Today we take a short flight to Fort Dauphin (also known as Toliagnaro), in the south-eastern corner of the country. We will overnight in the windy coastal town and photograph various fishermen in the afternoon or simply relax in our comfortable hotel.
Overnight Hotel La Croix du Sud or similar
After an early breakfast we will depart to the world-famous private lemur reserve of Berenty. The 3.5 hour drive takes us from the wind-blown but picturesque town of Fort Dauphin through well watered valleys packed with paddy fields and finally into the rain-shadow of the Andohahela Mountains where the octopus-like trees of the Didiereaceae family are diagnostic of the xerophytic spiny forest.
As we near Berenty, extensive tracts of sisal plantations stretching as far as the eye can see replace this natural habitat. Berenty Preserve belongs to the De Haulme family who have set aside sections of gallery forest along the Mandrare River to conserve its population of lemurs and other wildlife.
Berenty is justly famous for its lemurs, not only because its deciduous woodland is home to five species of these primitive primates but also for the ease with which they may be seen and photographed in the wild. Red-fronted Brown Lemur occurs in large numbers during the day and both White-footed Sportive and Grey Mouse Lemur are regularly encountered on night walks through the reserve, though the undoubted favourites are the Ring-tailed Lemur and Verreaux’s Sifaka.
Overnight Berenty Lodge
Whilst the bands of cat-like, quizzical “Ring-tails” are often the first to steal visitors’ hearts, their appeal is easily matched by the strikingly patterned sifakas, with their soulful expressions and bizarre, bipedal dancing locomotion. To spend time with groups of both of these these gentle creatures will certainly be one of the highlights of our Madagascar adventure, and will also prove to be one of the photographic highlights!
A Madagascar Flying Fox roost where, about 300 of these impressive animals sporting 1.25 metre wingspans spend their day squabbling, is located deep in the riverine forest.
These noisy mammals spend their day at the roost, where they squabble incessantly, and although we will certainly hear them, we will only get distant views of these massive bats during our wonderings through the riverine woodlands. We will be on the look-out for the numerous Giant Coua that stroll along the well-cleared paths through the riverine woodland, and we maybe lucky enough to find small groups of dimorphic Madagascar Buttonquail as they scurry through the leaf litter.
The Berenty property also protects tracts of Xerophytic Spiny Forest, a unique habitat type that is characterised by the strange trees belong to the Didiereaceae. Known locally as Octopus trees, due to their extended, tentacle-like appearance, these spiny plants are well adapted to the harsh environment found in the dry south and south west of Madagascar. We may take some time to walk through this habitat type, staying ever watchful for a resting White-footed Sportive Lemur gazing out from a recess in a trunk, a delightful Torotoroka Scops Owl huddling in a thick snag, or a huge Warty Chameleon clinging to a branch, ever watchful for a passing insect on which to feast!
Berenty truly offers a lot to wildlife photographers, and we will be kept well busy during our stay here!
Nights Berenty Lodge
Today we will depart Berenty for Fort Dauphin in time for our flights back to Antananarivo. Here we will overnight before continuing our journey to Perinet the next morning.
Overnight Relais des Plateaux
We depart early for the drive eastwards across the Highland Plateau, before heading down the escarpment to the famous Andasibe area, home to the famous rainforest areas namely “Perinet” Reserve and Mantadia National Park. Our accommodation for the next four nights is a comfortable hotel located fairly close the aforementioned reserves. Being so close to the forests means that wildlife is often right on our doorstep: fluorescent green day geckos scuttle on the outside walls of our chalets, and we may well be serenaded by the beautiful songs of the world’s largest extant species of lemur, the handsome Indri.
This evening, we may embark on our first nightwalk, giving us the opportunity to practice our macro skills, which likely will be used extensively in the coming days!
Overnight Vakona Forest Lodge or similar
Whilst in the Perinet area, we will make a special effort to see and photograph the reserve’s most famous resident: the huge, singing lemurs known as the Indri. A journey in search of these magnificent creatures is an incredibly experience, and if we are fortunate we will be treated to a close encounter with a family group, their eerie, whale-like howling echoing through the forest. Other lemurs we hope to see include Common Brown and Grey Bamboo lemurs, and we will also search known roosting sites for the nocturnal but inquisitive Eastern Avahi and Weasel Sportive Lemur.
The moist rainforest cloaking Madagascar’s eastern escarpment protects the richest assemblage of birds on the island, including many that are rare or poorly known. Over 100 of these have been recorded from within the small reserve of Perinet. Amongst the most sought-after of Madagascar’s birds are those of the five families endemic to the Malagasy region: the peculiar mesites, exquisite ground-rollers, Cuckoo-Roller, Malagasy warblers and the vangas.
Some of these, such as the noisy Cuckoo-Roller and a number of the vangas are reasonably common and regularly encountered, whilst most of the others remain rare, local or elusive.
Another “must see” member of the island’s fauna is the Giraffe-necked Weevil, a tiny red and black insect named for its unusually proportioned neck! In the evenings, we will embark on night walks. Nocturnal outings are a thrilling and indeed, essential part of any trip to Madagascar and Perinet is one of the best sites to search for the island’s night birds. Specialities here include Madagascar Owl, Rainforest Scops Owl and both Madagascar and the little known Collared Nightjar.
Although Madagascar is famous for the spectacular lemurs that have adapted to a daytime existence, a number of species of these primitive primates remain, like their African cousins the galagos, denizens of the night. We will search for and should find Eastern Woolly, Furry-eared Dwarf and the diminutive Goodman’s Mouse Lemur, and may also encounter some of Madagascar’s other evolutionary masterpieces such as the bizarre Lowland Streaked Tenrec. The island’s reptile and amphibian (“herp”) fauna is equally fascinating and we will be impressed by the plethora of colourful and bizarre frogs, chameleons and geckos to be seen on an evening’s stroll. In particular, we will search for the giant Parson’s Chameleon and two species of eccentric leaf-tailed geckos: the huge Uroplatus fimbriatus and the aptly named Uroplatus phantasticus.
The eastern rainforests are brilliant for macro photography, with a multitude of subjects to choose from. Your ORYX guide will use his experience in the area, together with various flash and macro techniques to bring out the best in each participants photography!
Mantadia National Park lies a short distance from Perinet (just over 1 hours drive – note the road can be quite rough), protecting a large expanse of primary forest at a somewhat higher altitude.
The tract of rainforest here is beautiful, with many emergent trees and a rich assemblage of birds, mammals and herps. Although Indris are more difficult to see here, their loud vocalisations are a frequent background sound, together with the unmistakable calls of the huge Cuckoo-Roller. Mixed flocks of vangas move through the trees, and closer to streams, the myriad calls of frogs form a distinctive symphony (Madagascar is particularly well endowed with frogs, with an estimated 500 species, of which a staggering 99% are endemic to the island!). An amphibian highlight is Baron’s Mantella, a spectacularly coloured forest frog. These small frogs call from well-covered recesses on the forest floor – often under mossy stumps, and with luck, our local Malagasy guide will be able to track down one of these beautiful frogs.
Other photographic attractions in this scenically beautiful park include the vocal Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur and the elusive Diademed Sifaka (considered by many to be the world’s most beautiful lemur). Much of the photography in Mantadia National Park can be enjoyed from the wide road that runs up into the reserve, although seeing and photographing the lemurs and birds of the forest will require that we take to the steep and at times slippery trails through the rainforest.
Nights Vakona Forest Lodge or similar
This morning, we may visit an area that is dedicated to the conservation of lemurs, allowing us to enjoy and photograph these wonderful mammals at close quarters. Thereafter, we will enjoy lunch, before making our way back to the capital city in the highlands of Madagascar.
Today is the last day of this incredible adventure, and after breakfast our tour concludes. Depending on our departure flights home, we may visit a local market or do some street photography.
Kirsten Frost began his interest in nature and photography at a young age with a small point-and-shoot camera in hand. His work soon became recognized in the South African photography scene, and by the age of 16 he was sponsored professional level equipment. His work was seen gracing the covers of national magazines before the tender age of 18. Kirsten’s passion for Africa’s wild places led him to further his studies in Nature Conservation. After successfully completing his theory component, he went on to gain experience in the field, with a particular interest in wetland ecosystems.
His photographs have been featured in numerous national and international publications including; African Birdlife, Africa Geographic, GO! Magazine, Getaway Magazine, Birders World (USA), Wildside Magazine, Country Life Magazine. PIX Magazine, Wildlife Photographic Magazine and Digital Camera Magazine (UK). Kirsten has also been awarded in numerous photographic competitions, including the Botswana Wildlife Photographer of the Year, FujiFilm Getaway Wildlife Awards, GO! Magazine Photography Competition, and 2017 Nature’s Best Africa Photography Awards.
After completing his studies, Kirsten spent time photographing along the Chobe River in Botswana. He later secured a job as a photographic guide at Mashatu Game Reserve, which was his home for a seven-month stint, where he shared his knowledge on wildlife photography and the natural environment with guests. He was awarded 2017 Botswana’s Wildlife Photographer of The Year for his work created at Mashatu. Kirsten has since lead photo safaris to Kenya’s Maasai Mara, Botswana and Madagascar. His image awarded in the 2017 Nature’s Best Photography Africa awards is currently on exhibit at Iziko South Africa Museum in Cape Town, South Africa.
As one of ORXY’s youngest leaders, Kirsten’s future expeditions are sure to be exciting adventures in search of nature’s fleeting moments.
Kirsten Frost is a Photo Tour Leader for ORYX private and scheduled departures.
“As a working journalist, I travel for a living and Madagascar is one of the most logistically challenging places to travel to. It is a world unto itself, in every sense of the word. When given a recent book project on Madagascar and in need of some photographic work there was only one person I knew who could help me. Marius Coetzee has been a guide for over 11 years, and there is no one I could feel safer with in a country as challenging as Madagascar.
Marius is patient; he is kind, and above all inspiring!! If you are going to Madagascar, he is the guy. If you are going any place else, he is probably the guy too!”
We had a GREAT time with Dale. Everything was as expected as we have learned to expect the unexpected. We would go with Dale and your company without any hesitation. We have NOTHING to complain about. Olive learned a lot of things from Dale. How not when you get such a crazy guide.Madagascar
“We have recently returned from our trip to Madagascar with ORYX, led by Marius Coetzee. We had long wanted to see and photograph the dancing Lemurs. Marius was an excellent leader of our small group of photographers and made sure everything went like clockwork. Having the transport and accommodation arrangements handled so professionally made the trip worry free. Marius’s knowledge of the best photographic locations meant we were able to get some terrific Lemur and Indri shots. Marius was more than willing to provide photographic guidance and made the trip to this unique place a special experience.”Madagascar
This trip completely exceeded my expectations and was exactly what I was looking for for Madagascar (wildlife all day every day). You were all extremely responsive, professional, and courteous.
Accommodations were all nice and the food was always good. Internal flight delays were handled so smoothly by you that they didn’t have an impact on the trip overall.
All of the local guides were great, especially Nono.
Dale was definitely the best photographer-guide I’ve ever travelled with. His photos were gorgeous and he was incredibly generous, patient, and enthusiastic about sharing his knowledge. He kept us entertained all day with new photographic opportunities, and involved us in experiments with new techniques, usually with amazing results. As a guide he had excellent natural leadership ability, and as a person he was warm, friendly, interesting, genuinely nice, and fun to be with.
Everything we did was so much fun, and I will always have wonderful memories of this trip. Would definitely travel with you again.
Thanks so much!!
“Thanks, the trip was excellent. Got some great photos, and also learned a lot from Dale on techniques very useful in Madagascar, macro and night photography. Discussing with other guests, I think we all expected to be put in good photography locations to see what we could do, but the effort Dale put in teaching us all new techniques was beyond expectations.”Madagascar
“Without your team and the local help it would have been impossible to travel in the country. The help was exceptional in dealing with the changes and I never worried we wouldn’t get to where we wanted to go. Dale works very hard to ensure everyone has the best possible angles for shooting and helped me with flash settings and tips at the start. Shooting in Madagascar is different than other destinations I have been to and the assistance in getting started was appreciated.I appreciated the fact that Dale, while taking shots got us in position first before “firing”. That doesn’t always happen with guides, especially when there is a special moment. Thanks again for an introduction to the wildlife of a very unique and challenging country. I’m sure most first time travelers to Madagascar don’t have such a rewarding photo experience!”Madagascar
“The trip was one of the best photo trips I have had in recent years. Although the landscape was challenging as well as the ability to get clear shots of the animals in the rainforest, your representatives in the field made the trip. The organization you hired in Madagascar were first rate. The ability to meet the challenges of Air Madagascar as well as the other bumps on the road were outstanding. Do not lose this group.Dale Morris is a real pro. Not only did he organize the photoshoots to optimize our ability to get the right shots, but his expertise in the field as it related to the more technical aspects of photography (flash, exposure comp, lens selection etc.) made the trip. Do not lose him. I would have no trouble recommending your organization to my camera friends in Toronto, and I look forward to dealing with your organization in the future.”Madagascar
“I am back home after an inspiring tour with ORYX once again. As before the practical arrangements were flawless, and the guiding superb.
First time I travelled with Dale, but it came as no surprise that he is first class.
Thanks to ORYX and to Dale for a great experience!”
Currently overnighting in Paris on our way home from Madagascar. It was an excellent trip. We are thrilled with the images we are now in the midst of sorting. We got all of our targets and have some wonderful photos. It’s a tough place, but ORYX and especially Dale and local guide Nono handled everything with aplomb. Attached are a couple of photos of us in the new ORYX garb. Thanks so much for providing these.”Madagascar
As Rich guides for countries that is not covered by ORYX we need to only click his name after adding the guest comment and not the destination.
I participated in the Jan-Feb [private] tour to the Philippines guided by Rich Lindie…. I have to say that Rich’s … indefatigable attempts to make our trip a success was exemplary in every way. His birding skills are definitely well above the norm in birding companies I am familiar with (including some very elite companies.) Rich is also enthusiastic, energetic, fun loving, patient and always in full control of his clients. In short, he is in the elite echelons of the guiding profession and should be considered a valuable asset to your organization. It is my intent to single out trips guided by him for my travel considerations.Madagascar
Our Rockjumper guide was Rich Lindie. The word “excellent” does not begin to cover the outstanding quality of his technical and interpersonal skills. Rich is the personification of enthusiasm for what he does. Extensively knowledgeable about both flora and fauna (in particular of course birds), he was at all times professional and friendly. In addition, Rich has a great sense of humor and we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him and hearing about some of his amazing experiences in international travel, living, teaching and guiding. What an interesting and talented young man. We were very fortunate to have him as our guide.Madagascar
Recently back at home from our fantastic tour in Madagascar, I wanted to offer thanks to all for the excellent times we enjoyed. For us, the exuberant and superbly-skilled leadership of Rich Lindie was a delight and gave us such a greater measure of understanding to the natural wonders as well as a bit of the cultural aspects of the unique island. We had a great time, and we certainly saw a tremendous variety of the birds, mammals, and many other creatures as well as strange and wonderful plant life of the “Eighth Continent”.Madagascar
I have been on many tours around the world and yours was the best!Madagascar
Very wonderful trip and enjoyed all parts of it!Madagascar
“Kirsten, whom I understand has just joined Oryx, is so very creative and has such undeniable natural talent – he has a wonderful eye for photographing wildlife and people from different and unusual angles. I was constantly amazed at the photographs which he took! Although I was relatively new to photography, he was wonderfully patient with me regarding the technical details with the use of the camera and his explanations were simple and easy to understand. He is so humble even though he is so knowledgeable, and has a quiet, sweet and unobtrusive manner, mingling so well with the local Malagasi people and children. By putting them at ease, he was able to take very candid photographs which would often relate a story. He is also a very observant and caring individual – we shared many light hearted moments throughout the tour. It was so easy for me to open up to him with the many questions I had on photography and despite all this, he was always polite and patient. Time and time again throughout the tour, whenever I had trouble with my camera in optimising the settings, he would instinctively come up to me to help me, without even waiting for me to ask for assistance. I am so grateful for his kindness and generosity in sharing his expertise with me, including taking time off during the down time period after lunch in the sweltering heat of mid-day to go through the basics of processing images. At such a tender age, Kirsten has so much potential as a photographic guide – I am really excited to see what the future holds for him. At the end of the tour when I reached Johannesburg airport, I took quite a while to come out of customs as they threatened to detain me at the clinic, having just come from Madagascar which was experiencing an outbreak of plague. When I eventually emerged from the customs counters, I realised that both Dale and Kirsten had kindly collected my luggage and were patiently waiting for me at the luggage belt. I was ever so thankful for their kindness. I have not seen this level of professionalism before with any other tour group and they have my highest respect. They have been so very inspirational.”Madagascar
I just wanted to thank Oryx for organising the Madagascar tour for 2017 which was led by Dale Morris and Kirsten Frost. Both were exceptional and exemplary guides who really demonstrated a passion for teaching photography and for being totally committed to ensuring the best possible experience for all the tour participants. It was my first tour with Oryx and certainly my best tour ever. I was so very impressed with the high level of professionalism and integrity which both of them demonstrated.
Dale patiently taught me how to use my macro lens and flash and this introduction opened up a whole new and exciting world for me! I never knew that macro-photography was so interesting and it is only just the beginning! He was constantly trying to find the best angles for all the tour participants to photograph the lemurs. He taught me how to use my wide angle lens to take the lemurs from a low angle with a sunburst effect! He taught me how to get down and dirty on the ground to obtain wonderfully low angles for photographing the narrow ring tailed mongoose and the nightjar. He taught me how to pan fast moving subjects. He taught me to take note of the background when taking photos. He even set up a mini studio in the forest for photographing the colourful frogs and magnificent chameleons. Everyday brought a new learning experience!! I was so grateful for some of the images which I obtained – something I never dreamt I would ever achieve. Dale even introduced me to fine art photography and night photography of the majestic baobab trees, and suddenly, the artistic potential of photography became so exciting! Dale has my highest respect as a guide. He was able to control the pace of the tour, ensuring that all participants were well taken care of. He has the innate ability to anticipate problems and, in fact, overcame all the problems with the internal flights in Madagascar, remaining calm, unflustered and in complete control throughout. He even anticipated that the final internal departure flight might be a problem (it was eventually cancelled) and, in so doing, he averted a disaster by alerting Oryx, which then chartered a flight for our group. This speaks volumes for the entire Oryx team led by Marius, who must be a visionary leader to have hand-picked such a good team.
In summary, it really has been a singular honor and a privilege for me to have travelled with both Dale and Kirsten. I hope to do so many more times in the near future. Thank you once again for making one of my childhood dreams to visit Madagascar come true. I praise God from whom all blessings flow.
The trip was really excellent and ORYX has some really great guides with Dale and Kirsten. They kept an eye on all the logistics and worked nonstop to get up early and get us on location. If there’s a good photo shot to be had, they both always made sure we had plenty of opportunity to get the pictures we want and many helpful suggestions for making better shots, weather it’s an alternative angle or tweaks to the camera. Some tour guides
tend to get caught up in the moment and shot a lot of pictures themselves but they never shot photos themselves unless to test the lighting or if we were all done and I appreciate this because it’s hard to resist in such a location. The local guide was also excellent and I peppered him with questions about the people, the language and the culture and learned a lot. Would I do another trip with them and Oryx? Definitely!