In Search of Fossas, Tsingy, Baobabs & Dancing Lemurs

These journeys are available tailor-made from April to December. A small group 8-day version, incorporating the Tsingy of Bemaraha, will be led by Aqua-Firma Director & Photographer, Ralph Pannell 28th Sept - 5th Oct, 2022. This can be combined with a Lemurs, Golden Frogs & New Rainforest Reserve journey which will be hosted by Ralph & directors of Aqua-Firma's partner wildlife conservation charity in Madagascar.

Madagascar is full of unique landscapes, vegetation and wildlife; and this experience takes you to explore highlights of what the eastern Tropical Dry Forests have to offer.

The Avenue of Baobabs is an iconic landscape not to be missed. Madagascar is home to 6 out of the world's 8 species of baobab, of which Grandidier's Baobab (Adansonia grandidieri) is the largest. The cylindrical trunks of these trees can reach 3 metres across and 30 metres (100 feet) in height. Grandidier's baobabs flower from May to August and bear leaves October to May. Fruit appear in November and December.

Lighting is everything at the Avenue of Baobabs, so we take you here both at sunrise and sunset. Other species of baobab you will see include the incredibly wide-trunked Fony Baobab (Adansonia rubrostipa) and a Lover Baobabs, so-called by the way two trunks intertwine as they reach for the sun.

For wildlife, there are four highlight species in Madagascar's western dry forests. These include the Fossa, which is Madagascar's apex predator. They look like a slender version of a puma, but it is more closely related to a weasel than a cat. Whilst we sometimes see these in the eastern rainforests, the Kirindy National Park provides our best opportunities, followed by the Marofandilia Dry Forest, which is another location we will take you to.

Fossa Madagascar's Apex Predator

Of primates, the Verreaux's Sifaka is a wonderful sight we can here. Not only is it one of Madagascar's most beautiful lemurs, but it can sometimes be seen moving upright on two legs. It is often referred to as the Dancing Lemur, because when it performs on two legs, it tends to bound with a delightful uneven spring in its step.

By night, our guide will take you in search of the World's smallest primate: Madame Berthe's Mouse Lemur (Microcebus berthae), whose average adult body mass is a mere 33g and average body length  is 9.2cm. In case you have ever seen the world's smallest monkey, the Pygmy Marmoset: Madame Berthe's Mouse Lemur is one third its body weight.

Madagascan Jumping Rats (Hypogeomys antimena) are another target for us. They look a little bit like a miniature kangaroo. They weigh in at just over 1kg and make extensive burrows, digging as deep as 16 feet with up to 6 entrances. To protect themselves from boa constrictors and fossas when they sleep, they cover these entrances with leaves and dirt. Unlike other rodents, Jumping Rats are monogamous. With gestation periods of between 102 - 138 days, they can quickly disappear when their habitat is disturbed. An estimated 11,000 individuals survive in the wild.

Tsingy de Bemahara

The Tsingy de Bemaraha is Madagascar's largest area of this unique rock formation, covering an incredible 600 square miles. It takes 6 hours to drive there from Kirindy, so too far to incorporate into a 6 days journey to the area; but we can incorporate it either by flying you over the area on a private plane charter; or more economically, extend your journey to 8 days.

Tsingy de Bemahara - Limestone Karst Forest in Madagascar

At Bemaraha we will take you first to the Small Tsingy, reaching it by canoe down the Manambolo River Gorge. You will enjoy some excellent views here over the limestone rock pinnacles, seeing for yourself how these formations have been created through years of dissolution by rain; and by erosion beneath by underground rivers. In hidden forests amongst the rocks, you can hope to see Von de Decken's Sifakas (Propithecus deckenii) and Red-fronted brown lemurs. Von de Decken's Sifakas have distinctive white fluffy hair, which over their backs is uniformly white. On the chest and inside of the limbs, white and black mix; whilst its face and ears are distinctly black, with piercing yellow eyes.

We will also take you to the Great Tsingy, where you can trek to viewpoints over vast swathes of this rock forest; take a suspension bridge above the knife-sharp edges of rocks below; explore a maze of ground level tunnels; and seek more wildlife and unique plants which have adapted to this seemingly inhospitable environment.

Itinerary

6 Day Safari - In Search of Fossas, Giant Baobabs & Dancing Lemurs

On our 6-day itinerary, the Tsingy de Bemaraha can only be incorporated if you opt for a private charter flight between Morondava and Antananarivo (or vice versa).

Day 1 - Morondava to Marofandilia Forest Reserve

Upon arrival at Morondava airport, you will be greeted by your driver / guide. You will then drive north to the Marofandilia Forest where you will have time for an afternoon walk. Your primary objective for today will be a night walk to go in search of Madame Berthe's Mouse Lemurs (Microcebus berthae) and Fossas.

Accommodation for the next 2 nights will be a small fair-trade tented camp, in tents built on thatched wooden platforms.

Day 2 - Marofandilia Forest Reserve

Breakfast and visit of the Marofandilia Forest Reserve. Composed of dense dry deciduous forest, you will be able to see all three species of baobab that exist here. Mornings are usually best for spotting the dancing Verreaux Sifaka (Propithecus Verreauxi), since this is when they are most active; but we can spot them at any time of the day.


In the evening, we will take another opportunity to go in search of Madame Berthe's Mouse Lemurs.

Day 3 - Marofandilia Reserve & Kirindy Mitea National Park

This morning, we will take you back into the Marofandilia Reserve. 

After lunch, we will drive you to your relais lodge close to the Kirindy Mitea National Park - the best place in Madagascar to hope to see a Fossa. We can find 7 species of lemur here too, of which the most commonly seen are Brown Lemurs and Verreaux Sifakas. After settling into your lodge, there will be time to take you on a night walk in the reserve.

Day 4 - Kirindy Mitea National Park

Whole day to explore the Kirindy Mitea National Park.

Day 5 - Kirindy to Avenue of Baobabs

From Kirindy, we will take an early drive to the famous Avenue of Baobabs to watch the sunrise. From here we will take you to a small beach hotel on Madagascar's western coast, close to Morondava.

You will have the day to relax and enjoy the hotel facilities before returning to the Avenue of Baobabs for sunset.

Day 6 - Depart Morondava

Transfer to Morondava airport for your scheduled flight out … or private charter to fly along the Avenue of Baobabs, over the Tsingy de Bemaraha and on to Antananarivo where your plane will have originated.

8 Day Safari in Search of Fossas, Dancing Lemurs, Baobabs & Tsingy de Bemaraha

Day 1 - Morondava to Marofandilia Forest Reserve

Upon arrival at Morondava airport, you will be greeted by your driver / guide. You will then drive north to the Marofandilia Forest where you will have time for an afternoon walk. Your primary objective for today will be a night walk to go in search of Madame Berthe's Mouse Lemurs (Microcebus berthae) and Fossas.

Accommodation for the next 2 nights will be a small fair-trade tented camp, in tents built on thatched wooden platforms.

Day 2 - Marofandilia Forest Reserve

Breakfast and visit of the Marofandilia Forest Reserve. Composed of dense dry deciduous forest, you will be able to see all three species of baobab that exist here. Mornings are usually best for spotting the dancing Verreaux Sifaka (Propithecus Verreauxi), since this is when they are most active; but we can spot them at any time of the day.

In the evening, we will take another opportunity to go in search of Madame Berthe's Mouse Lemurs.

Day 3 - Marofandilia to Bekopaka

Today you will set out on a long and potentially bumpy drive to Bekopaka (Madagascar has an incredibly poor road network). The journey will provide good exposure to Tropical dry landscapes, interspersed with river crossings which require use of basic platform ferries.

You will eventually reach the gateway to the Tsingy Massif. If you have the inclination, there is a small reserve where you are staying, where you can wander amongst Tropical Dry Forest vegetation. You can also enjoy an infinity pool to gaze out over woodlands and the horizon.

Day 4 - Tsingy de Bemahara: Manambolo Gorge & Petit Tsingy

This morning, you will approach the Tsingy of Bemaraha by from the Manambolo River which you will descend by dugout canoe (pirogue). This will take about 1 ½ hours, passing sand banks and abrupt river cliffs up to 80 metres high.

The Petit Tsingy provides an excellent prelude to this bizarre landscape, with its razor-sharp rocks, caves and pockets of forest. You will be able to see some of the 53 species of bird that live here, alongside 6 species of lemur.

Day 5 - Tsingy de Bemaraha: the Great Tsingy

Today you will be taken to explore the Great Tsingy, with its dramatic karst limestone formations, canyons and caves. There is a suspended walkway we can use here, 60 feet off the ground. To see the most and reduce the heat, you will begin early and in order to finish earlier.

To explore the area to the full, you will have the option to go a little deeper into tunnels by going on all fours. Use of harnesses is also needed in places.

Day 6 - Bekopaka to Kirindy

Early morning, you will set off towards the Kirindy Reserve, crossing bushlands and stopping at the Saklava tombs. The journey will take about 6 hours altogether.

Once at Kirindy, you will be able to settle in before heading out in search of nocturnal lemurs and other life best seen after dark.

Day 7 - Kirindy to Avenue of the Baobabs

The morning, your guide will take you in search of wildlife; and in particular, try to find Fossas. There are 7 species of lemur here, including Common Brown Lemurs and Verreaux's Sifakas.

Later, you will head to Morondava and catch sunset at the Avenue of Baobabs.

Day 8 - Morondava

Transfer to Morondava airport for your scheduled flight out.

Dates

Enquire / Book 01 Jan - 31 Dec 2021 - from £ 1,390
from US$ 1,850

6 day itinerary in Search of Fossas, Baobabs & Dancing Lemurs
Single room occupancy  £275 / US$350

Enquire / Book 02 Jan - 31 Dec 2021 - £ 1,990
US$ 2,750

8 day itinerary in Search of Fossas, Baobabs & Dancing Lemurs and Tsingy de Bemaraha
Single room occupancy  £390 / US$540

Enquire / Book 01 Jan - 31 Dec 2022 - £ 1,490
US$ 1,990

6 day itinerary in Search of Fossas, Baobabs & Dancing Lemurs
Single room occupancy  £295 / US$395

Enquire / Book 02 Jan - 31 Dec 2022 - £ 2,190
US$ 2,890

8 day itinerary in Search of Fossas, Baobabs & Dancing Lemurs and Tsingy de Bemaraha
Single room occupancy  £460 / US$625

Enquire / Book 28 Sep - 05 Oct 2022 - £ 2,190
US$ 2,890

hosted by Aqua-Firma director & photographer Ralph Pannell
8 day itinerary in Search of Fossas, Baobabs & Dancing Lemurs and Tsingy de Bemaraha
Single room occupancy add £460 / US$625

Minimum number 2 persons (please enquire for solo journey)

Price includes
4WD transportation
All guiding
Fuel
Accommodation in twin / double room
Half board (all breakfasts & dinners)
Entrance fees
Local taxes

Not included
Fights between Antananarivo & Morondava (£255 / $335 each way)
Tips
Insurance

  • Baobab Amoureaux, Tropical Dry Forests of Morondava Madagascar - photograph by Kathleen Varcoe
  • Verreaux Sifakain Kirindy Tropical Dry Forest, Madagascar - wildlife photography by Kathleen Varcoe
  • Baobab Canopy - Avenue of Baobabs, Madagascar - photograph by Kathleen Varcoe
  • Rickshaw in the Alley of Baobab trees near Morondava in Madagascar (Kathleen Varcoe)
  • tsingy-forest-madagascar-bemaraha.jpg

Madagascar

Fossa - Madagascar's Apex Predator

Kirindy Mitea National Park

Tsingy de Bemaraha

Tsingy - What is it & How is it Formed?

Trip Reviews: Madagascar

  • Rufus Flycatcher (female) in Kirindy Tropical Dry Forest, Madagascar - photograph by Kathleen Varcoe
  • Big-Headed Gecko of the Kirindy and Marofandilia dry forests in Madagascar - wildlife photograph by Kathleen Varcoe
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