Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Madagascar Photo Tour for October 2016

A young Crowned Sifaka, one of
Madagascar's many species of lemur
I am currently putting together a photo tour to Madagascar for late next year (October). The (photographic) emphasis will be on the spectacular and unique wildlife found on this island nation although clearly there are many more things of interest to see and experience on this unique island.

This includes 100 species of lemur, 200 other mammal species, over 300 species of birds, 260 species of reptile (including two-thirds of the world's chameleon species), not to mention thousands of species of plants. In fact, some of Madagascar's unique plants are the source of drugs like vinblastine and vincristine which are derived from the Madagascan Periwinkle and are used to treat cancers! (Note also that, contrary to what you might have seen in the cartoon Madagascar, there are no
lions, giraffes, hippos or zebras on the island. 80% of what you see there is seen nowhere else on this planet).

This is a Malachite Kingfisher seen in and
around river systems in Madagascar
Aside from having one of the world's most unique collections of flora and fauna, Madagascar has a terrific range of impressive landscapes, from spiny deserts to tropical jungle, from azure seascapes to ancient baobab forests, from coral reef to towering 9,500 ft mountain ranges. Aside from a popular cartoon, Madagascar is famous for its vanilla production, coffee, cloves and rice. Add to this a history of French colonialism (Madagascar became independent from France in 1960) plus influences from Africa, India, Malaysia and the Middle East and you also get an interesting 'fusion' cuisine.

One of the best ways to get to Madagascar is either via Paris (because of its French colonial history, the national language is French, thus attracting many French nationals to the island) or more practically, via the island of Mauritius (flying ex: Perth, with Air Mauritius).

My initial thoughts for an itinerary are:
Day 01:  Arrival in Antanarivo ('Tana')
Day 02: 
Relax after the flights from Sydney. In the afternoon we take a city tour to get our bearings.

Day 03:  Tana - Antsirabe   Antisirabe is famous for its brightly coloured rickshaws (called pousse-pousse) so there's plenty of time to take a ride and shoot some colourful shots of these lightweight rickshaw bicycles. Antsirabe is also the centre of the aluminium pot-making industry - we'll visit a local factory - you might even be able to try your hand at making your own pot.

Day 0
4:  Antsirabe - Ranomafana
After a longish drive we arrive in Ranomafana village. Take a tour of the surrounds and maybe a swim before stopping here overnight prior to entering the park.Day 05:  Ranomafana  
Today we drive into one of Madagascar's most important (and beautiful) National Parks, Ranomafana. This was first gazetted in 1991 after the discovery of the very rare Golden Bamboo Lemur. The forest is also home to eleven other species of Lemur, some nocturnal. You'll also see some of the world's most spectacular chameleons, giant stick insects, praying mantis, and many brightly-coloured bird species. If we have the time and energy we can also take a short night walk in the park.

With a wingspan of more than eight inches, this is the Madagascan Comet
or Moon Moth, one of the most spectacular of all the world's moths.

Day 06:  Ranomafana  - Tsaranoro

Driving to the Tsaronoro Massif, we visit a paper factory in
Antemoro, a tea plantation at Sahambavy, then move on to photograph the spectacular Tsaranoro Massif, huge boulder-like mountains that attract climbers from all over the world.Day 07:  Tsaranoro
Full day
spent in the Tsaranoro
valley. Here we'll see Ring-Tailed Lemurs and many more fascinating animal and bird species. Tsaronoro is a spectacular location for photography.
Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur

Day 08:  Tsaranoro  - Ranohira - Isalo

Drive on south-west to the spectacular Isalo National Park looking for Grey Mouse, Ring-Tailed and Brown Lemurs, as well as Sifakas and more than 50 species of birdlife. This is also the home of the Bara people - you will see some of their burial sites lodged high up in the cliffs around Canyon des Singes and Canyon des Rats. It's a spectacular terrain for photography.
Day 09:  RanohiraWe spend a second day in this spectacular National Park.
Day 10:  Ranohira - Tulear (aka. Toliara) - ifaty 
Today we drive from Isalo to Tulear on the western coast of Madagascar, then meander up the coastal road to the small hamlet of Ifaty where we stay in a beach side hotel for three nights

Day 11:  Ifaty 
ay at leisure. Plenty of time to relax or take a boat trip out to the reef for snorkelling or just pleasure.
Day 12:  Ifaty
Visit to nearby Reniala Private Reserve to see its huge baobab trees among the spiny forest. You'll also see some of Madagascar's spectacular endemic bird species here

Madagascar has many huge baobab trees, some as old as 800 years
Day 13:  Fly Ifaty - Tana    Today we take a flight from Tulear, an hour's drive south of Ifaty, back to the capital.Day 14:   AntanarivoVisit to the Royal hill of Ambohimanga, a pre-colonial fortified palace complex created eighteenth century for the then Madagascan ruler, King Andriamasinavalona.
Afternoon at leisure in Tana.
Day 15Departure       

(Please note that this Madagascar itinerary is only a suggestion at this stage.
Timings, dates and costs are still being worked out. )    

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