Otherworldly Landscapes and Abundant Wildlife
October 3–15, 2023
Located off the eastern coast of southern Africa, Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island and a biodiversity hotspot—fully 90% of its plants and animals can be found nowhere else on Earth. On this 13-day journey we’ll journey between a variety of landscapes—from ancient baobab trees to the surreal beauty of the tsingy (spiny) forest, and from rainforests to mountains, dry desert plains, and white sand beaches—and you’ll have the opportunity to photograph endemic lemurs, an assortment of rare birds, chameleons and other unusual reptiles, and other fauna. You won’t run out of photographic subjects!
We’ve crafted our itinerary to comfortably cover the most ground possible, and to provide the greatest diversity of photo opportunities. Madagascar is a large country with limited paved roads and unreliable scheduling for commercial air travel, so we’ve chartered our own private flights to get us around safely and efficiently. Our accommodations are among the best and most comfortable available, and everything is all-inclusive, including gratuities for our excellent English-speaking local guides.
Expect to be challenged and to learn a lot in this workshop. We’ll be looking for wildlife by day and at night (many creatures are nocturnal), and we’ll be photographing landscapes at daybreak, sunset, and even under night skies. We will be right beside you in the field, and later in the classroom for Lightroom post-processing instruction. We’ll also make sure to hold our signature image critiques. In addition to photographic instruction, your guides will teach you about the people, culture, ecology and conservation challenges of this unique destination.
This is a follow-on workshop to our Kenya safari.
About the wildlife: This workshop offers significant opportunities for photographing wildlife, and while we do our best to maximize our wildlife encounters—based on past experiences, local knowledge, and the current conditions—we need to impress upon you that the wildlife really is wild and that we don’t control it.
This itinerary is subject to change due to weather, local conditions, and other factors.
October 3, 2023: Arrive at Ivato Airport, and we will transfer you to our hotel in the upper town of Antananarivo. ‘Tana’ – as the locals call it has fascinating traditional architecture and a more Indonesian influence than the rest of Madagascar. We’ll have a welcome dinner tonight and talk about the adventure ahead.
October 4, 2023: After an early breakfast, we head east to Andasibe, a stunning rainforest park, about 4 hours drive from the city. The park consists of two protected areas, the Perinet Special Reserve and Mantadia National Park. Perinet is world-famous for its population of Indri lemurs, which are the largest living lemur species.
The journey to Andasibe offers first-time visitors to Madagascar an introduction to rural life with rice fields, redbrick houses, and roadside stalls selling seasonal fruits and vegetables lining the route. The road winds through the high plateau region of the island, so the driving is slow. Check into the hotel for lunch. This afternoon, we go to the Mitsinjo community forest to meet some of the 7 groups of Indri Lemur that live in this 700-hectare reserve. Then we continue on to the VOI community reserve for a night walk. You will see a variety of nocturnal lemurs: mouse lemurs, white footed sportive lemur, fat-tailed dwarf lemur, as well as the woolly lemur. Return to the hotel for dinner.
October 5, 2023: Today, you will enjoy a visit to the 810 ha Perinet Reserve with a local guide searching for the Indri indri. With a barely visible tail, black and white markings, and a surprised teddy–bear face, this lemur is one of the few animals in the world that cannot survive in captivity. There are another 11 species of lemur to spot as you walk through the rainforest, including a troop of grey bamboo lemurs, common brown lemur, diademed sifaka, and the black-and-white ruffed lemur. Birdwatchers should look out for the velvet asity, blue coua, Nuthatch vanga, and many more endemic species. Perinet is home to many reptiles, invertebrates, and some of Madagascar’s over one thousand orchid species.
After lunch, we will visit Vakona Lodge’s private reserve, home to rescued lemurs with which you can interact. Species to be seen here are the bamboo lemur, the black-and-white ruffed lemur, brown lemur, and diademed sifaka.
We will organize a second night walk during the late evening in the Mitsinjo forest, where you will see Goodman’s Mouse Lemur, Parson’s Chameleons, Uroplatus geckos, and more.
October 6, 2023: Today we will head to Mantadia National Park (1.5 hour drive) with a picnic lunch.
We aim to photograph some lemur species in this stunning park, including the Indri, diademed sifaka, grey bamboo lemur, red-bellied lemur, and black-and-white ruffed lemur. While the trails are slightly more challenging, the rewards are great as the forest is taller, wilder, and less crowded than Perinet. There are many birds, including the scaly ground roller, the pitta-like ground roller, and the breasted coua. This park is a naturalist’s goldmine with many seldom seen species of mammals, reptiles, and birds. We will enjoy a picnic by the Rianasoa Waterfall before hiking back to the vehicle and returning to the lodge.
October 7, 2023: Early this morning, we drive back to Tana, where you will connect with your private charter to Isalo (2 hrs 45 min). At our exclusive camp, you will settle into your tent and enjoy the majestic views over the Mandrare River. Tonight you will depart for a night walk in the Forest of Zenavo. This walk is a fantastic way to see diurnal lemurs bedding down, and the nocturnal lemurs begin to wake in the eerie and prehistoric spiny forest. You will spot sifakas and sleeping white-foot sportive lemurs, then once the sun has set, two mouse lemur species, sleeping birds, chameleons, owls, and now active sportive lemurs.
October 8, 2023: After our morning tea or coffee, we will head to the Spiny Forest for an early morning walk. We will witness the sunlight breaking through the octopus trees while looking out for the many endemic birds such as crested coua, various vangas, and the running coua. We will return to the camp for breakfast. Mid-morning, you will head out to the stunning sacred gallery forest to the south of the camp. Depending on the river depth, you will walk or take a boat across the Mandrare River to reach this primarily deciduous forest. Inquisitive groups of ring-tailed lemurs and the always entertaining Verreaux sifaka are the highlights of this excursion. We will return to camp for lunch and a relaxed afternoon by the pool. In the late afternoon, we will head for a walk through the sacred spiny forest filled with the ancestral tombs of the local Antandroy tribe, as well as an extraordinary array of flora and fauna unique to the spiny forest. Your English-speaking guide and a tracker from the local community will give you an introduction to Antandroy culture and customs. Your visit will be followed by sundowners on the Mandrare River banks.
October 9, 2023: We head to Berenty by road with a picnic breakfast. Berenty is a reserve founded in 1936 by the De Heaulme family, who own the surrounding sisal plantation. The reserve counts almost 1,000-hectares of protected area in a dense gallery forest dominated by tamarind trees and the spiny dry forest, and you will discover incredible lemurs like the Verreaux’s sifaka, the brown lemur, and the famous Ring-Tailed Lemur. Berenty is a great place to see Sifakas ‘dancing’ across the forest floor. At 4:00 PM, we will drive back to Mandrare for a sundowner amidst the baobabs. Watching the sunset and moon rise with a view across the baobabs to the mountains beyond is a magical experience. In the evening, the local village may perform beautiful traditional dances, accompanied by singing and music. Song and dance are at the heart of Antandroy culture and are used to accompany everyday life’s significant rituals and events. Tonight you will sleep at the baobabs in your very own mobile camp.
October 10, 2023: After breakfast, we transfer back to the airstrip for your private charter flight to Tsingy de Bemaraha. On arrival at Amborondia airstrip, you will be met by your English-speaking local guide and then transferred by 4X4 vehicle to your hotel. After lunch, we will visit the otherworldly pinnacles of the Petit Tsingy. You will take the Tantely circuit or the Andadoany forest trail depending on your level of fitness. You will spot some of the 53 bird species and 6 lemur species that make their home here and take in the fabulous views of the surrounding area.
October 11, 2023: Today is a full-day exploration of the “Grand Tsingy.” The walk itself is an adventure: on tiptoe over the sharp roof of the Tsingy, crossing the high roped-bridge, and meandering through pockets of dry deciduous forest. This unique site, a virtual forest of 50-meter high limestone peaks, is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and located about 20km from the village of Bekopaka.
The Tsingy are razor-sharp pinnacles produced by the erosion of limestone massifs over millions of years. The Tsingy shelters a startling array of wildlife:
- 11 species of lemur (including Verreaux and Decken’s sifaka and the red-fronted brown lemurs)
- 103 species of terrestrial and aquatic birds
- 15 species of bats
- 22 species of amphibians
- A variety of reptiles
October 12, 2023: We drive back to the airstrip for your private charter flight to Majunga for refueling, then continue to Anjajavy. Upon arrival, you will be greeted by a hotel staff member and transferred to the lodge. Anjajavy Lodge is located within a 450-hectare nature reserve on Madagascar’s northwest coast. The lodge’s 25 rosewood villas all have private decks overlooking the ocean. Meals can be served in an enclosed oasis on the hotel grounds or on the beach. The surrounding forest is alive with lemurs, chameleons, malachite kingfishers, and hummingbirds. Anjajavy is also active in conservation and has recently re-introduced two endangered endemic species: the giant land tortoise and the elusive Aye-Aye lemur. At 5:30 PM, you will depart for a night walk in the reserve to spot a variety of nocturnal lemurs.
While the reserve’s show-stoppers are undoubtedly the charismatic Coquerel’s sifakas, the hours of darkness also have their star performers. Weighing a mere 63 grams, Danfoss’ mouse lemurs scamper about in the shrubbery around the reserve just after nightfall, springing from branch to branch, quick as a flash, in search of food. If you hear a strange squeal coming from the treetops, then you have probably found a Grewcock’s sportive lemur. Other mammals to spot are:
- The endemic tsingy tuft-tailed rat
- Commerson’s leaf-nosed bat
- Madagascar’s largest predator — the rare and elusive fossa.
October 13, 2023: This morning, we depart for a walk along the ‘Chemin des Crabes’ to see the fabulous birdlife, beautiful baobabs, and of course, the famous hairy crab. Even if bird watching isn’t your thing, you can’t help but be enchanted by the kaleidoscope of colors and shapes of the reserve’s common birds, from the vibrant red fody and Souimanga sunbird to the exotic paradise flycatcher and sickle-billed vanga. It is one of the best places to spot the regal Madagascar fish eagle, shy Crested ibis, or rare Madagascar sacred ibis. At the end of the walk, you will visit a small cave where you will find a fossilized lemur skull, stalactites, and sharks’ teeth. You will return to the lodge for lunch, a final image review, and a leisurely afternoon.
October 14, 2023: This morning, you will be seduced by Moramba Bay. You will discover the centuries-old marine baobabs, the sandy beaches, and the small, unusual islands shaped like mushrooms. With the captain and a guide, search for one of the rarest raptors in the world, the critically endangered Madagascar fish eagle (Haliaeetus vociferoides). If the water is clear, you can also enjoy some snorkeling for 30 minutes before returning to the Lodge.
October 15, 2023: We will transfer you to the airstrip for your private charter flight back to Tana, and your driver and guide will escort you to a nearby hotel for lunch. After your meal, we will transfer you to Ivato airport for your international flight home.
Moderate: Most of this trip is easy. The walks on the Tsingy are several kilometers in the heat and on uneven ground.
Arrive Ivato International Airport (TNR), Antananarivo, Madagascar before 3:00 PM on October 3, 2023. Flights out can be made after 3:00 PM on October 15, 2023.
What to Bring
Please see our page How To Prepare For Your Workshop. We will send you a detailed information document 90 days before your workshop. This document will include specifics of where and when to meet, gear and clothing recommendations, and more.
- Double occupancy lodging. Single available for $3,000 supplement.
- All meals, soft drinks, and snacks during the workshop
- All permits and park fees
- Internal flights during the workshop
- All transportation during the workshop
- Tips for crew, drivers, and local guides
- English speaking local guide throughout the workshop
- Photographic guiding and instruction from 2 pros
- Image reviews and post-processing instruction
- Adventure, fun, inspiration, and a great time!
- Travel to and from Antananarivo, Madagascar.
- Passport and visa fees (if applicable).
- Any meals or accommodations before or after the workshop dates.
- Items of a personal nature.
- Alcoholic beverages.
- Medical Evacuation Insurance (required).
- Travel Medical (required).
- Trip Cancellation Insurance (optional, but recommended).
- Anything else specifically not listed as included.
- Single rooming available for $3,000 supplement.
- Your non-refundable deposit of $7,995 will hold your space in this workshop.
- Further non-refundable payment of $7,000 is due by March 1, 2023.
- The non-refundable balance is due not later than June 1, 2023.
- In addition to our standard Terms and Conditions, for this workshop all payments are non-refundable, and this is why we recommend comprehensive travel insurance including trip cancelation.
- Need special payment arrangements? No problem, just ask us.
“I was so pleased to find the workshop turned out to be much more than I expected. Andy takes such great care of people. I noticed this on several occasions, where he was very diligent in meeting individuals needs, from photography to food and comfort! Marc was consistently kind, patient, and so easy going. Both men really shined, which is not easy to do with the dynamics of keeping tabs on a group and maintaining a schedule to give us optimal opportunities. ”
“Andy worked closely with the local folks and repeatedly put us in position to fully experience and photograph the migration. Similarly, we had very special opportunities with eagle hunters throughout our trip. Andy made sure we didn't feel like we were imposing by making sure we knew the people were happy we were there and wanted us to experience and understand their life, which helped me relax about that and just soak up every moment. Knowing we would have multiple opportunities to make similar images was really helpful. I struggled a bit at first but before the trip was over, had learned how to successfully make images I was really excited about. Overall, the opportunities were over the top fantastic.
I would now select a Muench workshop over any other. I hope to be able to register for another soon. ”