached the brink of extinction. This remarkable falcon is a forest dweller and has evolved short wings and a long, manoeuvrable tail more typical of an accipiter than a falcon to cope with its woodland environment. Its main prey is the tiny green gecko that lives on the leaves of the Traveller’s Palm and some other trees.

As we explore the remaining forest, Mascarene Swiftlets flutter over the canopy and Mauritius Grey White-eyes flit from tree to tree, but we will have to work quite hard to get to grips with Mauritius Cuckooshrike, Mauritius Bulbul, Mascarene Paradise Flycatcher (the local form is sometimes treated as a single-island endemic), Mauritius Olive White-eye and Mauritius Fody as all five are still declining. The white-eye, in particular, has suffered more than any other passerine from predation by introduced rats, cats and monkeys, so we may need to spend some time in order to find this rare endemic.

We will also have time to look at the birds of the cultivated lowlands, the majority of which are introduced species, such as Striated (or Green-backed) Heron, Malagasy Turtle Dove, Zebra and Spotted Doves, Mascarene Martin, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Village Weaver, Red Fody, Yellow-fronted Canary, Common Waxbill, Common Myna and House Crow.

Sandy beaches and mudflats are attractive to migrant shorebirds such as Greater Sand Plover, Grey (or Black-bellied) Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Whimbrel and Ruddy Turnstone.

Late this afternoon or early this evening we will catch a flight to the remote island of Rodrigues for an overnight stay.

Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros: Day 7  Rodrigues is a rather barren island surrounded by coral reefs and has several tiny outlying islets which provide a haven for breeding seabirds. The island has suffered at the hands of man as well as from cyclones and much of the island’s natural vegetation has been destroyed. The lowlands, like those on Mauritius, are heavily cultivated but the slopes above are dotted with pandanus palms and scrub with only a few remnant native trees.

In some of the higher valleys, tiny patches of native forest occur, albeit mixed with mangoes and other exotics. Here the two endemic landbirds, Rodrigues Fody and Rodrigues Warbler, cling to a precarious existence. Thankfully both their numbers have increased in recent times. Few birdwatchers have ever seen these rare species, both of which have small populations.

We should also see the endangered Rodrigues Flying Fox, which was the subject of successful captive breeding programmes in Mauritius and Jersey.

This afternoon we will return by air to Mauritius for a two nights stay.

Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros: Day 8  After spending the morning exploring the native forests, we will drive to the northwestern corner of the island and embark on a boat trip to Round Island and Serpent Island. These two small uninhabited islands lie to the north of Mauritius.

Once we have passed through the reef we will see the first Sooty Terns and Brown Noddies. Wedge-tailed Shearwaters pass alongside and, if we are lucky, dolphins will play in the bow wave whilst glittering silver flying fish explode from the sea and glide over the crests of the waves. As we approach Serpent Island we will see clouds of terns rising above the barren rocky slopes. Here Lesser Noddies nest alongside Sooty Terns and Brown Noddies. White-tailed and Red-tailed Tropicbirds hang in the updraughts above the sheer cliffs and a small colony of Masked Boobies huddle together on the windward side of the island.

Round Island has seen successful efforts by conservationists to exterminate the island’s rat and feral rabbit population, in an attempt to save both the native vegetation and allow smaller seabirds to breed more successfully. The island is home to several species of endemic reptiles, including skinks, geckos and a sand boa, as well as two endemic palms.

Here we should see the two (or possibly more) morphs of the ‘Round Island Petrel’ indulging in their high-speed aerial chases, which are a delight to watch. The Pterodroma population here were formerly considered to be Herald Petrels, then later considered Trinidade Petrels. However, more recently genetic research has shown them to be a hybrid population involving at least three Pterodroma species; Trinidade Petrel which nests in the South Atlantic and Kermadec Petrel P. neglecta and Herald Petrel P. heraldica which nest in the South Pacific! Scientists are already proposed treating this interesting population as an endemic species.

Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros: Day 9  After spending much of the day on Mauritius we will take a short flight across to the island of Réunion for a two nights stay.

Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros: Day 10  The dramatically mountainous, volcanic island of Réunion has the status of a department of France, rather curiously misplaced in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The way of life is very French with pavement cafés and distinctly French cuisine. The red-tiled houses that dot the slopes would not look out of place in Provence and even some of the scenery could have come straight from the south of France.

The natural forest cover on Réunion is much more extensive than on Mauritius and it is a delight to walk along the peaceful trails through the luxuriant vegetation rich in tree ferns and epiphytic orchids. Here we will look for the endemic birds of the island.

The Réunion Cuckooshrike or Tuit-Tuit gets its local name from the characteristic calls which draw attention to this otherwise rather secretive bird that creeps about in the moss encrusted branches. The Réunion Bulbul, which is now considered critically endangered, is very similar to its Mauritius counterpart but is smaller and has a white eye. The delightful Réunion Stonechat or Tek-Tek is common along with the more open parts of the trails, usually nesting in the mossy banks or among tree roots, whilst the Réunion Grey White-eye and the distinctive Réunion Olive White-eye flit through the leafy canopy in noisy bands. The Coq de Bois or Mascarene Paradise Flycatcher is much easier to find here than on Mauritius, the form here (which is sometimes treated as a full species) having a grey rather than a black head in the male. In the more open areas, we should encounter the splendid endemic Réunion Harrier.

Later in the day, we shall visit the coastline to look for seabirds. During our seawatch, we will look out for Baillon’s and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and in particular the beautiful endemic Barau’s Petrel or Taille Vent as it is called locally. In the late afternoon, the first Barau’s Petrels begin to approach the land. At first, they shear over the waves and then, once over the land, they gradually begin to wheel and circle ever higher until they disappear from view as they head for their nesting sites (discovered only recently) high up among the rugged volcanic peaks of the island’s centre. If we are really in luck we will see the rare endemic Mascarene (or Réunion) Petrel as well.

Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros: Day 11  This morning, provided we have seen all the specialities, we will drive up a winding road of hairpin bends that will take us slowly from sea level to a spectacular viewpoint on the rim of one of the three huge volcanic cirques that form the heart of the island. The scenery is quite breathtaking, with stupendous views of the highest peaks on Réunion (which reach 3065m) as well as down into the crater floor over a thousand metres below. Once inhabited by escaped slaves, the tiny settlements we can see far below are still almost totally isolated from the outside world as no road reaches into the crater.

This afternoon we will take a flight from Réunion to Dzaoudzi, the capital of the two islands that comprise the territory of Mayotte.

Situated at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel, between Madagascar and Africa, Mayotte (officially known by the title ‘The Departmental Collectivity of Mayotte’) is an Overseas Territory of France consisting of two main islands (Grande-Terre or Mahoré, and Petite-Terre or Pamandzi) and several islets. The territory has been politically separate from the rest of the Comoro Islands since the 1970s.

On arrival, we will travel by ferry across to Grand Terre and then travel a short distance to our accommodation for a two nights stay. En route, we are likely to find the endemic Mayotte White-eye and we will call in at a park where we may well find the endemic Mayotte form of the Comoros (or Red-headed) Fody.

Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros: Day 12  Our time on Grande Terre will largely be spent exploring the slopes of Mont Combani (480m). Here our time will be devoted to finding the three additional endemics that are restricted to Mayotte, as well as some other more widespread Comoro Islands endemics. We will take a jeep track up the mountain to search for the endemic Mayotte Drongo and endemic Mayotte Sunbird (both of which should be relatively easy to find) and after dark we will search for the endemic Mayotte Scops Owl (split from Rainforest) which is common and easy to see. We should also find two more widespread Comoros endemics; namely Comoros Olive Pigeon and the gorgeous Comoros Blue Pigeon.

With the current trend in splitting, especially of small island forms, we will be on the lookout for all of the endemic taxa throughout the Comoro Islands, and here on Mayotte these include the Mayotte forms of Frances’s Sparrowhawk and Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher.

Other species we may well encounter include Malagasy Turtle Dove and Cuckoo-Roller (the latter, curiously, of the mainland Madagascar form).

Off the coastline, we may turn up both Sooty and Bridled Terns, and Brown Noddy.

Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros: Day 13  This morning we will travel back to Petite-Terre (where Dzaoudzi is situated), spending some time looking around Pamandzi Lagoon. Elegant White-tailed Tropicbirds breed on the island and the lagoon often holds the superb Crab-plover (the sole member of its family) as well as a good selection of other species, including Peregrine, Greater Crested Tern and the Comoros forms of Striated Heron and Malagasy Swift.

From Dzaodzi, we will take a flight to the island of Anjouan in the Republic of the Comoros for a two nights stay. In the evening, if time permits, we will have our first opportunity to look for the rather elusive endemic Anjouan Scops Owl.

Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros: Day 14  Anjouan, also known as Ndzuwani or Nzwani, is the easternmost of the three islands which make up the Republic of the Comoros and is home to three single-island endemics. Two of these, Anjouan Sunbird (split from Souimanga) and Anjouan Brush Warbler (split from Malagasy) are easy to find and even occur in the town. Sadly, the natural vegetation on Anjouan had been devastated, and it is difficult to find any decent forest. Much more time will be spent tracking down the endearing Anjouan Scops Owl, which may well prove a little challenging as it seems to require reasonable habitat!

Other species we will be looking for include the scaly Anjouan form of the endemic Comoros Thrush (another likely split), as well as the Comoros form of the Greater Vasa Parrot and the Anjouan forms of Cuckoo-Roller, Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher, Malagasy White-eye and Comoros Fody. We will also hope to see the scarcer endemic island taxa, including the Anjouan forms of Frances’s Sparrowhawk (which may already be extinct!) and Crested Drongo.

Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros: Day 15  After some final birding on Anjouan, we will take a flight to the island of Mohéli for a two nights stay. Once we have arrived on the island we will make our way to our accommodation. We may arrive in time for some initial exploration.

Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros: Day 16  Mohéli, also known as Mwali, is home to four single island endemics, as well as three others that are shared with Grande Comore. During our visit we will explore the remnant montane forest of the central spine of the island where we should find the uncommon endemic Mohéli (or Benson’s) Brush Warbler, the endemic Mohéli Bulbul (a recent split) and the endemic Comoros Blue Vanga (a recently proposed split from Blue Vanga and the sole representative of this family outside of Madagascar). With just a little luck we will come across the rarely observed Comoros Green Pigeon (split from Madagascan), which is endemic to the Comoro Islands in general. After dark, we will try for the recently described endemic Mohéli Scops Owl, which we have an excellent chance of seeing as well as hearing its weird screaming calls.

In addition, we should also find the local forms of Humblot’s Sunbird, Comoros Thrush (the distinctive local form is probably a good species) and, with luck, the rare Mohéli form of the Comoros Cuckooshrike (split from Ashy). Other species we may well encounter include the Mohéli forms of Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher, Malagasy White-eye, Malagasy Green Sunbird and Comoros (or Red-headed) Fody.

Off the coast, we are likely to see Lesser Frigatebirds and attractive Masked Boobies, and we also have a good chance of seeing the endemic temptator form of the Persian (or Arabian) Shearwater.

Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros: Day 17  After some more birding on Moheli, we will take a flight to Moroni on the island of Grande Comore, where we will stay for three nights.

Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros: Days 18-19  Grande Comore (or Grand Comoro), otherwise known as Ngazidja, is the largest and westernmost of the Comoro Islands. During our three days on the island, we will explore various areas in the highlands, concentrating on the area around Mount Karthala, which has the largest crater of any of the world’s active volcanoes!

Grand Comoro single island endemics that we should find during our exploration of the island include the critically endangered Grand Comoro Drongo, Grand Comoro Bulbul (now treated as a separate species from the bulbuls on Mohéli), the interesting Humblot’s Flycatcher (the sole representative of the genus Humblotia), Grand Comoro Brush-Warbler, Kirk’s White-eye (split from Madagascar) and the iridescent Grand Comoro Green Sunbird (now sometimes split from Malagasy Green).

On the upper slopes of Mount Karthala, we will search for the endemic Karthala (or Grand Comoro) Scops Owl and the endemic Karthala White-eye, both of which we should find.

We will also see a number of endemics shared between islands, including Comoros Olive Pigeon, the attractive Comoros Blue Pigeon, Comoros Cuckooshrike (the endemic Grand Comoro subspecies), Comoros Thrush (a species which surely merits a three-way split), the attractive Humblot’s Sunbird, and Comoros (or Red-headed) Fody, again of an endemic Grand Comoro subspecies.

In addition, we will look out for the Grand Comoro forms of Frances’s Sparrowhawk, Lesser Vasa Parrot, Malagasy Spinetail, Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher and African Stonechat (another potential split). Malagasy Harrier is surprisingly common on the island, and around the coast we should find the Comoros endemic subspecies of Striated Heron and Malagasy (or Malagasy Malachite) Kingfisher.

The Comoro Islands are also home to a number of introduced species such as Ring-necked (or Cape Turtle) and Tambourine Doves, Grey-headed Lovebird, Bronze Mannikin and House Sparrow.

Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion & Comoros: Day 20  After some final birding on Grande Comore, our tour ends this afternoon at Moroni airport.

(There are frequent international connections into Moroni via Nairobi.)

SEYCHELLES, MAURITIUS & RÉUNION TOUR REPORT 2018

by Mark Van Beirs

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SEYCHELLES, MAURITIUS & RÉUNION TOUR REPORT 2017

by Hannu Jännes

View Report

COMORO ISLANDS & REMOTE MADAGASCAR TOUR REPORT 2014

by Dani López-Velasco

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COMORO ISLANDS & REMOTE MADAGASCAR TOUR REPORT 2018

by János Oláh

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Other Indian Ocean Islands birding tours by Birdquest include: