FULL MADAGASCAR ITINERARY
Oct 20: On arrival in the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo, we have a short transfer to the bright and welcoming San Cristobal Hotel for our overnight accommodation.
Oct 21: Flight to Tulear. On arrival you will be met and transferred to Le Paradisier, Ifaty
Our main focus will be to see the fast disappearing ‘Spiny Forest’ near Ifaty, with a visit to Reniala. Due to the hot temperatures in the south west, we tend to include very early morning and evening walks in the Spiny Forest. Easy level walks. Highlights here include the unique spiny flora, several huge baobab trees and birds such as the endemic long-tailed ground roller. We will also stay on the coast with fantastic views of local fishing boats as they pass by.
Sunrise visit to the Spiny Forest before being transferred 4-5 hours to Isalo National Park. En route you will stop at Zombitse Forest national park. Here, more than other locations, we can see the start contrast between Zombitze and the surrounding area; which is almost completely denuded of trees. However this little island remains a sanctuary for rare endemic birds, lemurs and reptiles. We have the chance to see Verreaux Sifaka, Red-fronted lemurs and the nocturnal sportive lemur. Standing day gecko is also easy to find. Easy level walks.
After Zombitse we make a stop at the internationally important, Arboretum d’Antsokay. This is not just for plant and tree lovers; this small patch of forest is very good for birds as well, and our guide will provide a fascinating insight into the diversity of species. . Easy level walks.
Continue on to Isalo where we will take an evening walk to stretch our legs and photograph the spectacular barren landscapes around our desert hotel ‘Jardin de Roy’. If weather conditions allow Trai will run an astro photography session .
Oct 22: continued
Isalo National Park. This huge massif has dramatically eroded sandstone elevations, which we will explore on foot, starting right at the door of our spectacularly located accommodation. Along the way we will discover vegetation like Uapaca bojeri, Pachypodium rosulatum or ‘elephant's foot’ and Aloe isaloensis, a native species of aloe endemic to Isalo. These scenic, eroded mountains are also a sacred place where the Bara rest their dead before burying them in their actual tombs. As we explore these beautiful barren lands we will encounter a surprising number of birds, lizards and insects. Easy to medium level walks
By night this area also offers the perfect chance to try our hand at astro photography.
Another early walk in Isalo National Park before continuing west to Anja (Anjaha). This reserve is a small community run park, with beautiful scenery, specialist plants adapted to the dry south and several troops of ring-tailed lemurs. There is a short well-maintained trail which winds past impressive rocks, topped by waiting lemurs, to a sacred cliff with an inaccessible tomb. Because this is an ancient burial ground, hunting of lemurs was banned here. Easy level walks. Overnight at ‘Tsienimparihy Lodge ’
Oct 24: Morning and evening visits to Anja plus group critique and post processing sessions during day
Most group tours visit Anja in the afternoon. However diurnal species, like the Ring Tailed Lemur, tend to be more active in the mornings, so we can ensure a much more intimate experience with the lemurs this morning. In this habitat, the lemurs are very easy to photograph and quite often come to the ground with their young babies wrapped around their waists. They will often also come out of the forest to drink at waterholes along the edge.
By night this area offers a further chance for astro photography.
Oct 25: Final morning visit to Anja before driving to Fianarantsoa to take a private charter flight to Tamarave for our next phenomenal location in NE Madagascar, Palmarium. This transfer is in a Cessna Grand Caravan - please note the weight limit per person – personal weight and luggage – is 125kg per person. On arrival you will be met and transferred to ‘Palmarium Lodge’ in time for an evening walk.
Oct 26, 27: Over the next two days we will take both day time and night-time walks to explore the incredibly diverse forest reserve. Here we will encounter multiple species of lemurs, which are well habituated and appear very close to our lodge, and we will make a special excursion to photograph the legendary Aye Aye.
Oct 28: After breakfast we drive to Andasibe through the green and luxuriant vegetation of the east, a very humid part of the country with many primary forests and lakes. Along the way we will see Merina villages in the hills. Arrive at ‘Mantadia Lodge’ in time for both an introductory walk in the afternoon, and our first night walk later on. Easy level walks.
Oct 29: Early morning walk in the Special Reserve of Andasibe (Analamazaotra) to hear the haunting dawn chorus of the Indri as we seek to photograph them. This reserve is unique with its endemic fauna and flora, and is home to a wide variety of orchids, canopy, and endemic animals including chameleons, tenrecs (charming creatures which look like a cross between a shrew and a hedgehog), and many birds. Medium level walk.
In the afternoon we switch from primates to reptiles, as we visit a highly regarded community project at Vohimana Reserve. It is located a few km’s east of Andasibe and is protected through a partnership between a local village and an NGO called ‘Man and the Environment (MATE)’ This park is one of the best ‘Herping’ locations in Madagascar and is known for having over 80 species of frogs and certain species of Chameleons not found in Andasibe national park; including the spectacular ‘Lanced Nose Chameleon’. Medium level walks. Followed by a night walk
Today we enjoy a second morning visit to Analamazaotra forest.
In the late afternoon we will visit Lemur Island. On Lemur Island, you get a totally different experience, as the Lemurs are habituated to humans. This tiny reserve in the Andasibe National Park is inhabited by several species of lemurs, including bamboo lemur, black & white ruffed lemur, red ruffed lemur, brown lemur, Verreaux Sifaka and diademed sifaka. Easy level walks.
Lemur Island is an opportunity to get up ‘close and personal’ (yes, lemurs will jump onto your shoulders!) and freely photograph these beautiful primates. We should stress that this, though enjoyable, is certainly not a wild experience and we choose to do it ‘first thing in the morning’ to avoid the significant afternoon crowds.
Oct 31: Andasibe – Tana
A final chance to hear the haunting call of the Indri, and a return visit to Lemur Island before we head by road back to Antananarivo, where we will overnight at San Cristobal Hotel. After check-in you have the remainder of the day free to explore and to do some sightseeing. The capital of Madagascar is also called the ‘City of Thousands’ and it is where the first King started to unify the different kingdoms of the island. Tana was built in three stages: The high city, the first area occupied during the regal period where the old queen's palace is situated; the mid-city, where all the chic boutiques of the capital are found; and then the low city, which is the commercial area of the town. Walk from the high city to see the Rova, the queen's palace, and the house of the first minister during these days, which is now a museum. All of these were built by Frenchman Jean Laborde during the royal period. The mid-city, or the administration area, ends at the Rainiharo tombs and the lower town is situated in the main avenue called ‘L'avenue de l'independence’ dominated by the railway station. Overnight San Cristobal hotel
Commence optional 4 day post-extension to Kirindy & Avenue of Baobabs
OR Connect with your onward international flight
Optional Post-extension to Kirindy and Avenue of Baobabs (4 days)
Kirindy offers the best chance in Madagascar of encountering and photographing the island's endemic and elusive, agile and aggressive top predator, the fossa. In addition, the area is home to many species of lemurs, chameleons and birds, and also has one of the best collections of remaining baobab trees, which make for iconic landscape photography subjects both by day and night.
Nov 1: Fly Tana to Morondava and drive to Kirindy - overnight ‘Relais du Kirindy’
Nov 2: Kirindy - dawn and evening/night VIP guide shoots, plus fossa, birds, lemurs, chameleons and mongoose may also be seen around the reserve's own camp during day. Overnight Relais du Kirindy
Nov 3: Kirindy - Morondava - dawn VIP shoot and try again for fossa. After lunch drive to Morondava where we will check in to the ‘Palissandre cote Ouest’ hotel. Sunset & stars shoots at Avenue of Baobabs.
Nov 4: Sunrise shoot of Baobabs before flying back to Tana and overnighting again at San Cristobal
Nov 5: When appropriate you will be transferred to the airport to connect with your flight home.
Madagascar Safari Camera Notes:
Madagascar is not like most of my African safaris - there are no vehicles here to shoot from and stow your camera kit in - we go on foot and carry all our gear (porters are available on request!)
We also see a real range of wildlife on each walk, from tiny insects and frogs to flamboyant birds and of course the iconic lemurs.
For this reason, rather than carrying a large range of lenses I would recommend taking a versatile lens that has very good range and reach - around 100 to 500mm is ideal. It will need to be a fast lens too, as the canopy and undergrowth can be thick, cutting out lots of light. Quick and accurate to focus too, as there are often leaves and branches around and in front of our subjects.
Speaking from personal experience, on my first visit I took my fanciest 400mm prime F2.8 lens and although it took great photos it was a painful experience, not just physically (it is exhausting hauling it up hot, steep forest trails and hand holding it for long stretches at the necessary angle to capture the lemurs (see the pic opposite for the normal shooting position for wild lemurs!) but also because I missed a lot of shots as it was not flexible for wider images. I will be taking something lighter and more versatile this time!
I also found a macro lens handy here, and took an ultra wide angle for astro sessions. Hope that helps!