Travel with wildlife photography expert Nick Garbutt to his favourite Island, on a tour designed to see the great diversity of Madagascar’s most famous inhabitants, its lemurs. Some unique locations offer great photography opportunities with charismatic endemics.
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. 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.
Day1: Depart UK for Antananarivo
Day2: Arrive Antananarivo
Arrive Antananarivo and transfer to our hotel, and the afternoon is free.
Accommodation: Relais des Plateaux or Hotel du Louvre, 1-night
Day3: Drive to Antsirabe
We begin our journey south on Route National 7, through the central highlands to the town of Antsirabe.
Accommodation: Hotel in Antsirabe, 1-night
Day4: 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.
We have three full days to explore this wonderful area. 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.
We have a further morning in Ranomafana, before driving the short distance to the town of Fianarantsoa after lunch.
Accommodation: Tsara Guesthouse, 1-night
Day8: Drive to 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.
Day10: Visit Zombitse National Park, then 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
Day11: 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.
Day12: Fly to Morondova and drive to Kirindy Forest
In the morning we return to Toliara and then fly north up the west coast to Morondava.
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.
Accommodation: Kirindy Camp, 2-nights
Day13: Kirindy Forest
Our 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.
After a day of exploration within Kirindy Forest, we drive back to Morondava where we stay for the night.
Accommodation: Baobab Café, 1-night
Day15: Visit Avenue of Baobabs, then return to Antananarivo
Today we drive to the Avenue of Baobabs, north of Morondava and one of the most iconic photographic locations in Madagascar. In the afternoon we return to Morondava for a flight to Antananarivo for an overnight stay
Accommodation:Hotel du Louvre, 1-night
Day16: Drive to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park
In the morning we drive east to Andasibe and check into our rustic lodge near the park. The afternoon we start our exploration of the vicinity searching for indri, sifaka, chameleons and more natural wonders. This area is renowned for its diversity of wildlife, including numerous lemurs, a good variety of birds and an exceptional number of reptiles and frogs.
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 and is 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. But our priority is to look for 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.
Day19: Return to Antananarivo and depart
We spend a further morning in the reserve at Andasibe and perhaps have another chance to see and hear the indri. After lunch we drive back to Antananarivo airport and board our overnight flight home.
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: 19 daysfrom £4,995 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 17 daysfrom £4,195 pp
Single supplement: From £630
Group size: 10
When to go: Sep-Nov
Departures: Please contact us for departure date details.
An award-winning photographer and author, with a background in zoology, Nick has forged a career by combining these skills with leading tours and lecturing.
Nick has written and photographed several critically acclaimed books, including: ‘100 Animals to See Before They Die’, ‘Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide’, ‘Wild Borneo’, and ‘Chameleons’. He is a regular contributor to international magazines such as National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, Africa Geographic and Geographical.
Nick has twice been a winner in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. In 2000, he won the prestigious Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife. His photographs appear widely in books, calendars and other publications worldwide. He is a Special Lecturer on the MSc course in the Wildlife Photography and Imaging at Nottingham University, where he studied.
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
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.
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.
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.
This friendly lodge is situated next to a small lake close to the entrance to Andasibe Mantadia National Park, with a wonderful view of the forest. The thatched bungalows are basic but comfortable, and lemurs, including indris, can often be seen directly in front of the lodge.
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.
Setam Lodge occupies a lovely location above a river at the edge of Ranomafana National Park, and surrounded by fine views of mountains and rainforest. Ten chalets, each of which has two bedrooms and a terrace, are scattered across the hillside above the main building.
This secluded camp is situated in the Tsaranoro Valley just outside Andringitra National Park’s north-west boundary. Accommodation consists of 15 spacious tents set around a central area, pitched under thatched roofs on wooden platforms. The adjacent private reserve is a good place to see ring-tailed lemurs.