~ a photography tour to a land steeped in culture, traditions, and rare wildlife ~
When: October 1st - 13th October (13 Days)
Who: Tour leaders ~ Lynn Gail and Mark Brierley
Where: Exploring Madagascar's highlands, lowlands, rainforests, and coastal landscapes
Level: Beginner to experienced photographer
Fitness: Easy pace
Sleeping: A mixture of historical inns, French hotels, quaint B&B's and a chateaux
“Madagascar is a curious wonderland. It's an unrepeatable experiment, a set of animals and plants evolving in isolation for over 60 million years. We're still trying to unravel its mysteries.”
~ Sir David Attenborough
Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, is very much the undiscovered country. Sitting in the deep blue waters of the Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of continental Africa, Madagascar is a land steeped in cultural history and geographical diversity. It’s where the modern world has yet to encroach on traditional beliefs and lifestyles of the Malagasy people. Madagascar is home to flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world, such as lemurs, rare birds, and the majestic baobab trees. It boasts stunning landscapes unique to the island - from dry forests, highland savannahs, and sandstone stacks to deep rainforests. On this tour, you’ll meet friendly villagers, children, and fishermen, who will warmly welcome you into their communities with gentle hospitality. By joining us you'll embark on a journey of cultural and wildlife discovery - a fulfilling, rewarding and photographic trip of a lifetime experience.
This tour will appeal to the explorer, discoverer, and photographer in you. It’s an immersive experience that will bring you into intimate contact with the people, culture, and environment of the unique island that is Madagascar.
DAY 1 : MAURITIUS - ANTANANARIVO
Upon arrival at Ivato international airport, we’ll be met and welcomed by our professional guide, Diary (pronounced dee-ar-ee) who will help with different formalities, money exchange etc. Time allowing, we’ll explore the city, and drive along the riverbanks, photographing daily Malagasy life silhouetted against the setting sun (weather permitting).
DAY 2: ANTANANARIVO
Today we’ll embark on a tour, photographing Madagascar’s eclectic capital city before stopping for lunch at one of the city’s colourful quirky bars. We explore the world heritage site of Ambohimanga Royal Palace and learn about Madagascar’s incredible history and where its influences have come from, what makes this unique island so different to mainland Africa. We'll stroll the hillsides where the city's beautiful colonial buildings point skywards. And, we'll meet friendly locals at vibrant markets where the Malagasy people sell their wares.
DAY 3: ANTANANARIVO – ANTSIRABE
We journey to the SPA town of Antsirabe and en-route, stop at Ambatolampy - a famous town for manufacturing Malagasy cooking pots among other interesting items. These authentic everyday experiences make for wonderful environmental portraiture images. The landscape is dotted with far reaching valleys and rice paddies. Along the way we’ll stop to meet local farmers to see how they use zebus (the Madagascar cow) to plough land.
Antsirabe was settled by Norwegian missionaries who stayed in the area because of the cold climate and the natural thermal springs which are said to have healing powers for a range of ailments from rheumatism to stomach indigestion (bring your bathers!). The town’s magical miniature toy factory, and zebu horn workshop will show how items are created by ingenious Malagasy Artisans.
DAY 4: ANTSIRABE - AMBOSITRA
Today we head to Ambositra located in Madagascar's highlands. Home to the Zafimaniry tribe, the town is renowned for its fine woodcarving industry, art and crafts. Here, we’ll visit master craftsmen in their workshops and learn about how they cut intricate patterns from thin wood on a hand operated jigsaw. House utensils and everyday objects are hand-crafted in geometric shapes of Austronesian motifs, reminiscent of the Arabic influence (which is still present in Malagasy culture), called “Sikotra”. En-route we’ll stop to meet locals and to photograph the far-reaching countryside.
DAY 5: AMBOSITRA - FIANARANTSOA
This morning we make our way to Fianarantsoa, the administrative capital of the Betsileo ethnic group where ancient churches dot the historical town’s hilly horizon. We’ll explore Tanana Ambony - an old town which has been added to the list of World Monuments Watch. The city’s architecture is similar to Antananarivo with its alleyways, stone stairs, and marketplaces. It’s a great place to connect with the Betsileo tribe and learn about their traditions and culture.
Day 6: FIANARANTSOA - SOATANANA
After breakfast we have a special experience planned where we'll be spending time in the village of Soatanana to experience a unique church tradition with local people dubbed the 'white shepherds' dressed from head-to-toe in white. We've have been invited to attend this momentous and joyous occasion. The church service takes place every Sunday and is an authentic cultural practice not included on a ‘typical’ tourist map. We will also explore the pretty village and surrounding scenic countryside.
Day 7: FIANARANTSOA – ANJA RESERVE - ISALO NATIONAL PARK
This morning we drive south to descend into the west coast region where the scenery drastically changes to open savannah grasslands where we’ll see zebu herds tended by Malagasy cowboys. Before lunch we visit a handmade paper outlet to watch how Antemoro paper is made into cards with pressed flowers.
Afterwards, we visit the community-managed reserve of Anja. In the forest, you’ll see troupes of ring-tailed lemurs foraging between huge granite outcrops. The impressive ring-tailed lemurs are considered a national animal of Madagascar.
Late afternoon we explore Isalo National Park in the Ihorombe Region before arriving at the oasis setting of the Jardin du Roi where you spend two nights. (This is an experience in itself!)
Day 8: ISALO NATIONAL PARK
Today we venture out to the Jurassic sandstone formation of Isalo. One of the highlights here is the Namaza trail, an ideal spot to photograph a perfect combination of wildlife and breathtaking scenery. We’ll see several species of lemurs: the ring-tailed lemur, red-fronted brown lemur, and possibly the rare Verreaux dancing Sifaka. There will be an opportunity to hike to the Blue and Black natural swimming pool where clear waters are idyllic for bathing.
Isalo National Park is a botanist’s playground in which to observe succulent plants including the weird-looking endemic pachypodium or ‘elephant’s foot’, different aloes, and endemic medicinal plants. We’ll learn about the fascinating culture of the Bara Tribe, the zebus rustlers, and how they worship their ancestors. Isalo is also a birding hotspot for seeking out spectacular species: the endemic Benson rock thrush, Madagascar Buzzard, button quail, grey-headed love birds, and the Madagascar Paradise flycatcher.
In the afternoon we enjoy some downtime before venturing out at sunset to photograph La Fenetre de l’Isalo – a natural sandstone window sculpted by erosion.
DAY 9: ISALO NATIONAL PARK –TULEAR
From Isalo, we travel to the Zombitse Forest, where local rum is made along the roadside. We’ll photograph the Baobabs lining the road before stopping for lunch in Tulear.
Our next stop is Ifaty Spiny Forest located in the otherworldly Reniala Botanical gardens. The incredible flora of the semi-arid south, including the conspicuous baobab trees, and the strange-looking endemic octopus are fascinating. The spiny forest is home to the endangered endemic bird species - the long-tailed Ground roller and the sub-desert Mesite, which are confined to this small pocket of forest.
Day 10: VEZO TRIBE
After breakfast we embark on a whale watching excursion before donning snorkeling gear to photograph underwater in the Mozambique Channel.
We’ll meet the amazing Vezo Tribe - the local fishermen in Ambolomailaka village to learn about their culture and way of life. Lunch will be at the marvellous and scrumptious La Belle Vue restaurant overlooking the Mozambique Channel.
Day 11: IFATY - ANTANANARIVO - ANDASIBE NATIONAL PARK
Today we transfer back to Tulear to catch a flight to Antananarivo. Upon arrival we head east to Andasibe Rainforest. The scenery is dominated by typical highland houses and rice paddies which, in the distance, look like carefully laid carpets.
If time permits, we visit the private reserve of Peyreras to see reptiles and amphibians such as the weird-looking leaf-tailed gecko, boa snake, and several species of chameleons.
Day 12: ANDASIBE NATIONAL PARK
During the next two days we’ll explore the magnificent rainforest of Andasibe, home to one of Madagascar’s wildlife hotspots - Indri Reserve. Named after the flagship lemur species Indri Indri, this tropical pristine rainforest offers a large variety of animals: common brown lemur, red-bellied lemur, eastern bamboo lemur, and the Golden dancing lemur.
We’ll enjoy lunch at Vakona Lodge which boasts an incredible spot called Lemur Island. Here, we will have a wonderful opportunity to mingle with the lemurs.
After meeting the friendly Betsimisaraka people, in one of Madagascar’s most welcoming villages we’ll walk back to the hotel before exploring the surrounding bush to find the world’s smallest primate ‘Goodman Mouse Lemur’, along with other night creatures, such as the hairy eared-dwarf lemur, and eastern wooly lemur. This is a herpetologist’s paradise with many varieties of frogs and chameleons.
Day 13: ANDASIBE – ANTANANARIVO
Today we head back to Antananarivo City. If time allows, visit the local handicrafts market to buy souvenirs before driving to the airport for our journey home.
Dates: 1st October – 13 October 2024 (13 days)
Tour led by: Photographers - Lynn Gail & Mark Brierley
Tour Cost: AUD $11,575 twin share
AUD $13,375 single supplement
Numbers – Minimum photographers: 6. Maximum photographers: 8.
Photography ability: Beginner to advanced
Please note: A deposit of AUD$2,000 secures your place on the tour.
The small print (made large)
All Accommodation on full board basis (breakfast/lunch/dinner).
Photographic critique and tuition.
Park admission fees and local guide’s fees
Professional English-speaking guide.
All transport, including internal flight, land transfers.
All activities including boat trip excursion, private visit to lemur Island.
All beverages (excluding alcohol).
International airfares to Antananarivo, Madagascar.
Visa fee for Madagascar, medical immunizations, passport fees.
Tips, accident/baggage/medevac & cancellation insurance, medical expenses.
Excursions deviating from the scheduled tour.
Excess baggage charges.
Alcoholic beverages, telephone or fax charges, room service, laundry, and other items of a purely personal nature.
Camera insurance and camera equipment.
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance, providing a policy number.
For terms and conditions covering the Madagascar tour, including cancellation fees, please make sure you read through our T&C’s policy, available on request, and sent on booking your place on the tour.