Quest for Island Endemics


September 10 – October 6, 2017
Cost: $12,500
Leader: Jean Jacque Randriamanindry
Group Size: 4
Days: 27

Safari Overview

Focus on endemics such as charismatic lemurs, chameleons and birds in this hotspot of diverse ecosystems. Madagascar is well known as one of the greatest destinations in the world with over 90% of its wildlife endemic and our 27-day tour with maximum time in the field provides the perfect opportunity to get to know it well. This special itinerary caters to the pace of nature lovers and photographers offering several days in each special habitat to enjoy these incredible landscapes and their animals. Travel in a four-wheel drive vehicle for four people with our safari leader.

• Leaping lemurs! Experience the sights and sounds of over a dozen species of lemurs such as the well-known dancing sifakas, the cute and curious Ring-tailed Lemurs, and the beautiful Black-and-white Ruffed Lemurs.
• And leaping lizards! Madagascar is home to half the world’s chameleons, as well as unique species of geckos and iguanids.
• Discover an astounding array of endemic birds, including couas, ground-rollers, and vangas.
• Seek out the things that go bump in the night! We’ll have many opportunities to go night-spotting in search of nocturnal lemurs, birds, frogs, and other creatures.
• Journey through the island’s varied landscapes encompassing coast, desert, farm, wetland, and forests ranging from wet to dry, high to low, and deciduous to spiny, including the quintessential towering baobabs with their majestic crowns.

Itinerary Updated: August 2016

Print Trip
Date Description Lodge Meals
Sep 10 - 11 Travel to Madagascar.
Sep 12 Arrive in Antananarivo (Tana). Relais des Plateaux, Antananarivo
Sep 13 Morning free then walk afternoon around Lake Alarobia. Relais des Plateaux, Antananarivo B, L, D
Sep 14 - 17 To Perinet and Mantadia for full days with endemic birds, Indri, and other lemurs. Vakona Forest Lodge B, L, D
Sep 18 - 20 Fly to Majunga and drive to Ampijoroa Forest Station for chameleons, sifakas, and other specialties of Ankarafantsika National Park. Gite Ampijoroa B, L, D
Sep 21 Drive to Majunga and fly to Antananarivo. Relais des Plateaux, Antananarivo B, L, D
Sep 22 - 24 Fly to Fort Dauphin and drive to Berenty Lemur Reserve for many endemic birds and mammals. Berenty Lodge B, L, D
Sep 25 - 27 Fly to Tulear and drive to Ifaty for two full days in spiny forest habitat with endemic lemurs, birds, and chameleons. Les Dunes d’Ifaty B, L, D
Sep 28 Drive to Tulear and fly to Antananarivo. Relais des Plateaux, Antananarivo B, L, D
Sep 29 Fly to Maroantsetra for field trips and Aye-aye. Relais du Masoala B, L, D
Sep 30 – Oct 3 Speedboat to Masoala Peninsula to visit remote lowland and sub-montane rainforests. Le Petit Relais B, L, D
Oct 4 Speedboat back to Maroantsetra and fly to Antananarivo. Relais des Plateaux, Antananarivo B, L, D
Oct 5 Departure from Antananarivo and possibly arrive home.
Oct 6 Arrive home depending on your flight schedule.

Our Trip Leaders

Jean Jacque Randriamanindry

Jean Jacques resides in Madagascar and has been leading wildlife tours throughout his country for many years and making big contributions to the protection of Madagascar’s unique fauna and flora. He has amazing eyes and expertise in knowing where to find the special birds and lemurs that we want to see. Before beginning his guiding career, he worked closely with BirdLife International in charge of their biodiversity and ecotourism projects. His expertise includes mammals, birds, herps, insects, especially butterflies and plant, so he is a fabulous all around naturalist.

Detailed Itinerary

A glimpse into our journey

Travel to Madagascar

Sep 10 - 11

Depart from home and travel to Antananarivo, Madagascar.

Arrive in Antananarivo

Sep 12

Arrive in Antananarivo (also known as Tana) either in the afternoon or evening today. On arrival at Ivato International Airport (TNR), clear customs and find our transfer agent to take you to our hotel.

Free morning then visit Lac Alarobia

Sep 13

This morning is free to rest or take an optional city tour (not included). After lunch at the hotel, meet our resident guide, Guy Germaine, and head for Lake Alarobia, a privately owned sanctuary within the city that is a wonderful reserve. Here we will delight in the wealth of water birds and perhaps even a chameleon or two in the trees along the shoreline. In the late afternoon as evening approaches, the roosting waterfowl congregate and the lake teems with ducks, egrets, and herons. We may find Hottentot Teal amongst the many whistling ducks, and even a few Fulvous Whistling Ducks mingling with the large number of White-faced. The Madagascar Pond Heron frequently is found over-wintering here. Look also for Malagasy Kestrel, Malagasy Coucal, Malagasy Kingfisher, Malagasy Black Swift, Madagascar Wagtail, Madagascar White-eye, Madagascar Manikin, and Red Fody.

While traveling between our hotel and town, the Malagasy culture is evident and fascinating, a mixture of Africa and Asia both in the architecture and in the landscapes, including extensive rice paddies. This evening at dinner you will be pleased by the delicious cuisine in Madagascar, a wonderful blend of French, Chinese, and Malagasy influences.

Perinet Special Reserve and Mantadia National Park

Sep 14 - 17

Giant Coua

Depart very early to drive four hours east to the Perinet Special Reserve across the Highland Plateau to immerse in tropical wet forests on Madagascar’s eastern escarpment. Our accommodation for the next four nights is located between Perinet Special Reserve and Mantadia National Park. Some of the resident wildlife at the lodge are Green Geckos on the chalet walls, chameleons in the bushes, Madagascar Wagtails flying about the grounds, and Indri lemurs. Indri, the largest living lemur, is a highlight of Perinet and they’re only found in the habitat of Perinet and Mantadia. These beautiful creatures with their bold black and white markings and pale green eyes inhabit the taller forest and are particularly fond of ridge tops. With 3 full days of field time and the help of multiple guides, we should have opportunities to see, hear, and photograph Indri.

We will spend our days and nights searching for wildlife in the nearby forests. The area is rich with both diurnal and nocturnal lemurs, birds, and “herps.” Each evening, we will have an optional night walk which is a wonderful part of any trip to Madagascar.

Special birds at Perinet and Mantadia are Madagascar Blue Pigeon, Greater Vasa Parrot, Ward's Flycatcher, White-throated Oxylabes, the Madagascar Flufftail, and many others. Madagascar’s birds include five families endemic to the Malagasy region: mesites, ground-rollers, the Cuckoo-Roller, Malagasy warblers, and vangas. The Cuckoo-Roller, Pitta-like Ground Roller, Common Sunbird-Asity, and Blue and Nuthatch vangas are here in this eastern region, as well as some of the endemic sub-family, the couas, such as Red-fronted, Red-breasted, and Blue couas. Mantadia National Park is at a higher altitude than Perinet and this is where we have the best chance to see Red-breasted Coua, Scaly Ground Roller, Madagascar Blue Pigeon, Crossley’s Babbler (now thought to be a terrestrial vanga), and several of the Malagasy warblers.

The easiest way to see birds in Mantadia National Park is from the road through the reserve, but a resident guide or two may pop out of the forest and entice us to scramble up the steep and often slippery trails into the rainforest to catch up with one of the endemic shy species that they have just located, perhaps even off-trail tracking into thick undergrowth. Forest walks throughout our itinerary will be very exciting.

We should also see many species of lemurs here, including Gray Bamboo, Furry-eared Dwarf, and Wooly lemurs, but our favorite Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur and the very beautiful Diademed Sifaka would be a wonderful find. Even if we don’t see them, we should be able to hear them.

Wonderful herps, including geckos, chameleons, and colorful frogs, are often seen and heard during the day and while night-spotting in the rainforests. It is also good to note that none of the snakes found on Madagascar are venomous.

Ampijoroa Forest Station in Ankarafantsika National Park

Sep 18 - 20

Leaf-tailed Gecko

We depart Perinet early and head back to Tana. Once in Tana, we make our way to the airport to connect with a flight to Mahajanga, a good-sized town on the northwest coast of Madagascar. After arriving we will drive two hours (depending on road conditions) to Ampijoroa, a forest station situated in the extensive tropical deciduous forests of the Ankarafantsika National Park.

The park occupies about 135,000 hectares and consists of patches of thick, dry tropical forest interspersed with less dense areas. There are grasslands, sandy eroded rock areas, and some farmed land within the park. The indigenous Sakalava people are the predominant ethnic group living and farming in this huge park and we will see them working in the ride paddies en route to the park as well. If time allows, as it is 115 km north of Majunga to the Forest Station and the flight may arrive fairly late in the afternoon, we will scan roadside water bodies for Yellow-billed Stork and herons, including Purple, Striated, Squacco and even Black Herons perhaps doing their “umbrella-feeding” performance. With people and birds in the rice paddies, it is extremely picturesque. On our return to Majunga in three days, we will again travel this route with fascinating landscapes and abundant water birds.

We can do early morning walks before breakfast from our cabins. We may spot Fossa tracks while walking on the sandy soil. On one of our previous trips, a Fossa was spotted walking by while we were having breakfast at the Forest Station, but that is an extremely rare sighting of a very shy endemic mammalian predator. Ampijoroa is the home to the World Wildlife Fund’s Plough-shear Tortoise captive breeding program and is a fantastic place to search for the numerous endemic mammals and birds of the region.

The best wildlife area is in the vicinity of the Ampijoroa Forest Station. Resident birds such as Lesser Vasa Parrot, Crested Drongo, and Madagascar Magpie-Robin, Sakalava Weaver, Madagascar Hoopoe, Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher, Madagascar Green Pigeon, and Malagasy Turtle Dove are right at the forest station. We will take walks in the dry forest that surrounds the camp, where we may find Sickle-billed Vanga, White-breasted Mesite, Schlegel’s Asity, and sifakas, a wonderful family of lemurs that are most entertaining. Coquerel’s Sifakas live in family groups that thrive at Ampijoroa; they are extremely active throughout the forests, even going right through the camp area.

Other lemurs here are Brown, Western Wooly, a couple species of Microcebi (mouse lemurs), and the rarely seen Mongoose Lemurs. We have two full days to explore the network of trails and the eight species of lemurs that occur near camp. We will search for Western Avahi (Woolly Lemur), Milne-Edward’s Sportive, and Grey Mouse lemurs after dark while night-spotting. If we are lucky, we may also find the Golden-brown Mouse Lemur, one of the world’s smallest primates. It has only been found at Lac Ravelobe and is named after the lake, Microcebus ravelobensis.

We hope to see some reptiles here. Collared (Cuvier’s) Iguanids are common around the camp on the trees. Oustalet’s Chameleon, the largest in the world, and the Rhinoceros Chameleon with an enlarged nasal protuberance are two very attractive chameleons found at Ampijoroa.

The afternoon is a good time to walk along the edge of the adjacent Lac Ravelobe and look for the resident pair of critically endangered Madagascar Fish Eagle. White-throated Rail also walk along the waterside vegetation and groups of Sickle-billed and Blue Vangas are often active along the forest edge.

Drive to Majunga and fly to Tana

Sep 21

This morning, enjoy wildlife action in camp and the adjacent woodlands, watching and photographing sifakas and birds, then drive back to the coastal town of Majunga to the airport for the flight to and overnight in Tana.

Berenty Lemur Reserve

Sep 22 - 24

Ring-tailed Lemurs

We will connect with our flight from Tana to Fort Dauphin, then drive to Berenty Lemur Reserve, a privately owned sanctuary near the southern tip of the island. The approximately 3-1/2 hour drive to Berenty starts from the windy, picturesque town of Fort Dauphin on the coast, down bumpy roads bordered by rice paddies, and into the rain-shadow of the Andohahela Mountains. Didierea trees resembling octopus are the signal that we are in the “spiny desert” habitat of Madagascar. Berenty Reserve belongs to the De Haulme family. The owners have set aside sections of gallery forest along the Mandrare River to conserve its population of lemurs and other wildlife. The adjoining sisal plantation has also been in the family a long time. A lot of research has been done in the Reserve on lemurs and several species are quite relaxed with people nearby – a great opportunity to get some very good photos of these unique mammals.

Here we will have close encounters with the endearing Ring-tailed Lemurs. We may also see Verreaux’s Sifakas hopping across the trails and sometimes down the dirt road outside the lodge. Giant Couas, Madagascar Cuckoo-Hawk, and other forest birds will be among the many highlights. We will go out to see nocturnal creatures, such as the Greater Hedgehog Tenrec, several geckos, and White-footed Sportive and Gray Mouse lemurs. The nighttime skies may also be clear enough to see the Southern Cross, Milky Way, and other diversions. There is also a Madagascar Flying Fox roost, where these impressive bats spend their day squabbling and sleeping, though close approach of these roosts is discouraged so as not to disturb them. We can visit the local museum too, which includes one of the few complete Elephant-bird eggs in the world.

Ifaty Spiny Forest and surroundings

Sep 25 - 27

Long-tailed Ground Roller

After some early morning photography of the approachable wildlife in Berenty, return to Fort Dauphin, then fly across the island to Tulear in the south-western corner of Madagascar. Our drive to Ifaty is by 4-wheel drive vehicles due to the very sandy, narrow road where a Coaster bus may get stuck. En route we will stop to look for the uncommon Madagascar Plover and, perhaps in the wetlands and salt pans we’ll pass, we’ll find Greater Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt, and Malagasy Harrier.
The famous “Spiny Forest” around Ifaty has fascinating succulents in many sizes and shapes known as Didierea woodland. The biggest is the baobab tree. Many avian endemics live in this arid land, such as Sub-desert Mesite, Long-tailed Ground-Roller, couas, and several vangas, including Lafresnaye’s Vanga and the noisy Sickle-billed Vanga. As the day warms up, reptiles get active, a good time to see Three-eyed Lizards and maybe the Western or Dumeril’s Boa. We’ll be out at dawn when the birds are most active and stroll amongst the many succulents and thorny scrub.

In addition to our woodland walks, the tropical ocean off Ifaty is fairly good for snorkelling. There will be masks and snorkels available to swim in a coral reef or relax in the warm shallows in front of our hotel. An afternoon excursion to the wetlands to the south of Ifaty will be another to search for water birds.

Drive to Tulear and fly to Tana

Sep 28

After some final explorations of the Ifaty area, we’ll drive to Tulear and fly back to Tana where we where will overnight.

Fly to Maroantsetra for explorations and Aye-aye

Sep 29

This morning begins with a flight to Maroantsetra, a small fishing village in the remote northeast of the island. We’ll check in at our lodge and after lunch, venture out into the town for a walk and look for Dyscophus antongili, the bright red Tomato Frog. It’s an interesting frog that tends to hang out in unlikely places, such as under trashcan lids in downtown Maroantsetra! At our lodge, we’ll find house geckos on the walls and frogs distinguished by their yellow and orange highlighting that reside in palm fronds and near water on the grounds. Madagascar’s giant red millipedes are found on the forest floor. This evening we’ll night-spot for a very rare mammal, the Aye-Aye, which is known to survive in the secondary forest on the outskirts of the town. Finding this creature will take persistence, but if we find it, what a reward!

Masoala Peninsula

Sep 30 – Oct 3

Antimena chameleon

The Masoala Peninsula is a beautiful stretch of nearly pristine rainforest on Madagascar's northeast coast. In 1997, a large piece of the peninsula, along with some of the waters of the adjacent bay, was set aside as Masoala Peninsula National Park. We will reach Masoala by speedboat from Maroantsetra and watch for seabirds, which could be four species of terns – Swift, Lesser Crested, Roseate and Common Noddy. Once we have checked in at the wonderful lodge, enjoy birding right around the grounds and search for Blue Coua, Frances's Sparrowhawk, Madagascar Pratincole, and Greater Vasa Parrot. This evening, we’ll night-spot for the Rainforest Scops Owl.

The Masoala Peninsula National Park protects the largest area of lowland and sub-montane rainforest remaining in Madagascar. We will be spending full days in this remote area searching the trails that lead through the forest for some of the regions most seldom-sighted wildlife, such as Helmet and Bernier’s vangas. The Helmet Vanga is often first located by its call. The Bernier’s Vanga is much more difficult to locate, maybe in mixed feeding flocks with other vangas including Blue, Hook-billed, Rufous, Tylas, Nuthatch and White-headed vanga. Red-breasted Coua is often found along forest paths. The Brown Mesite lives in dark areas of forest in leaf litter. Four members of the ground roller family are also found here: Scaly, Pitta-like, Rufous-headed, and Short-legged ground rollers. The Madagascar Serpent-Eagle was rediscovered in this area of Madagascar, now considered one of the rarest raptors in the entire world, as it requires pristine rainforest and often perches motionless for long periods.

The highly secretive and endangered Aye-Aye is a possibility, however seldom encountered here, as it is so shy. Red Ruffed Lemur, one of the most beautiful lemurs, likes to rest high in the trees, but once in awhile are in a good position to photograph. White-fronted Brown and Eastern Fork-marked lemurs are the other two we hope to encounter. Lowland Streaked and Greater Hedgehog tenrecs would be wonderful to photograph and watch. Madagascar Flying Fox and Madagascar’s largest predator, the Fossa, are found here too. The peninsula’s spectacular scenery is also very photogenic. And we will definitely see plenty of herps, including frogs, lizards, chameleons, and snakes, especially when we go night-spotting.

Speedboat back to Maroantsetra and fly to Tana

Oct 4

Today we leave the lush forests of the Masoala Peninsula to boat back to Maroantsetra. After reaching the town, we’ll head to the airport in order to connect with our flight to Tana. Then drive to our hotel for dinner and overnight.

Depart Tana homeward

Oct 5

Depart Antananarivo (also known as Tana) either very early in the morning and arrive home later today, or depart in the afternoon and arrive home tomorrow.

For an extra day in Tana, visit the museum and the zoo, where there is a small island set aside for Black Lemur (common at Nosy Be, a popular tourist site and beach area at the top northwest side of Madagascar). Also, the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, a World Heritage Site, is a fascinating royal city and burial site, and an ensemble of sacred places. It is associated with strong feelings of national identity, and has maintained its spiritual and sacred character both in ritual practice and the popular imagination for the past 500 years. It remains a place of worship to which pilgrims come from Madagascar and elsewhere. The traditional design, materials, and layout of the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga are representative of the social and political structure of Malagasy society from at least the 16th century.

Arrive home

Oct 6

Arrive home depending on your flight schedule.


Focus on endemics such as charismatic lemurs, chameleons and birds during our tour of this hotspot of diverse ecosystems.

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Cost & Payments

Costs (in US$)

Type Cost Per Person
Trip Cost, double occupancy $12,500
Single Supplement $1,100

We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between when we set tour prices and the date of travel, for example, changes due to the cost of lodging and transportation. If you are a single traveler and you desire, we will find a roommate for you. If we cannot find you a roommate, we may charge you a single supplement fee. Single rooms are subject to availability.

Payment Schedule

Payment Due Date Amount Per Person
Deposit Due now to reserve your space $500
Second September 1, 2016 $1,000
Final April 3, 2017 Remaining balance

Payments will be due based on the following schedule. All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space. For reservations made after a due date, all past payments will be due with registration. By sending your initial deposit, you agree to accept our payment schedule as a contract. If payments are still outstanding two weeks after the due date, your space may be forfeited.


Until the Final Payment due date, deposits are refundable except for a cancellation fee of $150 per person, which can be applied toward another tour if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip’s departure date. No refunds are given after the Final Payment due date.


  • All leaders, transport, park entry fees, and permits for all activities described in the detailed itinerary.
  • Accommodations for the nights of September 12 through October 4.
  • Meals from breakfast on September 13 through breakfast on October 5.
  • Airport transfers on September 12 from airport to hotel and on October 4 or 5 from hotel to airport. Airport transfers on different days may be arranged at no extra cost; please contact us to arrange.
  • Bottled drinking water throughout.
  • Gratuities for hotel staff, porters, local residents guides in each area, and drivers.
  • Trip Materials – information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc.

Not Included

  • All airfare, airport and departure taxes, and excess baggage fees. Roundtrip airfare is approximately $2,000 to $3,000 from the US to Antananarivo, Madagascar depending on origin (estimated July 2016). Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris will book the reservations for the seven internal Air Madagascar flights on your behalf. The cost of this booking will be added to the final trip balance and is estimated to be $2,050 per person for all the flights on the itinerary within Madagascar (estimated July 2016).
  • Passport and visa fees.
  • We can arrange extra hotel nights for an extra cost.
  • Gratuities: tipping is, of course, discretionary, however we suggest budgeting about $10 to $12 per participant per day for September 12 to October 4 with our guide (about $220 to $264 total per participant). This does not include any optional trip extensions, such as a city tour.
  • Emergency medical and evacuation insurance and trip cancellation insurance. Read more about travel insurance.
  • All drinks except bottled water.
  • Items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, medical costs or hospitalization, room service, and items not on the regular menu, etc. If you have special dietary needs, please indicate them on your Reservation/Release Form.


The months we have chosen to visit are in Madagascar’s cooler dry season; however, the places we’ll be traveling to will be quite warm during the day and cool off at night. Daily temperatures will range from highs in the mid-70s to low-90s °F (~24-33 °C), and nighttime lows will range from the low-50s to mid-70s °F (~11-25 °C). We will make a number of early starts in the morning to maximize the most pleasurable time in the field when the wildlife is the most active too. As with many destinations, expect variable weather conditions and bring layers.

Fitness Level

This Madagascar tour requires a reasonable level of fitness and participants should be in good general health. Most of the wildlife viewing and birding will be done on foot, and may require walking for several hours at a time. A few forest trails can be steep and slippery, especially after rain. Locating some of the endemic species may require a few longer walks. Please contact us if you have any health concerns that may make this trip challenging. We strive to spend maximum time in the field and days are long and fairly demanding, though there is some flexibility to opt out of certain activities.


Airfare, including internal flights, is not included in trip costs. Detailed flight information and the contact information for our recommended flight-ticketing agent are included in the Trip Materials we will send you.

Flights you (or a travel agent) book: Arrive in Antananarivo (TNR) no later than September 12. Depart from Tana (TNR) after dinner on October 4 or anytime on October 5. For international flights, the main port of entry, Antananarivo, is serviced with regular flights from Johannesburg, operated by Air Madagascar, and from Paris, operated by Air France.

Flights we book for you: The seven internal flights on Air Madagascar will be booked by Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris. The cost of these flights ($2,050 as of July 2016 and subject to change) will be added to the final trip balance.



Our lodging ranges from rustic to modern. All have private bathrooms. Lodging choice is quite limited in Madagascar and we aim to select the best available.



Travel is by four-wheel drive vehicle, speedboat, and internal flights. Roads range from paved to dirt that can be dusty and bumpy. Please note that internal flight delays and last-minute flight schedule alterations are an inherent risk in any tour to Madagascar and we may have to re-arrange the tour itinerary around the internal flight schedule. However, we will still visit all the scheduled sites and will take all reasonable precautions and actions to ensure the tour follows the advertised itinerary as closely as possible.


  • Non-smoking policy: We have a strict non-smoking policy. Smoking is not permitted at any time or any place during our tours.
  • Maximum time in the field: We try to spend as much time in the field as possible, sometimes resulting in long days but giving you a more in-depth experience.
  • Itinerary route: The itinerary route, stops, and plans are subject to change by unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, such as weather or road conditions.
  • Additional forms: For some of our tours, you may be asked to fill out additional forms (e.g., medical questionnaire).
  • Medical conditions and travel risks: Travel to remote places is exciting, but it is important to understand and accept the risks, both medical and logistical. Minor medical problems can usually be treated, but because we are often far from medical facilities, there can be no expectation for immediate medical treatment or evacuation, even in cases of trauma. Anyone with health problems needing close medical supervision should not consider going on this tour. Bring enough medication for the duration of the trip for any chronic medical needs, since pharmacies are usually not available. When you send your deposit and signed Reservation/Release Form, you certify to us that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions that would create a risk for yourself or for other trip participants.