Travelling with expert Chris Mattison, this tour visits some of Madagascar’s unique wildlife locations, offering great photographic opportunities of its charismatic endemics, including the island’s most famous inhabitants, its lemurs.
This small group adventure combines the country's different habitats, each hosting unique species. A wealth of wildlife can be seen in the rainforests of Ranomafana and Andasibe, including endearing Milne-Edward’s sifakas, red-fronted brown lemurs, golden bamboo lemurs, greater bamboo lemurs, and birds such as Pollen’s and nuthatch vangas. plus several of the enigmatic ground roller species.
There are plenty of opportunities to photograph numerous chameleons and frogs, while in the arid sandstone area of Isalo National Park, troops of ring-tailed lemurs bound around the rocks and cliffs. Ifaty’s spiny forest boasts some exceptional birdlife, unusual flora and chameleons.
Kirindy’s dry-deciduous forest is the only location to spot endemic nocturnal species, most notably the fosa (Madagascar’s largest carnivore), the giant jumping rat and Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur, the world’s smallest primate.
Throughout the tour, Chris will offer tuition and guidance on wildlife and landscape photography while out 'in the field', and there will be opportunities to discuss various photographic techniques. The small group size allows for some personalised tuition, ideal whether you are starting out in the world of wildlife photography, or looking to improve your skills.
Day1: Depart UK
Day2: Arrive Antananarivo
Arrive Antananarivo (affectionately known as 'Tana') and transfer to our overnight hotel.
Accommodation: Relais des Plateaux, 1-night
Day3: Drive to Andasibe
This morning we drive to Andasibe and check into our hotel. This afternoon we start our exploration of the vicinity searching for indri, sifaka, chameleons and more natural wonders.
Accommodation: Andasibe Hotel, 4-nights
Days4-6: Andasibe-Mantadia National Park
We have two and a half days to explore this wonderful rainforest area. On our first day the priority is to visit Andasibe and search for the fabulous indri - there’s a good chance we’ll hear their eerie wailing calls too. We may also see brown lemurs and grey bamboo lemurs, streaked tenrecs and striking birds like blue vanga. There are also nocturnal walks where different lemurs and chameleons can be seen. A huge variety of frogs is also a feature of this reserve, particularly evident after rain.
On our second day we will drive to Mantadia, a fantastic area of pristine rainforest offering the chance to see some rare and unusual species. Groups of indris can always be heard calling, but are more difficult to see. However, our priority here is to look for the stunning diademed sifaka - perhaps the most beautiful of all lemurs - as well as red-bellied lemurs and secretive birds such as pitta-like and scaly ground roller.
Day7: Drive to Antsirabe via Antananarivo
After breakfast and an early birding walk, we drive south on Route National 7, via Tana, through the Central Highlands to the town of Antsirabe where we spend the night.
Overnight: Hotel in Antsirabe, 1-night
Day8: Drive to Ranomafana
Continuing south on RN7, we pass through the towns of Ambositra and Ambohimahasoa, before heading east into the rainforest belt and the village of Ranomafana, adjacent to the eponymous national park.
Accommodation: Centrest Sejour Hotel, 3-nights
Days9-10: Ranomafana National Park
We have three full days to explore Ranomafana National Park. Walks around the extensive trail network take us through forest adjacent to the Namorona River and surrounding slopes, and we hope to find species like Milne-Edward’s sifakas, golden bamboo lemurs, red-fronted brown lemurs and perhaps even black-and-white ruffed lemurs.
There are also colourful chameleons and a great variety of birds including several vanga and beautiful ground rollers. Night walks in these forests provide excellent opportunities to see leaf-tailed geckos, nocturnal woolly lemurs and sportive lemurs, and a diversity of brightly coloured tree frogs and perhaps tenrecs too.
Day11: Drive to Ranohira & Isalo National Park
In the morning we set off again along RN7, heading south west to the town of Ambalavao with a lunch time stop at Anja Reserve. Here groups of ring-tailed lemurs can be seen, as well as some unusual reptiles.
In the afternoon we continue further west to Ihosy and finally on towards Ranohira and Isalo National Park. Our lodge is on the edge of the park.
We have morning and afternoon excursions into Isalo National Park. Various walks are possible to experience the dramatic scenery and scale of this visually stunning area.
Day13: Visit Zombitse National Park, continue to Ifaty
Today is a very early start to drive to Zombitse National Park, where we spend a couple of hours exploring this remnant forest patch for its endemic birds and various reptiles and lemurs. We then continue along RN7 to Toliara for lunch, and in the afternoon drive the short distance north to Ifaty.
Accommodation: Dunes d’Ifaty Hotel, 2-nights
Day14: Ifaty Spiny Forest
Very early in the morning we visit the Spiny forest areas near Ifaty to look for the endemic birds that the area is renowned for. The forest itself is also fascinating, with baobabs, Pachypodiums, octopus trees and other arid adapted species. There is time to relax and enjoy the coastal setting and perhaps visit the forest again late in the afternoon.
Day15: Fly to Morondova
In the morning we return to Toliara and then fly north up the west coast to Morondava.
Accommodation: Hotel in Morondava, 1-night
Day16: Allée de Baobab & Kirindy Forest
Another early start today for the drive to Allée de Baobab, located to the north of Morondava - this is one of the most iconic photographic locations in Madagascar.
From there we continue north onto Kirindy Forest: this area of dry-deciduous forest is one of the richest areas of its type on the island and is particularly renowned for its nocturnal species. It is also perhaps the best place to look for the fosa. We explore the reserve in the afternoon and after dinner, and should see some of the rare endemic species.
Our accommodation here is basic but is the only option to be based in the park, giving us better chances to spot the key nocturnal species. The camp lies in the heart of the forest and many species are visible in the immediate vicinity, including Verreaux’s sifaka, rufous brown lemur and even fosa. There are also boky-boky (another endemic carnivore) and after dark the possibility of giant jumping rats and numerous nocturnal lemurs.
Accommodation: Kirindy Camp, 1-night
Day17: Kirindy Forest & Morondava
Today we go deeper into the Kirindy Reserve, before head back to Morondava for the night. Depending on flight schedules, if we didn’t visit the Allée de Baobab on our first day here, then we will stop on the way back to Morondava.
Accommodation: Hotel in Morondava, 1-night
Day18: Morondava, fly to Antananarivo
We return to the airport for a flight to Tana where we spend the night.
Accommodation: Relais des Plateaux, 1-night
Day19: Tsarasaotra Lake & depart
Today morning we head to Tsarasaotra Lake for photographic opportunities of the waterbird species to be found here, before returning to our hotel for lunch. We have the use of a day room at the hotel, and after dinner we transfer to the airport for our flight back to the UK early the following morning.
Day20: Arrive UK
You should note: This itinerary is based on Air Madagascar’s current domestic schedules. Air Madagascar reserves the right to change these without notice, hence there is no guaranteed that this will be the exact itinerary we will follow. Changes may be forced upon us right until the last moment, but every effort will be make to keep the final itinerary as faithful as possible to this one proposed.
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 20 daysfrom £5,495 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 18 daysfrom £4,595 pp
Single supplement: From £900
Group size: 10
Included in the price/package:
Domestic flights Ifaty / Morondova / Antananarivo
11 nights lodge, 5 nights hotel, 1 night tented camp
Transfers in private vehicle
Daily excursions in parks and reserves
National park fees
Services of expert local guide
Photography tuition from Chris Mattison
Chris has an honours degree in zoology from the University of Sheffield and specialises in natural history photography. He is a past Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and a member of several natural history societies.
Over the years he has made many field trips, independently and as a tour leader, to various parts of the world, including North, Central and South America, the Galapagos Islands, southern and East Africa, South East Asia and Madagascar. His speciality is reptiles and amphibians but he has a broad interest in all aspects of natural history. He has lectured to audiences in England, Scotland, Wales, Sweden, Finland, Holland and the United States on natural history and nature photography and, since 1982, has written over 20 books and many magazine articles, mainly on reptiles and amphibians.
Established in 1991 to protect the then newly-discovered golden bamboo lemur, Ranomafana is a World Heritage Site and one of the island’s most important wildlife sites and best rainforest reserves. Its pleasant climate, misty forest slopes, picturesque river and huge species diversity make it a deserved favourite.
Where: Haute Matsiatra Region
Ideal for viewing: giraffe-necked weevil, golden bamboo lemur, Malagasy striped civit, Milne-Edwards’ sifaka, red-fronted brown lemur
Excellent for: Wildlife photography
Isalo is a remarkable landscape of eroded sandstone outcrops and canyons dotted with rare plants. There are spectacular vistas at every turn; the valleys are ribbons of green with delicate feather and screw palms and the deep rocky gorges flourish with endemic succulents such as the elephant’s foot plant.
Where: Ihorombe Region
Ideal for viewing: Benson’s rock thrush, Madagascar cuckoo roller, ring-tailed lemur, Verreaux’s sifaka, red-fronted lemur
Zombitse is a remnant of a transitional forest between the western and southern regions. Despite its isolation, small size and lack of accommodation (it is best visited as a day trip) birdwatchers will be interested to know it is home to one of Madagascar’s rarest endemics, Appert’s greenbul.
The spiny forests near Ifaty are of great interest to birdwatchers and botanists alike. The area includes two of the island’s most threatened birds; the long-tailed ground roller and sub desert mesite. You will also find bizarre flora such as spined octopus trees, a sharp contrast to the ancient baobab trees.
Kirindy Forest is on the west coast of Madagascar, accessed via the famed Avenue of Baobabs. It is a dry forest rich in wildlife and the best place to see a variety of endemics including the fosa, Madagascar’s largest carnivore, and lemurs such as Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur, the world’s smallest primate.
Where: Menabe Region
Ideal for viewing: fosa, giant jumping rat, Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur, narrow-striped mongoose, red-fronted brown lemur
Excellent for: Wildlife photography
Andasibe is arguably Madagascar’s premier rainforest reserve. It combines Analamazoatra Reserve with the forests of Mantadia. The extensive network of trails throughout the reserve offers frequent sightings of spectacular wildlife and virtually assured views of indri, which have been habituated.
Madagascar’s vibrant capital city is the beginning and end point of any trip to the island. Built on a series of hills, many of the old buildings and narrow, cobbled streets retain an almost medieval quality. Walking around the city, you will find evidence of several cultures, neither exclusively African nor Asian,
Where: Antananarivo Province
Excellent for: City stopover
Nestling amongst rocky outcrops on the southern boundary of Isalo National Park, these French-owned hotels are amongst Madagascar’s finest. Local stone has been used to construct buildings that appear almost as extensions of the natural rock. Each hotel has a pool, and offers guided walks in the park.