Worldwide Photographic Journeys

Madagascar

Madagascar: A World Apart

Natural curiosities of the ‘eighth continent’

Tuesday 8th September – Wednesday 23rd September 2020

Leader: Mark Beaman and local naturalist guides

16 Days Group Size Limit 7
Tuesday 7th September – Wednesday 22nd September 2021

Leader: Mike Watson and local naturalist guides

16 Days Group Size Limit 7

Photographic Highlights

  • Ring-tailed Lemurs in the lovely Isalo National Park
  • Fosa (or Fossa), Madagascar’s unique and largest carnivore, dancing Verreaux’s Sifakas and Giant Jumping Rats at Kirindy
  • The famous ‘Avenue of the Baobabs’ near Morondava
  • Long-tailed Ground Rollers in the other-worldly spiny forest at Ifaty
  • Spectacular rainforest lemurs including the critically endangered Indri, as well as Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur and Diademed Sifaka in the Andasibe area
  • The extraordinary, endangered, nocturnal Aye-aye, the most famous and most bizarre lemur of them all
  • Endemic forest birds, possibilities include Collared Nightjar and four species of Ground Rollers
  • The world’s most spectacular and largest chameleons: Oustalet’s, Parson’s and Panther
  • A wide variety of other photogenic wildlife including endemic frogs, leaf-tailed geckos, snakes and other herptiles

MADAGASCAR WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY TOURS WITH WILD IMAGES

Madagascar richly deserves its reputation as one of the world’s top venues for wildlife photography tours and in recent times has become a veritable Mecca for wildlife photographers. The degree of endemism (unique species) in this one island is simply staggering. Madagascar is home to almost 160 endemic mammals, including no fewer than 99 lemurs! It also has some 110 endemic bird species, 260 endemic reptiles, 60 endemic snakes (thankfully none of which are venomous) and 290 endemic amphibians, not to mention countless endemic insects and plants, and more chameleons than anywhere else on earth! Madagascar photography tours are not only truly unique but an enjoyable wildlife adventure.

Many of these wonderful creatures are also very photogenic and approachable, making Madagascar an obvious choice for wildlife photography. Separated from the African continent for 160 million years and then India for around 65 million years, Madagascar is a fascinating laboratory of evolution and has featured in many TV documentaries, including David Attenborough’s ‘Natural Curiosities’.

You could buy a small house for the cost of photographing all of Madagascar’s unique wildlife so, on this special ‘best of’ Madagascar photography tours itinerary, we aim to cover a wide variety of fauna, as well as ‘cherry-picking’ some of its most spectacular endemic creatures, large and small.

Amongst naturalists, the island is best known for its fabulous lemurs, man’s most distant cousins, ranging in size from tiny mouse-lemurs to the great Indri, and one of our main aims is to spend time photographing some of the most spectacular members of this family. We will also target photography opportunities with some of Madagascar’s other special mammals and birds, as well as chameleons and other herptiles.

Madagascar’s landscapes are just as varied and impressive as are its weird and wonderful wildlife, from the peculiar spiny forests of the west coast to the rugged sandstone canyons of the interior and the moist tropical rainforests of the eastern mountains. All of these make interesting subjects for photography during this exciting photographic journey through the island

Humans reached Madagascar around 2000 years ago, first from Southeast Asia in their primitive outrigger canoes and then, around 1000 year later, from Africa as well. Sadly their catastrophic impact on Madagascar’s fauna and flora continues apace. The Madagascar megafauna, which included 15 giant lemurs, elephant birds, giant tortoises and hippopotamuses, died out soon after the arrival of man and the remaining lemurs are now restricted to less than 10% of the island owing to ‘slash and burn’ agricultural activities. Fortunately much of Madagascar’s incredibly diverse wildlife can still be found despite the massive deforestation. As in so many parts of the developing world, a visit to Madagascar sooner rather than later is a good idea.

 

Accommodation & Road Transport

The hotels/lodges used during our Madagascar wildlife photography tour are almost all of good standard. The lodge at Kirindy is fairly simple but clean and comfortable. Road transport is by small coach or minibus and roads are variable in quality (although mostly much improved on the past). There are some fairly long drives.

 

Walking

The walking effort during our Madagascar photography tour is mostly easy, but there are some moderate hikes.

 

Climate

At lower altitudes in Madagascar it will be hot, dry and sunny. At higher altitudes the weather is similar but temperatures are cool to warm. It will be rather humid, especially in the east.

 

Photographic Equipment

For wildlife photography of birds and some tree-dwelling lemurs we recommend a telephoto (with or without converter) with a focal length of 500–600mm on a full-frame DSLR . (If you cannot run to large primes, a 400mm f.5.6 or a 100-400mm zoom lens on a crop-sensor body makes for a perfectly reasonable substitute.) There will also be some very approachable wildlife in range of anything from 100-200mm upwards. Opportunities for macro photography of herptiles for instance are particularly good, but with limited light in the forests, fill-in flash may be desirable.

As well as having some very approachable wildlife suitable for wide-angle photography, Madagascar is also full of panoramic views and a lens in the 16-35mm range is ideal for landscape photography.

You can also get great results with many subjects with a high quality digital bridge camera with an optical zoom of 18-20x or more and a wide-angle equivalent to around 24mm.

Be sure to bring plenty of spare battery power. Electricity supplies in Madagascar are not always completely reliable.

If you have questions about what equipment you ought to bring, please contact us.


PRICE INFORMATION

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

Our tour prices also include these flights: Antananarivo-Tulear (Toliara)-Antananarivo and Antananarivo-Morondava-Antananarivo.

Our tour prices also include all tips for local guides, drivers and accommodation/restaurant staff. We also include payments for local people who are willing to be photographed.

Deposit: £680, $850, €750.

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


2020: £5440, $7070, €6290. Antananarivo/Antananarivo.
2021: provisional £5450, $7090, €6310. Antananarivo/Antananarivo.

Single Supplement: 2020: £610, $800, €710.
Single Supplement: 2021: £610, $800, €710.

If you are travelling alone, the single supplement will not apply if you are willing to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

There may not be enough singles at Kirindy as accommodation is limited there. An appropriate refund will be made in this event.

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.

MADAGASCAR WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR: ITINERARY

Day 1:  Our Madagascar wildlife photography tour begins this evening in Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar, where we will spend the night. Often referred to simply as ‘Tana’, Antananarivo is a strange mixture of traditional Malagasy, French Colonial and modern architecture. Traditional Malagasy architecture has many Asian roots and the buildings look much closer to those one would see in parts of Nepal than anything found on the African mainland, reflecting the Asiatic origins of most of the Malagasy themselves.

Day 2:  From Antananarivo, situated on the high interior plateau of Madagascar, we travel first to the southwest coast of the island, taking a flight to Tulear (or Toliara), from where we continue by road to nearby Ifaty for a two nights stay. This afternoon we will begin our exploration of the Ifaty area.

Day 3:  In the strange and very photogenic ‘spiny forest’ of Southwest Madagascar, we can expect to encounter an array of endemic Madagascan wildlife.

We should enjoy close encounters with both the strange Subdesert Mesite and the even-stranger-looking Long-tailed Ground Roller, two of Madagascar’s most sought-after bird photography subjects. Other great birds include Sickle-billed and Lafresnaye’s Vangas and the rare Banded Kestrel.

Mammals found here will include our first lemurs, and we will be hoping for photographic encounters with Grey Mouse-Lemur, Grey-brown Mouse-Lemur and White-footed Sportive Lemur. Lesser Hedgehog Tenrec can also be found around Ifaty. Tenrecs are a hedgehog-like, African and Madagascan mammal family, sometimes known as Otter-Shrews, which have diversified like crazy in Madagascar. They are peculiar amongst placental mammals in possessing a single rear opening like a cloaca, more commonly found in birds and reptiles. Other inhabitants of the spiny forest include the beautifully patterned and critically endangered Spider Tortoise and the lovely Dumeril’s (or Madagascar Ground) Boa.

Walking along the sandy trails through the spiny forest is a fantastic experience. Tall, many-branched Didierea trees with a potent armour of spines give the impression of being witches’ broomsticks planted in the ground. Set amongst the many different kinds of Didierea trees are strange euphorbias and many squat, bloated baobabs. The feel of this bizarre forest, especially as dusk approaches, is of something dreamed up by Tolkien.

Day 4:  After a final wildlife and forest landscape photography session at Ifaty, we will drive northeastwards to Isalo National Park in Madagascar’s Ihorombe region for a two nights stay.

Day 5:  We will spend the day exploring just a small part of the 815 square kilometres (about 315 square miles) that comprises Isalo National Park. Amongst its starkly impressive eroded sandstone ‘ruiniforms’, the main wildlife photography attraction is its Ring-tailed Lemurs. In leafy canyons we can expect to encounter some of these iconic primates, first made famous by the BBC’s TV programme ‘Animal Magic’ featuring Johnny Morris and ‘Dotty’ a Ring-tailed Lemur at Bristol Zoo. Once hunted in this area, these beautiful creatures have only become easy to see and photograph relatively recently. They also ought to be in better condition than the ringtails at the more-visited Berenty reserve in Southeast Madagascar, which eat the leaves of Leucaena leucocephala, an introduced tree containing toxic mimosine that has been linked to hair loss or ‘bald lemur syndrome’, first noticed there in the 1990s.

Red-fronted Brown Lemurs and gorgeous Verreaux’s Sifakas can also be found here. The latter, which is surely another of Madagascar’s most iconic wildlife photography subjects, is well known for its ‘dancing’ bipedal means of crossing the ground between one tree to another.

The quiet trails and canyons of Isalo are also home to other wonderful critters including several fantastic chameleons such as Oustalet’s (or Malagasy Giant) Chameleon, Warty (or Spiny/Crocodile) Chameleon and Bright-green Jeweled Chameleon. Madagascar is the world’s capital of chameleons, with over half of all the species found on earth, including both the largest and the smallest! In addition, the peculiar xerophytic Elephant’s Foot trees ought to be in flower now, adding splashes of yellow to the Isalo landscape. The outrageous and endangered Rainbow Burrowing Frog also occurs here, although this ‘explosive breeder’ will probably be dormant during the time of our visit (which is in the long dry season).

Day 6:  Today we will retrace our steps to Tulear, from where we will take a flight to Antananarivo for an overnight stay.

We will stop en route to Tulear at Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park. This relatively small wildlife sanctuary protects a relict of a once much more extensive forest that is still home to the extremely localized Appert’s Greenbul. This dull-looking bird is hardly a star creature for wildlife photography, but much more interesting subjects in this dry deciduous forest include Coquerel’s and Giant Couas, White-browed Hawk-Owl, Madagascan Hoopoe and Rufous Vanga (which has a repertoire of strange vocalizations). The forest is also a great place to see and photograph the bizarre Cuckoo Roller.

Zombitse also holds several species of lemurs. We may have another encounter here with Verreaux’s Sifaka and we may even find a Hubbard’s Sportive Lemur at its daytime roost.

Day 7: We will take a flight today from Antananarivo to Morondava, the capital of Madagascar’s Menabe region on its west coast. From Morondava we will drive to Kirindy Forest Reserve, around 40km (25 miles) away and our base for the next three nights. We should arrive in time for some initial exploration.

Days 8-9:  Kirindy is a 100 square kilometres (39 square miles) private wildlife reserve which was originally an experiment in sustainable timber harvesting. Although the reserve holds many of the special lowland forest creatures of western Madagascar, it is particularly well known as the best place in the country to see the usually shy and retiring Fosa (or Fossa), Madagascar’s largest carnivore. The Fosa resembles a small Puma and was once even thought to be a member of the cat family, but is now known to be more closely related to the mongoose family. Its classification has been debated over the years as it also shares some traits with cats, civets, and even hyaenas!

The other main carnivore here is the Northern Bokiboky (or Narrow-striped Mongoose). Kirindy is also the only place one can find the nocturnal and endangered Giant Jumping (or Malagasy Giant) Rat, a large rodent with a severely restricted range of only about 20 square kilometres! Like its rodent cousin in Africa, the Spring Hare, it can hop, but it can also run on all fours.

Lemurs are well represented at Kirindy and diurnal species include both Verreaux’s Sifaka and Red-fronted Brown Lemur. In addition, there is a host of nocturnal lemurs, including Madame Berthe’s Mouse-Lemur (the world’s smallest primate), Grey Mouse-Lemur, Red-tailed Sportive Lemur, Pale Fork-marked Lemur, Coquerel’s Giant Dwarf Lemur and Fat-tailed Dwarf Lemur. With persistence, we will see and photograph a number of these strange critters of the Madagascan night.

Several tenrecs can also be found here, including Common, Greater Hedgehog, Lesser Hedgehog and Large-eared Tenrecs.

Reptiles are also abundant and include Henkel’s Leaf-tailed Gecko, Big-headed Gecko, Giant Hog-nosed Snake, Spear-nosed Snake and Kapidolo (or Flat-backed Spider Tortoise). The eggs of the threatened Labord’s Chameleon will also be on view here at the time of our visit, but the young and adults live only for four or five months in total between November and March, the shortest lifespan of any vertebrate!

Photogenic birds at Kirindy include White-breasted Mesite, Coquerel’s and Crested Couas, Sickle-billed, White-headed, Rufous, Blue and Chabert’s Vangas, Cuckoo Roller, Madagascar Harrier-Hawk, Henst’s Goshawk, Banded Kestrel, and Lesser and Greater Vasa Parrots.

All in all the potential for wildlife photography at Kirindy is awesome, so our three days visit is barely going to seem long enough!

Day 10:  After spending much of the day at Kirindy, we will drive back to Morondava for an overnight stay. We will visit the famous ‘Avenue of Baobabs’ this evening, arriving before sunset. Madagascar’s first National Monument, the baobabs are relics of an ancient forest, which was cleared by man, leaving only these 30m-tall (100ft-tall) isolated forest giants. Around 25 endemic Grandidier’s Baobabs (Adansonia grandidieri) line a 250m stretch of road and have become one of the most iconic scenes of rural Madagascar. Some 7 kilometres (43 miles) further to the northwest are the famous ‘Baobabs Amoureux’ – two Adansonia trees twisted together and said to signify the impossible love between two villagers already assigned to other partners. The baobabs make for some interesting wide-angle photography, especially in the soft light of dusk and dawn.

Day 11:  We will return to the Avenue of Baobabs early this morning, providing flight schedules permit. Afterwards, we will take a flight back to Antananarivo and then drive east to Andasibe, our base for the next three nights.

Days 12-13:  The Analamazaotra Special Reserve at Andasibe (formerly Perinet) protects some of the richest east coast rainforest in Madagascar. Nearby, the more recently created Mantadia National Park extends over a much larger area. We will spend our time in the Andasibe area exploring the rainforest in these two very fine wildlife reserves.

The main photography focus in this incredibly rich forest will be the spectacular black-and-white Indri, the largest of the extant lemurs. (Madagascar’s now extinct megafauna included Archaeoindris, a giant lemur the size of an adult male gorilla!). The Indri’s eerie, wailing call echoing through the forest at dawn is almost as impressive as the lemur itself. Some Indris in this area have become accustomed to visits by eco-tourists, including wildlife photographers, and we should enjoy some great photography opportunities with them.

The wonderful Indri is not, however, the only spectacular lemur that can be found in these forests. We will also be looking for the equally striking Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur and the stunningly beautiful Diademed Sifaka, surely a candidate for ‘Madagascar’s best-looking lemur’.

A host of smaller and mostly nocturnal lemur cousins in this area includes Grey Bamboo Lemur, Goodman’s Mouse-Lemur, Eastern Woolly Lemur, Weasel Sportive Lemur, and Furry-eared and Hairy-eared Dwarf Lemurs.

With such mammalian diversity occurring in these forests, it is no surprise that there is also a spectacular array of forest birds here and we will spend some time searching for, and trying to photograph the beautiful but secretive Pitta-like, Rufous-headed, Scaly and Short-legged Ground Rollers, the impressive Madagascar Owl and the attractive Collared Nightjar.

The big chameleon of the eastern forests, Parson’s Chameleon, occurs here and we will hope for a close, slow-motion photography encounter with one of these fabulous creatures, which are also amongst the worst vertebrate parents going and take no care of their young whatsoever once their eggs are laid! At around half a metre (19 inches) long, Parson’s vies with Oustalet’s Chameleon for the title of  ‘the world’s largest chameleon’.

The forests of the Andasibe region are also rich in invertebrates and a particular attraction is the bizarre Giraffe-necked Weevil, the male of which is very popular with wildlife photographers.

Day 14:  After a final photography session in the Andasibe region, we will head eastwards to Lac Ampitabe in the coastal lowlands. The final part of the journey to Le Palmarium, where we will stay for two nights, is by boat.

Day 15:  Le Palmarium protects one of the few remaining fragments of east coast littoral rainforest remaining in this region of Madagascar, just 50 hectares (about 124 acres) in total!

There are a mixture of lemur species here, some indigenous to the area like Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur and the huge Indri, while (rather unfortunately, but providing some wonderful additional photographic opportunities) there are introduced Red Ruffed Lemurs (from Northeast Madagascar), Crowned Lemurs (from North Madagascar) and Black Lemurs (from Northwest Madagascar), plus some hybrids!

By far the most exciting and important wildlife photography feature of Le Palmarium is the population of wild Aye-ayes that survives on an island in the lake, safe from local people for whom the Aye-aye is, tragically, ‘fady’ or taboo, so universally feared, hated and persecuted. We will go there both evenings to watch and photograph the Aye-ayes as they emerge from their nests. This is surely the best and ‘easiest’ place to photograph this charismatic and rather sinister-looking nocturnal species in the wild, as the animals here are less wary of humans than in most other localities. Even so, patience, persistence and care are needed.

Day 16:  After a final session at Le Palmarium, we will make our way back to Antananarivo, where our Madagascar wildlife photography tour comes to a close this evening.

Madagascar: A World Apart Photography Tour Report 2018

by Mike Watson

The second Wild Images photo tour of Madagascar was another great success, resulting in some even better photographic encounters with some of the ‘Eighth Continent’s’ most enigmatic wildlife than last time. From the outrageously confiding Long-tailed Ground Roller of the Spiny Forest of southwest Madagascar, found nowhere else in the world, to the equally tame […]

View Report

Madagascar: A World Apart Photography Tour Report 2017

by Mike Watson

The inaugural Wild Images photo tour of Madagascar was a great success, resulting in some memorable photographic encounters with some of the ‘Eighth Continent’s’ most enigmatic wildlife. From the outrageously confiding Long-tailed Ground Roller and Subdesert Mesite of the Spiny Forest of southwest Madagascar, both found nowhere else in the world, to the equally tame […]

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