The Wildlife of Madagascar’s Magical Forests with Oliver Smart
This expert-led small group tour focuses on the photogenic wildlife and landscapes of Madagascar’s three main forest types. It includes habitats and iconic wildlife that showcase what makes Madagascar so unlike anywhere else on Earth. Not only is the fauna and flora unique, there is plenty of fascinating evolutionary history and stories behind the wildlife that we will encounter. In the areas we visit, the animals are mostly habituated thus affording excellent viewing and photo-opportunities. For those who enjoy close, intimate encounters with wildlife and/or have an interest in photography, this is an ideal destination, greatly enhanced by the expert guidance and tuition of the tour leaders.
This special itinerary concentrates on three of Madagascar’s most wildlife-rich reserves that fall within very different habitat and climate zones, giving us a chance to sample a great selection of wildlife. Within these locations we will focus on finding and photographing Madagascar’s most iconic and celebrated species including ring-tailed lemurs, indri, aye aye, “dancing” Verreaux’s sifakas, tiny mouse lemurs, the fossa, all sizes of chameleons and other reptiles and frogs, peculiar insects and also plants ranging from huge baobabs to orchids and pitcher plants.
There will be many stops that enable us to experience the very different landscapes and gain an insight into the customs, lifestyles and vibrant cultures of friendly Malagasy tribes. There will be an emphasis on photographic opportunities and tuition in addition to observation of Madagascar’s special wildlife at a leisurely pace.
The tour will be jointly led by award-winning wildlife photographer, naturalist and ornithologist Oliver Smart and local wildlife expert Daniel Razafimandimby who together will help you make the most of each experience. The combination of their good humour, knowledge and extensive experience in the field will help you gain maximum enjoyment and image results from this exciting adventure.
Arrive Antananarivo (Tana). Met on arrival and transfer to your hotel.
Staying at Relais des Plateaux . Includes No Meals.
Today we transfer to the airport to take a flight to Fort Dauphin in the far south of Madagascar. On arrival we make the bumpy 4-hour transfer through the eerie spiny forest to the Berenty Private Reserve. Depending on the timing of the flight, we can explore the reserve and take a night walk to look for nocturnal wildlife.
Staying at Berenty Lodge. Includes All Meals.
A full day to enjoy the wildlife of the Berenty Reserve. The gallery and spiny forests of this reserve are famed for their many habituated ring-tailed lemurs and photogenic “dancing” Verreaux’s sifakas.
This is one of the best locations in Madagascar to observe and photograph the "dancing" behaviour of these wonderful sifakas. While the curious and bold ringtails will also provide many memorable encounters and photography as they interact with each other and walk the trails with their tails up in the air. With luck we will also hopefully see some new born baby lemurs clinging to their mothers.
The reserve also supports a large colony of Madagascar flying foxes, white-footed sportive lemurs and gray-brown mouse lemurs. In the evening we can take a night walk in the bizarre spiny forest for its nocturnal species.
Staying at Berenty Lodge. Includes All Meals.
Today we can enjoy another full day of morning and afternoon guided walks on the easy and flat forest trails.
Besides the wonderful lemurs, birds we may see and photograph include the hook-billed and sickle-billed vangas, Madagascar paradise flycatcher, the ashy cuckooshrike, white-browed owl, greater and lesser vasa parrots and the souimanga sunbird. We also spend time with the fascinating reptiles of this habitat such as thick-tailed and fish-scaled geckos, various skinks, warty chameleons and snakes such as the Dumeril’s ground boa.
Staying at Berenty Lodge. Includes All Meals.
We have another morning for wildlife viewing and photography in Berenty. After lunch we will make the 4 hour drive back to Fort Dauphin for the night, stopping to admire and photograph the spiny forest, local villages and mountains along the way.
Staying at Le Croix du Sud. Includes All Meals.
Today we will take a domestic flight back to Tana. Depending on the time of the flight we will then visit Tsarasaotra Lake in a district of Tana for some urban birdwatching. Here we can see a variety of waterfowl, egrets, herons, Madagascar malachite kingfishers, swamp warblers, white-throated rails and also many beautiful butterflies and dragonflies.
Staying at Relais des Plateaux . Includes Breakfast.
Today we will transfer to the airport to take our domestic flight to Morondava. On arrival we transfer to the Kirindy Reserve past the Avenue of Baobabs and begin exploring the reserve in search of its special wildlife including eight species of lemur.
The 10,000-hectare Kirindy reserve is a rare remnant of Madagascar’s threatened dry tropical deciduous forest.
Highlights may include the acrobatic Verreaux’s sifaka, red-fronted brown lemur, the charismatic predatory fossa, narrow-striped mongoose (bokiboky) and birds such as the white-breasted mesite and crested coua.
In the evening we will take a night walk to see nocturnal species including the tiny Madame Berthe's mouse lemur, the smallest primate in the world and the strange giant jumping rat.
Staying at Kirindy Lodge. Includes All Meals.
Today we will have exciting morning and afternoon guided walks in the Kirindy Reserve in search of its special wildlife. In the late afternoon we will particularly be on the lookout for fossa and narrow striped mongoose around the lodge grounds.
Later in the evening we will take another night walk where we could encounter big-headed panther geckos, ground boas, scops owls and six species of nocturnal lemur.
Staying at Kirindy Lodge. Includes All Meals.
This morning we will have a final morning of wildlife photography around Kirindy. We then transfer back to Morondava for lunch and some time to rest and swim in the pool in the afternoon. In the evening we then return to the Avenue of Baobabs to take enjoy and photograph these iconic 800 year old trees in the best light.
Staying at Palissandre Cote Ouest . Includes Breakfast.
Today we transfer to the airport for our flight back to Tana. We then continue to transfer (5 hours) on to the village of Andasibe.
In the evening we will take a short night walk along the road outside the hotel to spot and hopefully photograph nocturnal wildlife of the rainforest.
Staying at Andasibe Hotel. Includes Breakfast and Dinner.
This morning we will visit the Analamazotra (Perinet) Reserve. Here the wonderful tail-less indris are particularly habituated allowing for some very intimate and memorable sightings and photographic opportunities.
We will also look for other lemur species such as the Eastern grey bamboo lemur, common brown lemur and the stunning diademed sifaka.
Bird highlights might include the nuthatch, red-tailed and blue vangas, Madagascar cuckoo roller, and if lucky the skulking brown mesite or a roosting collared nightjar.
In the afternoon we can visit one of the community-run sections of rainforest such as the VOIMMA Reserve. Here we can usually get very close to indris and bamboo lemurs and we may also find a snuffling tenrec in the leaf litter or a massive Parson's chameleon. As dusk approaches, we will stay in the forest to enjoy the fantastic nocturnal wildlife opportunities here.
Staying at Andasibe Hotel. Includes All Meals.
Today we make an early drive (1 ½ hours) takes to explore the old growth rainforest at Mantadia National Park.
Our highlights here will hopefully include encounters with the agile black-and-white ruffed lemur and various frogs such as colourful painted mantella plus nose-horned chameleons and unusual insects like the giraffe-necked weevil.
Mantadia is home to an extraordinary bird life too and we may find some of the beauiful ground rollers as well as several species of vanga and coua.
We return to the hotel for the afternoon and some time at leisure before another evening walk for more nocturnal species.
Staying at Andasibe Hotel. Includes All Meals.
Today we will return to the wonderful rainforest of VOIMMA for more memorable encounters with lemurs, chameleons, frogs and insects.
After lunch we will transfer (4 hours) by road to the village of Manambato and then by boat to the Palmarium Reserve.
In the early evening we visit a small forested islet on the edge of Lake Ampitabe for a close encounter with aye ayes.
Staying at Palmarium Lodge. Includes All Meals.
Today we can enjoy exploring the Palmarium Reserve on its wide and easy trails.
This is the perfect location for us to enjoy some very intimate sightings and photography with lemurs. The lemurs here including indri, Coquerel's sifaka and crowned lemur have been introduced to the reserve from outside of their natural range and are not truly wild. However, this is a perfect finale to our trip as the lemurs here are very tame and allow exceptionally close views.
Staying at Palmarium Lodge. Includes All Meals.
Today we make the long but interesting journey back through the rice growing countryside of Eastern Madagascar to Tana. We will arrive at our hotel, Relais Des Plateaux in the late afternoon and have time for a final dinner as well as use of a hotel room before transferring to the airport for our departing flights. (An overnight and airport transfer the next day can also be arranged)
Staying at Relais des Plateaux. Includes Breakfast.
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Located on the edge of longest canal system in the world; the Pangalanes Canal, the Palmarium Beach Lodge is a simple but comfortable lodge, ideal for families and those keen to see the wonderful aye aye. The lodge is located inside the private Le Palmarium Reserve which means nest of dreams in Malagasy.
The lodge consists of very simple wooden bungalows with solid built en suite bathrooms and mosquito nets located above the beds on the shore of Lake Ampitabe. The bungalows have shared verandas with hammocks and are only a short walk from the lake’s sandy beach and are backed by a private littoral forest reserve, home to a wide range of endemic palms.
The restaurant has a very fresh menu as much of the food comes from the local market and the adjacent main lodge building has a small but comfortable lounge area and bar. The lodge is only accessible by boat and is around 4 hours total travel time from Andasibe including a 1-hour boat ride from Manambato village. Due to its remote location, electricity is only available for limited hours only (between 6 – 11 pm each evening) and there is no Wi-Fi, phone reception or facilities to use Credit or Debit Cards at the lodge.
The Le Palmarium Reserve protects around 50 hectares of coastal littoral rainforest and provides a refuge for a good selection of native wildlife. The wildlife highlight is the population of currently eight aye ayes that live on a small forested islet on the edge of the lake. The aye ayes live wild on the island and forage naturally, but they are also offered coconuts by the local rangers each evening at a designated viewing area affording excellent eye levels.
Although the setting is a little less natural, this excursion offers a very rare and special opportunity to view these mysterious, elusive and fascinating nocturnal lemurs at uniquely close quarters. Flash photography is not allowed, but the local rangers provide sensitive illumination with torches for a great view and some low light photography and video of these remarkable primates. This is by far the easiest location to see and photograph a semi-wild aye aye in Madagascar.
The reserve is also home to numerous diurnal species of lemurs including black-and white ruffed lemur, indri, crowned lemur, black lemur and Coquerel’s sifaka. However, most of these species have been introduced from outside of their natural range and some have also hybridised. Most of these lemurs are very inquisitive and fully habituated, so will often approach to within a few feet in the hope of some banana handouts. Many of the introduced species can be seen in their natural habitat elsewhere in Madagascar, but the site is ideal for keen photographers, looking to take more artistic and abstract images and those keen to see an aye aye.
There are also many reptiles and beautiful endemic frogs to search for as well the superb diversity of orchids, carnivorous pitcher plants, palms and pandanus plants to admire. If spending a few days in the area a boat trip to explore more of canal and lake network is another highlight. As the trails are flat and easy going and the wildlife very easy to view, this is an ideal location for families with young children too.
Simple private bathrooms, a large restaurant and lounge with limited use of electricity only between 6 and 11 pm in the evenings. So bring plenty of spare camera batteries.
This is the easiest location in Madagascar to see the wonderful nocturnal aye aye. There are eight living semi-wild on a small forested islet on the edge of Lake Ampitabe where coconuts are provided for them each evening by the local rangers. The boat trip to see them departs the lodge at 17:30 ecah evening with a 15 minute boat ride to the iselt, followed by a short walk with a few steps. The whole excursion usually only lasts one hour and is shared by all guests at the Lodge, so can be busy at peak times. Up to four different aye aye have been seen feeding together at the same time, but usually there will only be one or two visible at the same time. Flash photography is not allowed, so a tripod and camera settings suitable for the low light conditions of torchlight only is recommended.
Other wildlife includes the huge tail-less indri and vocal and acrobatic black-and white ruffed lemur although please note these and other diurnal lemur species here have been introduced.Nocturnal Eastern woolly lemurs, tenrecs and a wide range of reptile and frog species can also be found in the reserve as well including the giant hog-nosed snake (Leioheterodon madagascariensis) and blue-back reed frog (Heterixalus madagascariensis). Birdlife is not very diverse but includes the France’s sparrowhawk, Madagascar green sunbird and crested coua.
Enjoy a boat trip to explore more of the lake and canal system.
Enjoy walking the trails, observing and photographing the lemurs and perhaps swimming in the Lake.
Palissandre Cote Ouest
Located in the attractive Nosy Kely area of Morondava, and set just steps from its sandy beach, this is one of the best hotels in Morondava. Accommodation consists of 29 comfortable beach front bungalows made of local materials. The large comfortable air-conditioned rooms have a spacious private bathroom, satellite TV, safe and mini bar. Each bungalow has immediate access to the beach but the sea here has strong currents and is not suitable for swimming.
Facilities at the hotel include a restaurant offering international and local cuisine, bar, spa and large swimming pool. There is plenty of seating around the pool and Wi-Fi is also available.
Restaurant and bar, private bathrooms with hot water, all rooms are air-conditioned and feature a satellite TV and minibar. There is also a large swimming pool, spa and Wi-Fi.
Relais des Plateaux
Situated about 10 minutes’ drive from the airport, this comfortable three-star hotel set in exotic gardens offers well equipped, en suite rooms including air conditioning, satellite TV, mini-bar, tea and coffee facilities and hair dryer. Each room is decorated in a Malagasy design using local materials and the rooms are arranged in a village layout with good access.
Other facilities in the hotel include a local handicraft shop, restaurant serving delicious French cuisine and local delicacies, bar and swimming pool (heated in the cooler months).
Restaurant, air-conditioning, Wi-Fi, mini bar, safety deposit box, satellite TV, direct-dial telephone,
City tour of Antananarivo, excursion to Ambohimanga Hill, visit to Tsarasaotra Lake (aka. Lac Alarobia) in a district of Tana for some unusual Hauts Plateaux birdwatching.
Kirindy Eco Lodge
The only accommodation available within Kirindy Special Reserve itself, Kirindy Ecolodge (previously called Kirindy Gite) is operated by the government parks service, Madagascar National Parks. The accommodation in the past was seriously basic, but now is in renovated yet rustic wooden bungalows with en suite flush toilets and cold showers. Early booking is advisable in high season. Impressive in-camp and nocturnal wildlife encounters may leave you feeling that your night in this simple accommodation was well worthwhile. Bedding is minimal and temperatures can drop at night in the cooler months of June to September when we recommend taking a light sleeping bag and a fleece.
Private flush toilets, cold water showers, mosquito nets, restaurant/ lounge area
A wonderful place for wildlife, augmented by the iconic Avenue des Baobabs through which you drive en route to Kirindy. The park is best known for its nocturnal wildlife, including fossa and giant jumping rat (both often seen in camp), narrow-striped mongoose and six species of nocturnal lemur: pygmy mouse, grey mouse, red-tailed sportive, pale fork-marked, Coquerel’s dwarf and fat-tailed dwarf lemurs. Diurnal lemurs include Verreaux’s sifaka and red-fronted brown lemur. Several tenrecs occur here: common, lesser hedgehog and large-eared. Some very rare bird species inhabit Kirindy, including white-breasted mesite, Coquerel’s coua, crested coua, sickle-billed vanga and cuckoo roller. It’s also a good location for the surprisingly beguiling hissing cockroach.
Wildlife walks in Kirindy National Park, both during the day and after dark. Visit the iconic Avenue des Baobabs en route from/to Morondava.
The Andasibe Hotel sits next to a tranquil small lake, surrounded by Eucalyptus close to the Andasibe village and reserve.
The hotel offers one of the highest levels of comfort in the area with 20 spacious bungalows with large comfortable beds. All have modern private bathrooms with hot water, and they all feature air-conditioning, satellite TV, mini bar, safe, a seating area and a small private terrace to relax on. There are also 10 more simple and smaller standard rooms. Wi-Fi is only available in the restaurant.
There is a spacious restaurant offering a wide selection of international dishes. There is a small swimming pool in the extensive gardens to enjoy, plus a small massage room where spa treatments can be arranged.
The hotel is an ideal base for those looking for a higher level of comfort while exploring the Andasibe Rainforests.
Private bathrooms, mosquito nets, air conditioning, TV, safe, mini bar, private terrace, lounge, restaurant, swimming pool, massage room and Wi-Fi is available in the communal areas.
The Andasibe area is one of the best examples of Madagascar’s Eastern rainforests and is home to a fantastic selection of wildlife. In the Andasibe (Perinet) Reserve and its adjoining Mitsinjo and VOIMMA Reserves, the indri is one of the highlights, being the largest species of lemur. Other diurnal lemurs include the diademed sifaka, common brown lemur, Eastern grey bamboo lemur and the black-and-white ruffed lemur only in the nearby Mantadia National Park. Nocturnal species include the Goodman’s mouse lemur, furry-eared dwarf lemur and Eastern woolly lemur. In the community managed VOIMMA Reserve, the Parson’s chameleon can often be found along with the blue-legged chameleon and tiny brown leaf chameleon: Brookesia superciliaris. The smaller creatures of the rainforest are spectacular here with mossy leaf tailed geckos, colourful frogs and insects such as the giraffe-necked weevil. Birdlife is another highlight especially in the Mantadia National Park with scaly, pitta-like and short-legged ground rollers, velvet asity, red-fronted and blue couas, nuthatch vanga, Madagascar blue pigeon and pygmy kingfisher. The wonderful helmet vanga can also be found in the more remote Antavalobe Reserve.
Walking in the wildlife rich rainforest reserves of Andasibe, VOIMMA, Mitsinjo, Mantadia and Antavalobe. Interpretive village visits are also available.
Established in 1937 as one of the first nature reserves in Madagascar, Berenty is not for everyone, but for the right people it is much appreciated and enjoyed. Accommodation is fairly basic and service is in need of attention but Berenty provides easy walking along well tended, level and wide trails in shady riverine gallery forest and patches of spiny forest where habituated lemurs and other wildlife can easily be seen. It is suitable for families with young children, those with mobility problems and those who relish tame “wilderness” in which plenty of habituated wildlife can be seen.
The lodge and land are owned by the locally powerful de Heaulme family, who developed the extensive, surrounding sisal plantations and owns some hotels in Fort Dauphin, including the Croix du Sud and Le Dauphin.
13 bungalows and 12 rooms. Snack bar, restaurant, Antandroy tribal museum, nearby sisal factory
Ring-tailed, red-fronted brown, collared brown, white-footed sportive, grey mouse and Verreux’s sifaka lemurs can all be seen quite easily at Berenty. There are also many bird species such as giant coua, souimanga sunbird and hook-billed vanga, and reptiles including radiated tortoise and Oustelet’s chameleon.
Walking in the private reserve on wide, well-marked trails and within the patches of spiny forest, either independently or with a guide. Guided nocturnal nature walks.
Are International Flights Included?
No. Please contact us for a quote if required.
If flying from the UK, Air France has flights from London and Manchester via Paris. Other flight options include Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines.
September to October
Are you ATOL Registered?
Yes. This means we are legally able to book your international flights in conjunction with your ground arrangements so you can book with us with complete confidence. Read more about our ATOL license here.
With the majority of the key wildlife species that could be encountered there should be good opportunities for photography, although please note that some patience, perseverance and luck will always be a factor with any photography. For most of the wildlife on this trip a full-frame DSLR or mirrorless camera with a telephoto lens between 300-600 mm or a powerful zoom or bridge camera will produce the best results. Madagascar has some superb landscapes, so a wide-angle lens is also ideal if you have one and there will also be plenty of smaller wildlife that a macro or smaller lens will be most useful for and is highly recommended. A tripod can be very useful in many situations in Madagascar particularly with landscape and night sky images. It can also be very useful for aye aye and nocturnal wildlife photography which will be in very low light conditions. However, a tripod is not all that necessary for most of the daytime wildlife photography on this tour, which will sometimes involve fast moving lemurs under forest canopies, so handheld photography will also be best in some situations.
Perhaps also extend your stay in Madagascar with a few days at a beach location with more wildlife such as the lovely Eden Lodge near Nosy Be, the Dunes Hotel near Ifaty or the luxurious Anjajavy Hotel.
If you have any questions regarding this Tour, please feel free to contact me on +44 (0)1803 866965
[Our escort guide] was excellent – he had amazing vocabulary and was always good natured, patient and attentive. He provided us with a great commentary to the country and proved to be a brilliant wildlife spotter. Wildlife highlights: seeing a streaked tenrec, snorkelling with green turtles, the pygmy chameleons, the biggest giant millipede I’ve ever seen, a group of indris without the crowds and hearing their calls, seeing new families of birds – vangas and couas…Everything was a complete treat – my binoculars got a complete workout.