Wild Madagascar

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Straddling the Tropic of Capricorn in the southwestern corner of the Indian Ocean and molded by almost 100 million years of biological isolation, lies the strange and wonderful land of Madagascar.  Here, in the world’s only remaining lemur stronghold, acrobatic sifakas make dazzling leaps with grace and ease, vociferous indris howl plaintively like humpback whales, and big-eyed nocturnal mouse lemurs—the world’s smallest primates—snooze the day away in a hollow tree.  Throughout the forest, spiny tenrecs snuffle blindly in the leaf litter while rainbow-colored chameleons—with tongues longer than their bodies—stalk their prey with camouflage and stealth.  The island is home to most of the world’s chameleon species—some a meter long, some no longer than a matchstick. 
"Well worth the trip. The photography of the lemurs was really fun and worthwhile. The flora was spectacular with many different species. The population was very interesting and unique. Loved Mike and the local guides who were VERY knowledgeable about the areas they led us through. "
- M. Tevis

On the world’s fourth-largest island—Madagascar is roughly the size of California—the terrain can change dramatically in only a few dozen miles.  Dry spiny forests transition to lush humid rain forests and tropical savannahs will surrender to cool forested highland plateaus.  With more than 3,000 miles of coastline and over 250 islands, Madagascar is home to one of the world’s largest coral reef systems and dynamic mangrove habitats.  For millions of years, life on Madagascar evolved with little competition.  The monkeys, cats, jackals and hyenas that doomed lemur ancestors on the African continent never made it to this magical island.  Today, Madagascar is one of the most unique—and most endangered—ecosystems on the planet. The growing human population, slash-and-burn agriculture, and a host of other environmental stresses threaten to eradicate this great wildlife treasure.  Many of the island’s species teeter on the brink of extinction.

Madagascar sunsetEarly in our travels we photograph at Isalo National Park.  Here, lemurs cavort amidst verdant canyons surrounded by a photogenic landscape of time-worn sandstone formations akin to Bryce Canyon in the American Southwest.  Popularly known as “Jurassic Park” the area is known for the wealth of Jurassic-era fossils that have been discovered here.  Many unusual endemic plants grow alongside the lush secluded oases and sparkling waterfalls that provide excellent photo opportunities.  Another wonder here is the extremely low level of light pollution making photography of the night sky a possibility as the Milky Way stretches from horizon above silhouettes of the sculpted rock landscape.

Later, in the highlands, we visit the Peyrieras Madagascar Exotic Reserve, a private endemic animal collection where we can pose and photograph a spectacular variety of chameleons, leaf-tailed geckos, frogs, snakes and insects.  At Perinet Reserve, we are up with the sun to catch the dawn chorus of hefty panda-patterned indris, we shoot at Lemur Island—home to several photogenic lemur species, we search for sleeping chameleons on a nocturnal walk, and we photograph as many of the wildlife wonders as we and our guides can find.

A visit to the Avenue des Baobabs produces iconic images of these colossal trees at sunrise and sunset. Here, baobabs up to 800 years old tower in isolation—a legacy of the dense tropical forests that once thrived on Madagascar.  We photograph stunning tropical beaches, vibrant outdoor markets and lush forested waterways.

To cap off our discovery of Madagascar’s wonders, we travel through dry spiny forest landscapes with weird and wonderful “Dr. Seuss-like” flora to Berenty Reserve where white-furred sifakas skip across the red earth and ringtail lemurs clamber for bananas. Tiny lepilemurs peer sleepily from their nests in hollow trees as we walk by.

Chameleon tailPhotographing Madagascar is a unique experience that requires a keen sense of adventure—Madagascar is a third world country by any stretch of the imagination.  It operates on “Madagascar time” schedules.  Roads are poor.  It is often hot and humid.  Fady—taboos believed to be enforced by supernatural powers permeate the Malagasy culture.  But, unlike other tours that spend days driving from location to location we counterpoint these inherent shortcomings by flying exclusively on privately chartered airplanes between long distances and stay in the best available accommodations as we travel.  At midday there is often time to relax, swim in the hotel pool, or download your photos.

Join our intrepid group on this amazing Madagascar adventure and photograph the fascinating array of endemic flora and fauna, all of which combine to make for a truly exceptional photo safari!  Time is growing short to see one of the world’s truly unique natural spectacles.

Check out Mike Byrne's trip report from our latest Madagascar photo tour
For trip questions or to enroll give us a call at (206) 463-5383

Tour Itinerary

Day 1
Depart from home.

Day 2 (Sep 27)
Arrive in Antananarivo or “Tana,” the capital of Madagascar, from Paris, Johannesburg or Nairobi.  It is highly recommended to arrive in Tana one day early to recover from jet lag and have time to rest.  (D)

Day 3
After breakfast we will explore the city and its surroundings with our cameras, including the vibrant flower market and artisanal brickyard. Lunch at a restaurant in Tana. Dinner at the hotel then prepare for our early morning departure tomorrow. (BLD)

Days 4–5 
We fly by private charter to Morondava on Day 3.  After we are established in our hotel we depart for a sunset photo shoot at the Avenue des Baobabs throughout the kilometer-long road we can enjoy different views and create photogenic compositions of the towering Renala—the “mother of the forest”—Malagasy for Grandidier’s baobab.  During the time of our visit the baobabs have dropped their leaves exposing their graphic trunks and branches.  The next morning we return to Baobab Alley” for a sunrise photo session.  In the afternoon we continue on to Kirindy Reserve, famous for giant jumping rats and habitat for seven species of lemur and a number of endemic reptiles. (BLD)

Day 6–7
Our charter planes await us on the morning of Day 5 to deliver us to Isalo National Park in Madagascar’s remote southwest. A wonderful variety of landscapes and habitats are found within this 300-square-mile protected area including grassland, dry forest, luxuriant canyons, weather-sculpted sandstone formations, and oases lined with palm trees as well as lakes and rivers.  We roam through pinnacles of eroded sandstone—evoking images of giant sandcastles—and photograph deep gorges filled with crystal blue water.  Within these canyons dwell as many as 14 species of lemurs as well as 80 species of birds and a variety of chameleons and other reptiles and endemic frogs.  With a clear sky the Milky Way will grab our attention as we head out for a shoot of the starry sky.  (BLD)

Days 8–10  
We fly to Fort Dauphin and drive to Berenty—a private gallery forest reserve in the desert and the best place to shoot the iconic spiny forest and its wildlife inhabitants.  We photograph “dancing” Verreaux’s sifaka lemurs skipping sideways across the red earth. Also common are wild, but human-habituated, ring-tailed and brown lemurs.  Here they leap from tree to tree, sometimes landing on branches covered with thorns.  The ringtails beg for bananas and sun themselves clustered together in endearing family groups. We also photograph lepilemurs, radiated tortoises, and a collection of bizarre endemic plants such as the octopus tree with “tentacles” bristling with thorns, and the pachypodiums—spiny succulents commonly called “elephant’s foot” because of the bulbous trunk.   (BLD)

LemurDay 11
Following breakfast we fly directly from Berenty to Antananarivo.  After settling into our comfortable home base in Tana  we visit and photograph a local Tana craft market in the afternoon. (BLD)

Day 12  
We drive eastward from Tana toward our destination of Andasibe‒Mantadia National Park.  En route we stop to photograph a private wildlife collection at the estate of famed wildlife biologist André Peyriéras, with access to as many as twelve species of chameleons, extraordinary leaf-tailed geckos, colorful frogs, bizarre predatory insects, dinner plate-sized moths and a good variety of butterflies. Though the place is a bit run down, the photography opportunities here are very good.  We continue on to Andasibe. (BLD)

Days 13‒14  
Andasibe‒Mantadia National Park is one of the jewels of the Malagasy park system.  Its extensive rain forest trails provide access to several intriguing species of lemurs and a photogenic variety of other animals.  We visit Analamazaotra Special Reserve—commonly called Perinet.  This is the land of the indri, the largest surviving lemur that resembles a panda with a 20-foot leap.  Locally known as babakoto—usually translated as "ancestor" or "father—groups of indri “sing” from the treetops sounding like a pod of humpback whales.  We may need to walk off-trail to photograph them in the treetops.  Some of the largest and smallest chameleons live in Mantadia, plus amazingly camouflaged leaf-tailed geckos and wooly lemurs snoozing in the branches.

Lemur Island allows for incomparable access to a number of lemur species, including the rare bamboo lemurs.  We can venture out at night to see dwarf and mouse lemurs, and hunt sleeping chameleons with their ghost-like night coloration and their tails tucked into tight spirals.  (BLD)

SailboatDays 15–17  
This morning we head to Manambato where we board a motorized canoe to Palmarium—Akanin’ny Nofy private reserve on the shores of Lake Ampitabe.  Akanin’ny Nofy translates from Malagasy as “nest of dreams,” and the area is definitely dreamlike. With sparkling white sand beaches lying against deep blue water, this peaceful and relaxing haven is home to lush forests, scattered orchids, strings of lakes and mangroves.  All these factors have made the reserve one of the most popular vacation spots in Madagascar—and a spectacular location for photographers.  Ten species of lemurs live in freedom in the reserve, including Coquerel's sifakas, black and white ruffed lemurs, crowned lemurs, mouse lemurs, black lemurs, indris and aye-ayes, plus a host of reptiles and amphibians.  This protected area is habitat to nearly 100,000 photogenic Ravenala madagascariensis, or “traveler’s palms,” endemic to Madagascar. At midday may enjoy a swim in the warm waters of Lake Ampitabe. (BLD)

Day 18 (Oct 13) 
After an early breakfast we have a 3-hour boat ride and lunch in Tomasina, followed by a return flight to Tana. Dayrooms are provided at our comfortable hotel near the airport to rest before a late night transfer to the airport. (BLD)

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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Enrollment Information

Wild Madagascar

Sep 26, 2024 - Oct 13, 2024

A deposit and completed and signed Registration Form are required to reserve a place on a Joseph Van Os Photo Safari.


All prices are quoted in US dollars and all payments must be paid in US dollars. For deposits only we accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Final payment of the trip fee is due 120 days prior to departure and may be paid by check or bank transfer. If you wish to make your final payment with a credit card a 3% convenience fee will be charged.

We must receive written notice of your cancellation. Based on the cancellation date the following applies:

Trip deposits are non-refundable.
150-91 days before the trip start date: We will refund any payments made exceeding 50% of the total trip cost.
90-61 days before the trip start date: We will refund any payments made exceeding 75% of the total trip cost.
Within 60 days of the start of the trip: No refund.

If, on the trip start date, your space has been resold and the tour is full—as designated by “Limit” number of travelers on the tour website page—we will refund your payment, minus the non-refundable trip deposit and any discounts given to resell your space.

No partial refunds are made for unused portions or services of a trip for any reason. Trips are sold as a package only. This policy also applies to tour extensions and independent travel arrangements. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

Emergency evacuation insurance is REQUIRED for this tour. Upon request, we can provide travel insurance options that includes the required medical evacuation insurance. Participants purchasing trip insurance on their own should confirm that emergency evacuation is included in their policy.

We strongly encourage you to protect your travel investment and purchase a comprehensive travel insurance policy that includes emergency evacuation coverage. We can provide travel insurance options, or it can be purchased online. A CANCEL FOR ANY REASON policy is available. Trip participants without travel protection insurance are considered “self-insured.” Without insurance you assume all risks and losses for any conditions requiring your cancellation.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris are within the capabilities of average people in good health. Some of these trips require the capability of walking for several miles over uneven trails, stepping from a small boat to a wave-washed rocky beach, flying in small planes and helicopters, and occasionally hiking at high elevations—all while carrying an assortment of camera equipment. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to a trip, please inquire with our office before reserving a space. By forwarding a signed Registration Form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you, or other trip participants and you agree to inform our office in writing if changes in your health, including viral illnesses, occur any time prior to the tour. We reserve the right to request a doctor's statement of good health. The company's or trip leader's judgment shall provide the ultimate determination of an individual's ability to embark upon or to continue a trip. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements. Tour members are asked to refrain from smoking with or near the group.

Participants will receive three emails before the trip departs: 1. Initial Tour Information sheet confirms the deposit and provides pre-departure information. 2. Invoice/Practical Information provides clothing and photo gear recommendations, climate data, and applicable health advisories. Visa information will also be included (if applicable). 3. Final Tour Information includes arrival instructions, itinerary revisions (if any), hotel addresses, trip telephone contact information and participant list. We provide the trip leader's telephone number(s) and/or email address with final documents so you can inquire about special photographic questions you may have regarding your trip. We welcome your calls or email messages to info@photosafaris.com.

Information supplied upon enrollment describes the specific details that are included in your trip fee. Generally, these include lodging in double room occupancy, all meals (specified in the itinerary as BLD denoting breakfast, lunch, or dinner), ground transportation during the trip in vans or small busses, internal tour air transportation as specified, meal and baggage tipping, and guide services provided by the trip leaders. Not included are airfare or other transportation from your home to the trip staging location, airport departure taxes, insurance, alcoholic beverages, and bar expenses (plus bottled water and soft drink expenses on international tours outside of North America), tips and gratuities to local guides, phone calls, passport or visa expenses, laundry, or items of a personal nature. Gratuities to Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris trip leaders are optional and always appreciated. Rates are based on group tariffs; if the trip does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may be charged.

Most of our trips are priced in double occupancy (shared) accommodations. Single accommodation is available for a supplemental cost in many locations; see the pre-departure trip information or call our office for details. You will be charged the single supplement fee if you desire single accommodation or if you wish to have a roommate, but one is not available. In some remote locations, clients with single rooms are infrequently compelled to share a room due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, appropriate per diem refunds will be made reflecting the direct cost of the single room at the facility where clients are required to share. There is no additional single supplement fee on ship-based cruises if you request a roommate and one is not available.

Cost increases may occur unexpectedly due to rising costs of airfares, ground transport, fuel surcharges, accommodations, and currency fluctuations, among others. Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. may be compelled to amend prices, and we reserve the right to do so without prior notice. An increase in trip prices shall not be sufficient grounds for any refund of funds paid for the trip other than as determined by the terms of our cancellation policy.

Whenever possible, our trip participants are lodged in comfortable, modern hotels. We select among the best available accommodations but refrain from extravagance. Some interesting photographic destinations are far removed from modern amenities, however, and where necessary we will be accommodated in rustic country inns, cabins, or tented camps.

Meals are always a special part of our trips for the camaraderie they engender and the opportunity they provide to try new foods from different areas. Depending on the trip and specific locale, participants order restaurant meals from the full menu or, less frequently, table d'hôte. Some trips include picnic lunches in the field. Fruit juice for breakfast and coffee or tea is included with the meals. Soft drinks are included with meals on tours within North America. Participants are responsible for their own bar tab (including bottled water, soft drinks, as well as alcoholic beverages on tours outside of North America) at restaurant lunches and dinners.

Our itineraries are intended as examples only. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history or cultural events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or our leaders.

The second tour leader (and any subsequent additional leaders) listed for each trip on the website will be added as the group size warrants. If only one space remains on a trip, and logistics permit, we accept two people traveling together, even if it exceeds the trip maximum.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. and/or their Agents act only as agents for the passenger (trip participant) in regard to travel including, but not limited to, sightseeing, meals, lodging, transportation, and all other services whether by railroad, motor coach, automobile, van, boat, ship or aircraft or any other conveyance, and they assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be occasioned for any reason whatsoever, or through the acts, bankruptcy or default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the trip.

They can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay, cancellations or changes in flights or other tour services, and by force majeure including sickness, weather, strike, war, volcanic eruption, terrorist acts, political unrest, quarantine, epidemics, pandemics and outbreaks, or other causes. All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as trip fees provide for arrangements only for the times and locations stated. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely.

The right is reserved to 1) substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary or transport where deemed necessary, or caused by changes in flight schedules or equipment substitution; 2) cancel any trip prior to departure due to low enrollment, in which case full refund of the paid trip funds will be given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non -refundable air tickets, visa fees, travel insurance premiums and medical related expenses; 3) At the company’s sole discretion, suspend or postpone any trip due to force majeure or disease outbreak in which case the trip may be rescheduled, or a refund issued less any non-refundable deposits paid to tour component providers on behalf of the passenger, or a travel credit given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 4) substitute trip leader(s) for the leader(s) originally specified, in which case the substitution is not a basis for participant cancellation or refund other than provided by our normal cancellation policy; or 5) accept or retain any person as a member of any trip.

Trip prices are based on tariffs and exchange rates in effect at the time of publication and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein.

A signed Registration Form with the Enrollment Conditions and Release and Assumption of Risk sections must be returned by each participant prior to the commencement of the trip. Participation by any trip member will be declined in the absence of the signed Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section, with no trip fee refund. No modification to the Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section will be accepted.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this agreement, the enrolling trip participant(s) agree(s) to indemnify and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, the enrolling participant(s) agree(s) to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington.

I have read, understand, and agree to the terms, conditions, and provisions of the enrollment information, as stated on the Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris website and the Enrollment Conditions section of this form, especially noting the policy on cancellations, refunds, and limitations on responsibility.

I am aware that during any trip or tour that I am voluntarily participating in under the arrangements of Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., a Washington corporation, and its employees, agents and associates, certain risks and dangers exist while traveling in the United States, foreign countries, and wilderness areas in any country or territory that include the possibility of property damage, bodily injury, and death. There is a possibility of accident or illness occurring without access to immediate or timely medical treatment or facilities. There is a risk of tropical or communicable diseases that may require quarantine and removal from the tour at my expense, food-related illnesses, the risk of personal injury and property damage or delay or inconvenience by forces of nature, wildlife or wildlife models, quarantine, political instability, acts of terrorism, strikes, government restrictions or regulations change, thefts, and the risk of accidents during travel while on foot or by aircraft, train, automobile, van, bus, boat, ship, or other conveyance. I understand that such risks cannot be eliminated without jeopardizing the essential qualities of this trip or tour. In consideration of, and as part payment for the right to participate in such trips, tours and/or other activities and services arranged for me by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., its employees, agents and associates, I have and do hereby assume all risks, and hereby release Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., its employees, shareholders, agents and associates, and will hold them harmless from any and all liability, actions, causes of actions, debts, claims, and demands of every kind and nature, howsoever caused, which I now have or which may arise of or in connection with any of my trips or tours and participation in any activities arranged for me by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., its employees, agents and associates.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf, be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this Agreement, I agree to indemnify them and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, I agree to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington and further agree that the substantive law of that state shall apply in that action without regard to the conflict-of-law rules of that state. The terms hereof shall serve as a release and assumption of all risk for myself, my heirs, executors, and administrators, and for all members of my family.

If any part, article, paragraph, sentence, or clause of this Agreement is not enforceable, the affected provision shall be curtailed and limited only to the extent necessary to bring it within the requirements of the law, and the remainder of the Agreement shall continue in full force and effect.

I acknowledge that if anyone is hurt or property is damaged during my participation in this activity, I may be found by a court of law to have waived my right to maintain a lawsuit against Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., its employees, shareholders, agents, and associates, based on any and all claims from which I have released them.

Wild Madagascar: Moderate Activity Level

Small bus, chartered aircraft and boat transportation. Short walks on sandy beaches, trails and around villages and city. More challenging 4-mile jungle walk at a slow pace. Warm and humid temperatures are to be expected.  Rough and rutted roads make ground travel slow and rough in several locations. Fly on small chartered aircraft between some distant locations.

Trip Details
Sep 26 - Oct 13, 2024
Fee: $14,995 from Antananarivo, Madagascar
Deposit: $2,000
Limit: 10 participants
Activity Level: ModerateModerate
  • Photograph one of the strangest assemblages of wild animals and peculiar wild habitats in the world
  • Explore prime lemur habitat at numerous private reserves—including Perinet, Berenty and Akanin’ny Nofy
  • Shoot the starry night sky above silhouetted weather-sculpted sandstone formations at Isalo National Park
  • Shoot a private endemic wildlife collection for close-up photography of colorful chameleons, geckos, frogs, snakes and amazing insects
  • Fly by private charter aircraft between distant locations—avoiding many of Madagascar’s notoriously bad roads
  • Includes all meals, lodging, internal tour airfare, boat and ground transportation, entrance fees, photo guides and instruction
Tour Leaders
Mike Byrne

Mike Byrne

This tour gave me a great introduction to Madagascar. It covered the west coast, highlands, and east coast giving us a good look at the country, its people, and the wildlife. It's an extremely photogenic country, and this tour gave us ample opportunity for great photography and video. The tour leader treated this as a workshop, and we all learned a lot from Mike. Comes highly recommended!
—J. Baak