Tree dwelling Indri; Diurnal Black-and-white Ruffed and Red-bellied lemurs and Diademed Sifaka; Giraffe-necked weevil; Spectacular birds; “Dancing” Verreax’s Sifaka; Up-close Ring-tailed Lemur and Huge colonies of the Madagascan Flying Fox are only a few of the highlights of this adventure!
Day 1: Arrival in Antananarivo
Upon arrival in the bustling capital of Antananarivo, or “Tana” as it is more commonly known; we transfer to our hotel on the edge of this intriguing city for an overnight stay. Depending on time this morning, we may visit the Tsimbazaza Zoo, which showcases a range of Madagascan photographic attractions such as Malagasy lemurs and herps that are famous. The artificial water bodies on the property provide a home to a number of waterfowl, and we may see and photograph our first Madagascar Grebe and Dimorphic Egret.
Day 2: Antananarivo to Perinet
We depart early for the drive eastwards across the Highland Plateau to the famous reserve of Perinet, another famous Madagascan photographic attraction. Our accommodation for the next four nights is a comfortable hotel, ideally located at the edge of the forest. Being so close to the reserve means that wildlife is often right on our doorstep: fluorescent green day geckos scuttle on the outside walls of our chalets, Madagascar Wagtails flit along the paved walkways and we may well be serenaded by the beautiful songs of the world’s largest extant species of lemur, the handsome Indri. At night, a family of Furry-eared Dwarf Lemurs are sometimes seen in the gardens of a nearby lodge as they forage through the trees.
Days 3 to 5: Perinet Special Reserve and Mantadia National Park
Whilst in the Perinet area, we will make a special effort to see and photograph the reserve’s most famous residents: the huge, singing lemurs known as the Indri. A journey in search of these magnificent creatures is an incredibly experience, and if we are fortunate we will be treated to a close encounter with a family group, their eerie, whale-like howling echoing through the forest on this Madagascar wildlife photography tour. Other lemurs we hope to see include Common Brown and Grey Bamboo Lemur, and we will also search known roosting sites for the nocturnal but inquisitive Weasel Sportive Lemur.
The moist rainforest cloaking Madagascar’s eastern escarpment protects the richest assemblage of birds on the island, including many that are rare or poorly known. Over 100 of these have been recorded from within the small reserve of Perinet. Amongst the most sought-after of Madagascar’s birds are those of the five families endemic to the Malagasy region: the peculiar mesites, exquisite ground-rollers, Cuckoo-Roller, Malagasy warblers and the vangas. Some of these, such as the ubiquitous Cuckoo Roller and Pitta-like Ground Roller and a number of the vangas are reasonably common and regularly encountered, whilst most of the others remain rare, local or elusive.
Another “must see” member of the island’s fauna is the Giraffe-necked Weevil, a tiny red and black insect named for its unusually proportioned neck!
In the evenings of this Madagascar wildlife photography tour, we will embark on night walks. Nocturnal outings are a thrilling and indeed, essential part of any trip to Madagascar and Perinet is one of the best sites to search for the island’s night birds. Specialities here include Madagascar Owl, Rainforest Scops Owl and both Madagascar and the rare and little known Collared Nightjar. Although Madagascar is famous for the spectacular lemurs that have adapted to a daytime existence, a number of species of these primitive primates remain, like their African cousins the galagos, denizens of the night. We will search for and should find Eastern Woolly, Furry-eared Dwarf and the diminutive Goodman’s Mouse Lemur, and may also encounter some of Madagascar’s other evolutionary masterpieces such as the bizarre Lowland Streaked Tenrec. The island’s reptile and amphibian (“herp”) fauna is equally fascinating and we will be impressed by the plethora of colourful and bizarre frogs, chameleons and geckos to be seen on an evening’s stroll through the rainforest. In particular, we will search for the giant Parson’s Chameleon and two species of eccentric leaf-tailed geckos: the huge Uroplatus fimbriatus and the aptly named Uroplatus phantasticus.
Mantadia National Park lies a short distance from Perinet, protecting a large expanse of primary forest at a somewhat higher altitude. Though it has only recently been opened to the public, Mantadia is now an essential destination on any Madagascar wildlife photography tour, having rapidly gained a reputation as an excellent site for a handful of highly sought-after forest birds. Not least amongst these are a number of species formerly considered to be restricted to the poorly accessible rainforests of the far northeast, such as Red-breasted Coua and Scaly Ground Roller.
Other Madagascan photographic attractions in this scenically beautiful park include the vocal Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur, the elusive Diademed Sifaka (considered by many to be the world’s most beautiful lemur) and Baron’s Mantella, a spectacularly coloured forest frog.
Much of the photography in Mantadia National Park can be enjoyed from the wide road that runs up into the reserve, although seeing and photographing the lemurs and birds of the forest will require that we take to the steep and at times slippery trails into the rainforest.
Day 6: Perinet to Antananarivo
After some final time in the forests around Perinet, we will make our way back to the capital city in the highlands of Madagascar. If time permit we will make our first photography excursion at Lac Alarobia. Travelling from our hotel into the city, one cannot help being struck by the uniqueness of the Malagasy culture, a strange mixture of African and Asian influences reflected in the landscape and architecture. Lac Alarobia, a private sanctuary set within the city protects large numbers of ducks and egrets from persecution. As evening sets, the small lake literally teems with waterfowl. Large numbers of White-faced Whistling Duck and Red-billed Teal should be seen, usually accompanied by small numbers of Hottentot Teal, Knob-billed and sometimes Fulvous Whistling Duck. The Lac also supports a fantastic assortment of egrets that roost or breed in the sanctuary, including a few splendidly adorned Malagasy Pond Heron and Dimorphic Egret. There are many willing photography subjects in amongst the large numbers of waterbirds, and we will have an amazing time photographing the hordes of roosting and squabbling birds on this Madagascar wildlife photography tour!
Day 7: Fly Tana to Fort Dauphin
Today on our Madagascar wildlife photography tour, we take a short flight to Fort Dauphin (also known as Toliagnaro), in the south-eastern corner of the country. We will overnight in the windy coastal town and photograph various fishermen in the afternoon or simply relax in our comfortable hotel.
Days 8: Fort Dauphin to Berenty Lemur Reserve
After an early breakfast we will depart to the world-famous private lemur reserve of Berenty. The 3.5 hour drive takes us from the wind-blown but picturesque town of Fort Dauphin through well watered valleys packed with paddy fields and finally into the rain-shadow of the Andohahela Mountains where the octopus like trees of the Didiereaceae family are diagnostic of the xerophytic spiny forest.
As we near Berenty, extensive tracts of sisal plantations stretching as far as the eye can see replace this natural habitat. Berenty Preserve belongs to the De Haulme family who has set aside sections of gallery forest along the Mandrare River to conserve its population of lemurs and other wildlife.
Berenty is justly famous for its lemurs, not only because its deciduous woodland is home to five species of these primitive primates but also for the ease with which they may be seen and photographed in the wild. Red-fronted Brown Lemur occurs in large numbers during the day and both White-footed Sportive and Grey Mouse Lemur are regularly encountered on our Madagascar wildlife photography tour during night walks through the reserve, though the undoubted favourites are the Ring-tailed Lemur and Verreaux’s Sifaka.
Day 9: Berenty Lemur Reserve
Whilst the bands of cat-like, quizzical Ringtails are often the first to steal visitors’ hearts, their appeal is easily matched by the strikingly patterned sifakas, with their soulful expressions and bizarre, bipedal dancing locomotion. To spend time with groups of these gentle creatures will certainly be one of the highlights of our Madagascar wildlife photography tour adventure, and will also prove to be one of the photographic highlights!
A further mammalian highlight of Berenty is visiting the Madagascar Flying Fox roost, were about 300 of these impressive animals sporting 1.25 metre wingspans spend their day squabbling and presumably sleeping. On our Madagascar wildlife photography tour, we will be on the look-out for the numerous Giant Coua that stroll along the well-cleared paths through the woodland, and we maybe lucky enough to find the dimorphic Madagascar Buttonquail as they scurry through the leaf litter.
Day 10: Berenty Lemur Reserve to Antananarivo (via Fort Dauphin)
An early morning start as we depart back to Fort Dauphin in order to catch our domestic flight to Antananarivo. Upon arrival at Antananarivo you will have the choice to depart home as this is the final day of the main tour or to depart back to our hotel to overnight in order to leave the next morning for the Morandava extension.
Optional 5 days Morandava extension
Day 1: Antananarivo to Morondava
This morning you will be transferred to the airport where you will depart for Morandava. One of the most interesting sites is Baobabs Amoreaux, the Communal Natural Monument of Morondava. It features two baobab trees twisted around one another as though they are embracing. The legend behind this place is that two young lovers, in an attempt to avoid having to go to war for their King, took refuge in the forest. They were never found and lived happily together the rest of their lives. When they died as very old people, in the place of their house, these two great baobabs grew.
Later in the afternoon you will visit the famous Avenue of Baobabs. This astonishing landscape, with roughly a dozen Grandidier’s Baobabs about 30 metres in height lining the dirt road, draws travellers from around the world. You will have the opportunity to spend some time in the late afternoon admiring the beauty of this natural phenomenon and taking photographs as the sun sets.
Days 2 & 3: Morondava and Kirindy
On the next 2 days of this Madagascar photography tour, we will visit the superb Kirindy Forest Reserve (please note due to accommodation you will not be staying in Kirindy but will drive – approximately 2 hours – one way to reach Kirindy). Kirindy is a private reserve in the south-western part of Madagascar and protects approximately 100 square kilometres of one of Madagascar’s most threatened ecosystems: its dry deciduous forests. Whilst previously utilized as an experimental sustainable timber harvesting operation, this has fortunately left no major imprint on the area.
This reserve is well known for the variety of lemur species that can be found together with other excellent wildlife viewing and photographic opportunities. Species such as Verreaux’s Sifaka, Red-tailed Sportive Lemur and Red-fronted Brown Lemur are species that can be seen during the day on our Madagascar photography tour, while you also stand a chance of viewing the rare Narrow-striped Mongoose.
Another focal species in the dry deciduous forest of Kirindy Forest Reserve is Madagascar’s largest predator, the Fossa. Kirindy is also known for its remarkable flora, numerous snakes (including Madagascar Ground Boa, Giant hog-nosed and Spear-nosed Snakes) and other reptiles, not to mention excellent woodland birding. In the late afternoon you will be transferred back to Morandava where you will spend your final night in Madagascar.
Day 4: Morondava to Antananarivo
After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport at Morandava for your flight back to Antananarivo where you will overnight.
Day 5: Antananarivo to Final Destination of Choice
Today is the last day of this incredible Madagascar photography tour, after breakfast you will transfer back to the airport in time for your international flight.
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