Isolated from any continental landmass since the Cretaceous period, Madagascar has drifted through the Indian Ocean, following its own evolutionary course, having only five major terrestrial animal colonization events since the time of the dinosaurs.

The result? An island where every land mammal is endemic, as are nearly half the bird species. Reptiles are well represented as well, like chameleons, and day and leaf-tailed geckos. The uniqueness of this island’s fauna makes it one of the world’s great destinations for the birdwatcher and naturalist, alike.

This Naturalist Journeys tour features both birds and mammals. We focus on Madagascar’s most iconic and charismatic bird species (we hope to see over 95% of the endemics), as well as the Island's other oddities, like endearing lemurs and strikingly bizarre chameleons.

We also focus on the Island’s geology and geography with resulting various habitats – from the spiny forests of Ifaty with its towering baobabs and other-worldly Didierea octopus trees, to the verdant rainforests of Andasibe-Mantadia National Park.

  • “Madagascar is is still developing, which can make it challenging but has so much to offer that you cannot find anywhere else in the world that it is totally worth any inconveniences.” — 2023 Traveler
  • “Amazing, adventurous and enlightening…Loved seeing 11 different lemurs, especially seeing and hearing the Indri!” — 2023 Traveler
  • “I really enjoyed seeing the lemurs (of course) and the different areas of Madagascar, as well as the endemic birds, chameleons, and geckos. More active than some other birding trips, but it was fun. All of the accommodations were very nice.” — 2023 Traveler

Tour Highlights

  • Discover Andasibe-Mantadia National Park in search of the world’s largest lemur, the Indri, along with a long list of avian jewels, from Rufous-headed Ground-Roller to Madagascar Blue Pigeon
  • Explore Ranomafana to search for the rare Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asity and quirky Brown Mesite, and up to 12 lemur species, including Milne-Edwards’ Sifaka
  • Travel to Zombitse National Park and La Table for two very range-restricted, recently discovered bird species: Appert’s Tetraka (Greenbul) and Rufous-shouldered Vanga (the late Phoebe Snetsinger’s last bird)
  • Walk through the “spiny desert” of Ifaty, with its bizarre baobabs and euphorbias, in search of Long-tailed Ground-Roller and Subdesert Mesite
  • Journey to the unspoiled islet of Nosy Ve to experience a breeding colony of Red-tailed Tropicbird, protected by generations of locals

Trip Itinerary

Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.

Wed., Oct. 30    Early Arrivals in Antananarivo

We encourage you to arrive a day before the official start of the trip to rest up after a very long journey. If you choose to arrive today, we can make hotel arrangements for you. There are no activites or meals planned for today. 

Thurs., Oct. 31        Arrivals | Lac Alarobia

Welcome to Madagascar! Our journey begins in Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar. Lying at almost 4,200 feet above sea level in the middle of the country, the city sits atop a 2-mile long rocky ridge that overlooks extensive terraced rice paddies just west of the city.

“Tana,” as it is colloquially known, originally served as the capital for the indigenous people of the island until its occupation by the French in the first half of the 20th Century. Years of colonization and immigration from other parts of the world have created a city with an eclectic mix of indigenous Malagasy, South Asian, and French elements.

When you arrive in the airport’s arrival hall after picking up your luggage and passing through customs, look for someone to meet you with a sign showing your name. This is a driver from the hotel who handles the transfer.

Today we have an optional field trip to Lac Alarobia. Here we can hope to see Madagascar Pond Heron, Comb Duck, Hottentot Teal, Little Grebe, Madagascar Kingfisher, dragonflies, butterflies, and skulking day geckos.

This evening over dinner our guide answers any questions and lets us know the next morning’s breakfast and departure time. 
Accommodations in Tana (D)

Fri., Nov. 1 & Sat., Nov. 2   Flight to Toliara | Bay of Augustin | Anakao | Nosy Ve

We meet for a briefng over breakfast. We fly this morning to the seaside town of Toliara and settle in at our lodge. Arid hillsides surrounding the Bay of Augustin are home to Madagascar’s most recently described endemic, Red-shouldered Vanga, as well as the scarce and range-restricted Verreaux’s Coua. Madagascar Sandgrouse often frequent area drinking holes.

Our two days in Toliara are spent exploring! We also board a boat across the Bay of Augustin to Anakao and Nosy Ve. Please note that this excursion cannot be guaranteed, as it is subject to weather conditions.

In the coastal vegetation near Anakao, our goal is to see Littoral Rock-Thrush. We then make the very short boat trip to the uninhabited islet of Nosy Ve where we enjoy splendidly close views of Red-tailed Tropicbird as they hover overhead. This unspoiled islet with long white beaches and aquamarine waters, also hosts roosts of resting seabirds. We scan for Lesser Crested Tern, White-fronted Plover, and Crab-Plover. Optional snorkeling can be arranged in advance.
Accommodations at Toliara (B,L,D)

Sun., Nov. 3   Ifaty | Toliara | St. Augustin Bay

The “Spiny Desert,” an ecologically diverse wonderland, is dominated by a completely foreign association of plant species. We carefully wind our way among the Didierea, avoiding the sharp spines, while trying to find various specialized, endemic species. The stars of this ecosystem are Long-tailed Ground-Roller and Subdesert Mesite, charismatic members of two different endemic bird families. Four species of vangas, including the spectacular Sickle-billed can also be found. The elusive Banded Kestrel is a good bonus!

Mid-day, when temperatures soar, we take a welcome break (and perhaps a refreshing dip in the ocean!). In the afternoon, we drive half an hour down the coast to the seaside town of Toliara and settle in at our lodge. Arid hillsides surrounding the Bay of Augustin are home to Madagascar’s most recently described endemic, Red-shouldered Vanga, as well as the scarce and range-restricted Verreaux’s Coua. Madagascar Sandgrouse often frequent area drinking holes.
Accommodations at Ifaty (B,L,D)

Mon., Nov. 4    Toliara | Anakao & Nosy Ve

If we have time this morning, we search again for Madagascar Sandgrouse. Afterwards, we board a boat across the Bay of Augustin to Anakao and Nosy Ve. Please note that this excursion cannot be guaranteed, as it is subject to weather conditions.

In the coastal vegetation near Anakao, our target is Littoral Rock-Thrush. We then make the very short boat trip to the uninhabited islet of Nosy Ve where we enjoy splendidly close views of Red-tailed Tropicbird as they hover overhead. This unspoiled islet with long white beaches and aquamarine waters, also hosts roosts of resting seabirds. We scan for Lesser Crested Tern, White-fronted Plover, and Crab-Plover. Optional snorkeling can be arranged in advance.
Accommodations at Ifaty (B,L,D)

Tues., Nov. 5 & Wed., Nov. 6    Two Days Birding Isalo

This morning we continue to Anjaha and Isalo, where we spend the remainder of today and tomorrow exploring.

En route, we explore Zombitse National Park, which protects tall deciduous forests and savannas, and their wildlife. Cuckoo-Roller, more closely related to falcons than either cuckoos or rollers, regularly displays over the canopy here. Males engage in ?apping displays and loops accompanied by shrieking whistles.

These forests are also home to Appert’s Tetraka (Greenbul), a highly endangered species restricted to just a handful of forest patches. Giant Coua, Coquerel's Coua, and Rufous Vanga are a few of the other species we may encounter here in this special transition zone between the south’s flora and the western deciduous forest.

The sacred forest of Anjaha protects a population of Ring-tailed Lemur. These social, iconic, and charismatic lemurs may offer splendid photo opportunities.

Our drive towards Isalo is a spectacularly scenic. We search for the elegant Madagascar Harrier along the way on a beautiful grassland plateau, where we might also spot a few species of endemic ground orchid. The Isalo Massif itself is a landscape covered in golden grasslands with rugged sandstone outcrops with hints of silver and green. Set against the deep blue sky, this magnificent landscape is reminiscent of a John Wayne Western.

Fascinating birds here include Madagascar Partridge, Torotoroka Scops-Owl, and Benson's Rock-Thrush.
Accommodations surrounded by the spectacular mountains of the Isalo Massif (B,L,D)

Thurs., Nov. 7 – Sat., Nov. 9    Ranomafana National Park

Madagascar’s government established Ranomafana National Park in 1991 to protect one of the largest remaining rainforest patches in eastern Madagascar. In 2007, the park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This superb tract of forest, situated at a slightly higher elevation than Mantadia National Park, boasts 161-square miles of mid-altitude rainforest and higher altitude montane forest. Small streams cascade through the eternally green park, draining into the Namorana River. This river divides the park and serves as a source of electricity for the area.

This park is of special interest to primatologists: a new species of lemur, the Golden Bamboo, was discovered here in 1986. It is also one of the best places to find one of the world’s rarest primate species, the Greater Bamboo Lemur. A hotspot for lemur diversity, Ranomafana boasts 12 species, including the superb Milne-Edwards’ Sifaka. We explore the excellent network of paths through the forests and dense stands of giant bamboo for these and other mammal species. If we are lucky, we may see Malagasy Striped Civet and Ring-tailed Mongoose.

We also find a host of new bird species in these foothill and montane rainforests ? home to most of Madagascar’s avian endemics, including: Pitta-like Ground Roller, White-throated Oxylabes, Crossley’s Vanga, and Pollen’s Vanga. We also search for the more retiring Madagascar Wood-Rail, Brown Mesite, and Henst’s Goshawk.

Vohiparara, a nearby cloud forest site, is our focus one morning. This emerald forest of mist and moss is the best site in the world to find the brilliantly colored Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asity. Other excellent species here include Rufous-headed Ground-Roller, Brown Emutail, and Velvet Asity. Small patches of marsh may hold Gray Emutail and Madagascar Snipe. A nearby river holds possible Madagascar Pratincole.
Accommodations at Ranomafana (B,L,D)

Sun., Nov. 10    Antsirabe

Today is mostly a travel day. We pass colorful rice paddies on winding roads through the countryside until we arrive at the picturesque city of Antsirabe, the third largest city in Madagascar, known for its cool climate, thermal bath center, and plentiful rickshaw taxis. 
Accommodations at Antsirabe (B,L,D)

Mon., Nov. 11 – Wed., Nov. 13    Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

This morning we head to the famous Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, our base for the next three nights. This park, established in 1989, protects a spectacular 155-square kilometer rainforest that is home to 11 species of lemurs, including the child-sized Indri. If we are lucky, we are greeted by the Indri’s calls long before we see them — they can be heard from up to a mile away!

This wilderness is an incredibly lush region that records over 200 days of rain a year and home of the iconic Indri Lemur. Also known as Anamalazaotra Special Reserve, or by the French name Perinet, Andasibe was formerly part of a tract of contiguous forest with the larger Mantadia National Park. Deforestation has since fragmented these protected areas. We visit the two now divided preserves that protect one of Madagascar’s most important primary rainforest areas. 

We explore the area’s various trails with local guides, walking along streamsides and in ridge forest, as well as a small lake. This rainforest is Madagascar’s most biodiverse ecosystem. As a result, the list of birds we can see is long; highlights may include Madagascar Flufftail, Madagascar Blue Pigeon, Dark Newtonia, Nuthatch Vanga, and Madagascar Pygmy-Kingfisher. We may also be fortunate enough to encounter Collared Nightjar roosting almost imperceptibly on the forest ?oor, a species so poorly known that its vocalizations are still unknown. Another nocturnal species that we may see is Madagascar Long-eared Owl, the largest owl species on the island.

Mantadia is also the best place in the world for Ground-Rollers. With patience, visitors may find four secretive rainforest species in a single morning: Pitta-like, Scaly, Rufous-headed, and Short-legged Ground-Roller. We may also find Lesser Vasa Parrot and three species of Coua: Red-breasted, Blue, and Red-fronted.

Despite a long list of incredible birds, one of the top experiences here is the Indri’s morning calls as they echo through the misty forests. These plaintive wails from the world’s largest lemur are reminiscent of whale sounds! We listen and hopefully observe them at Andasibe, along with the iconic Diademed Sifaka and Black-and-White Ruffed, Greater Dwarf, Brown, and Gray Bamboo Lemurs.

The eastern rainforest is also an excellent place to sample some of Madagascar’s varied and colorful chameleons, day geckos, and leaf-tailed geckos. We search for these while birding during the day and we will have another opportunity to spot some of Madagascar’s unusual reptiles and amphibians on a night walk.
Accommodations in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park (B,L,D)

Thurs., Nov. 14    Drive to Tana | Departures

Our tour ends today. Today, we drive back to Tana, a 3-4 hour drive, which we make after some local birding. We plan to be back by 4:00 PM to catch your international flights home this evening from 7:00 PM onward, or we can help you make arrangements to stay on and explore on your own. Just ask! (B)

  • Long-tailed Ground Roller, Madagascar, Madagascar Nature Tour, Madagascar Wildlife Tour, Africa Wildlife,
  • Verraux's Sifaka, Madagascar, Madagascar Nature Tour, Madagascar Wildlife Tour, Africa Wildlife,
  • Subdesert Mesite, Madagascar, Madagascar Nature Tour, Madagascar Wildlife Tour, Africa Wildlife,
  • Madagascar Iguana, Madagascar, Madagascar Nature Tour, Madagascar Wildlife Tour, Africa Wildlife,
  • Pita-like Ground-Roller, Madagascar, Madagascar Nature Tour, Madagascar Wildlife Tour, Africa Wildlife,

Cost of the Journey

The cost of the journey is based on group size. There is a savings if you pay by check.

Group Size: 7 - 10 participants
$8290 DBL / $8840 SGL (by credit card)
$7990 DBL / $8540 SGL (by check)

Group Size: 6 participants
$8790 DBL / $9340 SLG (by credit card)
$8590 DBL / $9140 SGL (by check)

The price includes accommodations for 14 nights, all meals as indicated in the itinerary, a Naturalist Journeys host (with at least 8 participants) and a Birding Africa tour-leader. It includes local guides, bottled water in the bus, entry fees at parks and reserves and activities as indicated on the itinerary. A bird checklist is provided on arrival. 

Tour cost does not include: transportation from your home city to Antananarivo, optional activities, or items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone charges, gratuities for guides, lodges and drivers, or beverages from the bar.

Travel Details

Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.

Arrival and Departure Airport: Ivato International Airport (TNR) in Antananarivo (known as ‘Tana), Madagascar

Arrival Details: We encourage you to arrive a day early, on October 30, to rest up from your travels. Please plan flights to arrive no later than 5:00 PM on October 31, in order to join the group for dinner and orientation. 

Departure Details: Plan flights to depart November 14, after 7:00 PM
We should reach the airport by 4:00 PM on the departure day.

Travel Tips: This is a LONG way to fly, often with several stops, so coming in a day early to rest and relax is a great idea if you have the time to do so. We can book you an early night at our first night hotel, the San Cristobal Boutique Hotel, which is not far from the airport and in a quieter residential area. 

Items of Note

The exact sequence of events and locations on our itinerary may vary with Air Madagascar’s flight schedules. Sometimes we run this tour in reverse order, but the main areas we visit remain the same.

Our hotels are good by African standards! This isn't a budget trip and we make an extra effort to stay in comfortable hand-picked accommodations, upmarket where possible, and as close as possible to the best birding areas. Rooms have private facilities with hot showers, although the supply of hot water in Madagascar can be intermittent!

Meals are Western-style, with a hint of French and Malagasy influence. Zebu, the local beef, features predominantly on the menu. Seafood is popular at the coast. Please advise if you are vegetarian and what foods you enjoy, so that we can accommodate you. Water is not safe to drink, so we supply free bottled water in the vehicle, which you can take to your room in the evening for drinking and brushing teeth.

Pace of the Tour, Transport & Timing
The tour is timed to coincide with the breeding season. The days are cool to warm in the highlands and hot in the dry forest. To find birds and lemurs and cope with heat, we need to have early starts and a lot of time in the field. Transport for short distances is by minibus or four-wheel-drive vehicles, and for longer drives by a larger coaster bus, which regularly allows for approximately one and a half seats per person.

This tour requires a moderate to good degree of fitness. Most walks start at the coolest times of the day at a slow to fair pace. Most walks are generally relatively flat, with small ups and downs on many trails. There are two exceptions: at Ranomafana and Andasibe where the trails can be steep and the pace faster. These walks can either be skipped or taken slowly with a private trail guide.

Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.


  • Greg Smith, Guide Emeritus

    Greg spent over 20 years working as an ecologist managing sensitive bird species for California State Parks along the Central coast. His decision to promote to the Park Superintendent series allowed him to work directly with partners in conserving lands for the benefit of birds, people, and resources. And then he retired! Three days later he started his now eleven-year career with Naturalist Journeys by leading his first of over sixty tours. He had already traveled to all seven continents, and now has a Master Bird Banding permit, both of which made him a great fit to work with Peg and to lead natural history and birding tours to her exceptional array of tour locations. His relaxed style and breadth of knowledge makes his tours both educational and fun, all while exploring Naturalist Journeys' diverse locations and viewing the areas' distinctive birds, wildlife, and plant species. Two of his favorite past times are good food and photography, so take a peek at his Flickr site to see some of what he shares with those that join him on his tours.

    Other trips with Greg Smith, Guide Emeritus

Map for Madagascar: 8th Continent!

Essential Information +

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have Read more

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!

Ahead of your tour:

  • Make sure your passport will be valid at least six months after the date of your scheduled return to the U.S. If you are from another country, please contact the Madagascar Embassy website for guidelines.
  • Obtain your visa for Madagascar. Details are on the Madagascar Embassy website. See the "Passports, Visas & Documents" section below.
  • Make sure you have all recommended and required vaccinations and anti-malarial medications. Please consult your physician regarding general travel vaccinations and anti-malarial meds. Going to Madagascar requires some medical caution, so contact your doctor early so if you need vaccinations, you can spread them out. You will need medication to prevent malaria. Several other vaccines are recommended. Review the “General Health & Inoculations” section below.
  • Make your international flight reservations into and out of Ivato International Airport (TNR). Please send a copy of your itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office, This information will help us coordinate arrival pick-up and departures. We can book early arrivals, who will have the option of a half-day trip to a local lake. See the "Arrival" and "Departure" sections below.
  • Our local operator requires emergency evacuation and medical insurance. Medical care facilities in Madagascar are not of standards you are used to; most emergencies require transport to South Africa. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance. Bring contact information for your coverage in case of emergency. See the "Travel & Health Insurance" section below.
  • Soft-sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Pack essential medications in your carry-on, as well as your optics and one day of clothing in case of luggage delay. To avoid extra charges, observe the baggage weight limit. See the "Packing, Clothing & Laundry" section below.

What to Expect

An adventure to remember forever awaits you! When traveling in a developing country, the unexpected can be right around the corner – we will likely encounter a mix of challenging and rewarding experiences. Our operator describes it this way: “concepts of being organized and reliable can be different from back home.” In Madagascar this is an understatement, especially with internal flights, we may find some real frustration, or simply have to choose a long drive over the delay. Accommodations, food and transport may not have the same quality and safety standards as those at home and even reliable hotels will sometimes double-book rooms. Our partner there has long-time experience in Madagascar and will do everything possible to keep us safe and comfortable.

That being said, standards in Madagascar have improved over the last decade. Our experience to date has been very positive, in both food and lodging. Madagascar has been a European travel destination for a long time. There is a strong French influence in the food; we find fresh hot baguettes in the smallest places! Just expect at times we will need to go to “Plan B”, perhaps even a “Plan C.” Bringing a spirit of adventure and flexibility can help you prepare for, and even enjoy, unexpected circumstances. And of course, your leaders are there to help navigate the unexpected to the trip’s best possible advantage.

Browse these helpful websites to learn what to expect in Madagascar:

Arrival In Antananarivo International (TNR), known locally as “TANA”

To make sure your flight syncs well with the tour start and end times, please discuss your flight details with the Naturalist Journeys office before you confirm your flight booking. Once we know your flight details, we will book your airport transfer and upon request, any extra accommodation (optional day-rooms, overnight rooms) you may need before or after the tour. These are not included in the tour cost and you can pay them directly at the hotel’s reception.

For the main tour, please plan to arrive at your leisure into Ivato International Airport (TNR) in Antananarivo, Madagascar on November 4. Airline personnel on the plane will give you forms to fill out – please have your passport and visa handy while you travel. While the visa can currently be obtained on arrival, we recommend taking care of this ahead of time in case the line is long.

After arriving at the airport, you first pass through immigration. Then collect your baggage at the carousel indicated and pass through customs, where they X-ray your baggage before you depart.  Once OUTSIDE of immigration and customs, in the airport’s arrival hall, look for a representative from our first night hotel with your name on a sign.  If you do not see someone, wait a few minutes as traffic can cause delay around the airport, then phone the Hotel Emergency contact number to be provided ahead of travel. People are generally friendly and helpful so if you have the number handy, someone with a cell phone will assist.

For those arriving early, you can relax at the hotel or join an optional field trip set up to explore Tana’s Lac Alarobia, which may offer Madagascar Pond Heron, Comb Duck, Hottentot Teal, Little Grebe, Madagascar Kingfisher, dragonflies, butterflies, and the skulking day geckos. The main tour starts with a briefing at the hotel near the airport at 7:00 PM. If you arrive somewhat later, the tour-leader will leave a note for you at reception stating the breakfast and meet-up time.

Please note: If you are delayed in travel, please FIRST call the number of our tour operator. As a backup, contact our office (both numbers are on your emergency contact list). 

Please check the Travel Details tab of this tour for additional information and updates.

Departures from Antananarivo International (TNR)

Please plan departures from Ivato International (TNR) after 7:00 PM on November 18. Or at your leisure on Nov. 19 (a hotel room on Nov. 18 is at an additional cost). We can book the extra hotel nights for you and add this to your invoice.

Please check the Travel Details tab of this tour for additional information and updates.

Travel And Health Insurance Policies

As Madagascar is a remote destination, our ground operator, Birding Africa, requires that participants MUST be fully insured before traveling on this tour. They recommend that your insurance policies cover pre-departure cancellations (for example in the event of illness), damage to or theft of optical equipment, and your insurance must cover repatriation to and treatment at medical facilities in South Africa or the U.S., Naturalist Journeys recommends Allianz Travel Insurance, but you are welcome to shop around for a policy best suited to your needs. Three companies that we have used for evacuation include Global Rescue, World Nomads, and Medjet, and all can be booked online – these are based on destination and not on the amount you pay for your journey, an estimate for coverage of this type is $300-$500.

Passports, Visas & Documents

Guidelines and regulations can change. It is always advisable to double-check the country’s documentation requirements 60-90 days ahead of traveling. Information for U.S. citizens can be found at If you are from another country, please contact the tour destination’s embassy website for guidelines.


Your passport must be in good condition and must be valid for SIX months AFTER your scheduled return to the U.S. Please check that expiration date! Your passport should have at least two entirely blank pages. The blank pages need to say "Visas" at the top.  Pages marked "Amendments and Endorsements" will not be accepted.


You will need to get a visa for Madagascar. We recommend it be done ahead of time by mail at the Madagascar Embassy office in Washington, DC.  [This can be done in person upon arrival, but you can expect long lines and a wait; most of our travelers take care of this step ahead of time.] Madagascar issues a tourist visa for those visiting for up to 60 days. The application form and complete instructions are found on the Madagascar Embassy's Visa & Consular Services webpage (at this time there is not an electronic visa option). You can work directly with the embassy or use the security of an expedited service – that service has a fee, but you will get your passport back quickly. Choose one of the many expedite services in Washington DC (query Passport Expedite for Visa Services Washington DC). You will FedEx your completed forms and the passport to their office and they walk your passport over to the embassy to complete the process and FedEx it back to you.

***It is strongly recommended that you send the information above at least one month (but within three months) in advance of your flight departure from the USA. When mailing, send certified or a trackable manner (such as FedEx) to:

Embassy of Madagascar, Consular Office
2374 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20008

Main and VISA Info Tel: (202) 265-5525; Fax: 202-265-3034

As a precaution for lost or misplaced documents you carry on your person during travel, we highly recommend you keep hard and digital backup copies on your phone (either photo or PDF scan), as well as a hard copy left with your emergency contact at home. The recommended important documents to copy include, but are not limited to; your passport ID page, travel visa, the front and back of your credit card(s), the airline barcode on your luggage. This will greatly expedite getting new ones if necessary – we hope everyone will always keep travel documents close so that losing them will not be an issue.

General Health & Inoculations Information - Be Prepared!

We will share your health information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important as we want to be best prepared in case of a medical emergency. Keep in mind that Madagascar is a third-world country with considerable poverty, so thorough preparation is key.

Three helpful websites for planning:


Vaccinations: Bring copies of your up-to-date vaccination records with you. The CDC recommends that all travelers be up to date with routine vaccinations and basic travel vaccines (such as Hepatitis A and Typhoid) before traveling to any destination. Please check with your medical provider for recommendations at least 4-6 weeks before departing on your trip. The Center for Disease Control website for Madagascar is helpful for planning. 

Yellow Fever: If you have traveled (or had a layover >12 hrs) in a yellow fever endemic country within 6 months of arrival, proof of yellow fever vaccination is required  (check the CDC Yellow Book for list of countries at risk for yellow fever).

Malaria: Talk to your doctor well ahead of the tour about how to prevent malaria while traveling. We will be in areas with malaria risk (see more detailed information about malaria in Madagascar). Even if you are traveling during the dry season (less risk than wet season for mosquitos), the risk still exists and you need to take prescription medicine before, during, and after your trip to prevent malaria. Note that mosquitos in Madagascar are resistant to Chloroquine. Many malarial drugs require you to start taking them ahead of the tour, during and after. Some have side effects such as nausea, so you may want to try them out before leaving home.  Also, avoid mosquito bites by packing a careful choice of clothing and repellent.

Other medications: All travelers should bring along an antibiotic and an antidiarrheal drug as recommended by your doctor:

 If you start to have problems, medicate right away rather than waiting – catching this early is key. 

Prescriptions: It is a good idea to pack any meds you take regularly in your carry-on luggage.  Bring an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. Bring an adequate supply of any prescription medications you use, a copy of the prescription and a list of generic names of your medicines as “back-up” in case it is necessary to purchase drugs while abroad. You’ll want to keep medications in their original, labeled containers. 

NOTE: Madagascar pharmacies have medications of mostly French origin. If you need to refill a prescription from a US physician, it is therefore important to provide the generic name of the drugs. Because of the low availability of prescription and over-the-counter medications in Madagascar, please plan to carry a supply of any needed medication sufficient for the entire length of the trip. We recommend that you pack all medications in your carry-on bag.

Allergies: To be prepared for environmental triggers to allergies or breathing difficulties, please bring your allergy and/or asthma medication(s).  If you have severe allergies talk to your doctor about carrying an EPI pen and notify your guides. It is also recommended to carry with you an up-to-date record of known allergies, chronic medical problems and Medic Alerts so that, if necessary, emergency treatment can be carried out without endangering your health.

Common Ailments: We recommend that you bring a travel-sized first aid kit and a supply of standard over-the-counter medications for prevention or treatment of common ailments (such as diarrhea, constipation, stomach upset, cough, congestion, head or body aches, insect bites and sunburn); as well as ointments, moisturizer, sunscreen, oral rehydration salts, band-aids, moleskin for blisters, cotton swabs, nail clippers, and tweezers, etc.

Altitude sickness: It can affect some and, if there is a concern, be prepared. The most general symptoms are headache and occasionally fatigue and dizziness. You’ll want to take it easy, particularly at first. These symptoms can be reduced by resting, drinking plenty of water and taking aspirin. If you have worries about the altitude, ask your physician about medications that may be right for you.

Annoyances & Hazards

Bring a sufficient supply of repellent containing 25-50% DEET (N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide) or 20% picaridin (Bayrepel) to apply to exposed skin (but not to the eyes, mouth, or open wounds). DEET may also be applied to clothing. Products with a lower concentration of either repellent need to be re-applied more frequently. Permethrin-treated clothing appears to have little toxicity, so spraying your clothing ahead of the tour is an easy way to gain added protection; products are available online or at major sporting goods stores.

It is a good idea not to sleep with the window open unless there is a screen. In rural or forested areas, check for ticks at the end of each day with the assistance of a friend or a mirror, particularly after wet conditions. We do not find them often. If you encounter a tick, it should be removed with tweezers, grasping the tick by the head. Many tick-borne illnesses can be prevented by prompt tick removal.


This tour requires a fair degree of fitness. Most walks will start at the coolest times of the day at a moderate pace. Walks in the spiny forests of the dry south and in the dry deciduous forest of the north west are sandy and can become hot early-on. The trails in the eastern forests are much cooler but can be quite steep. They can also be slippery if wet. A light walking stick can be of help (we can also find a wooden stick locally). Time in the field can span several hours, with no access to conventional seating areas and bathrooms. Please bring a small backpack or waist-bag for day walks. You also may want a portable stool, a wonderful way to rest a bit on the way. We do use local guides in each park, and can pace the outings for varied fitness levels to some degree.

Packing, Clothing & Laundry

Dress is very informal. Pack with considerations for lightweight layering to provide options to get you through a day of varying degrees comfortably. Some people will change for dinner, but it is usually just a fresh version of what they wore during the day that can still be worn the next day.

Please pack light and if possible, use soft-sided or duffel bags which are easier to pack into the vans! We are serious about this - we move around a lot.  Observe airline luggage weight restrictions. For flights within Madagascar, a checked bag is limited to 23 kg (50 lbs). One carry-on bag and a small personal bag such as a purse or laptop is allowed at 5 kg (11 lbs). The carry-on may not exceed a maximum size (L+W+H) of 115 cm/45 inches. If your camera gear is heavy, consider a birding vest with pockets for lenses, or carry one camera around your neck. You can bring heavier baggage, but may have to pay excess weight fees.

TRAVEL TIP: Imagine NOT getting your suitcase. Wear your most important shoes for the field and have one day’s clothing change (including a change of underwear!). And please DO NOT pack any essential medications, or your vital optics, in your checked luggage!

Refer to the Packing List section under this tour's Know Before You Go tab.


Madagascar is a fairly safe place to travel, and is regularly visited by Europeans - you will be surprised at how many tourists you find. For safety and security use common sense. Take the same precautions as you would in any major city at home: be alert when walking with obvious belongings like cameras; do not carry large sums of cash with you; keep a close watch on handbags, purses, wallets, etc.; lock up valuables in hotel safe deposit boxes. Expect people and children to crowd around you at stops. Keep valuables out of view and travel documents in a safe place (such as an under-clothing document belt). Again, taking a photo of your ticket, boarding pass, and luggage tags gives you immediate backup. That little luggage stub is important if bags are lost!


Malagasy is the first language; French is the official business language. English is restricted to a few people mainly associated with tourism. Looking up words ahead of time for common foods is a plus. If you know some French, it’s a really good time to brush up on it!

Food & Drinks

Most of our meals will be at our hotels, and in local restaurants recommended by our guide during travel – with your guides’ recommendations, do not be afraid to try local cuisine! Home-made fruit juices and raw salads may prove too much for some though at our hotels they are generally okay, your guides will advise. In general while hard to resist, cooked vegetables are safer than salads. Be careful not to consume unpasteurized dairy products. We will carry water and snacks while in transit. If you have any dietary restrictions or preferences beyond vegetarian preference, you may want to bring specialty foods as they are generally not available.

The tap water in Madagascar is not potable, and we recommend that you drink only bottled or hotel-filtered and treated water, which is widely available but results in the use of plastics. This is a great trip to bring a LifeStraw water bottle, it comes with a filter and allows you to drink tap water and refill at any source we encounter, saving on repeated use of plastic bottles. Complimentary bottled water is available on our buses and we try to get large bottles to refill your bottle. At hotels, during dinners and most lunches (except picnics), beer, soft drinks and bottle water is available for purchase. Another option to LifeStraw that works for making hot beverages in your room, a SteriPen produces an excellent filter that is light to carry and allows you to treat tap water with UV light – and cut down use of plastics. Bringing a Steri Pin lets you treat water right at the table, handy!

Changing Money

Access to ATM’s is limited across the country, so we suggest that you change enough currency at the airport for your entire trip. Several currency exchange services can be conveniently found in the international terminal. The local currency (the Malagasy Ariary - MGA) can be bought with cash (US dollars, Euro, or British Pounds) at the Forex bureau and the bank inside the airport's arrival and departure halls. Another option is a Travel Exchange office across the parking lot opposite the terminal. In the past, compared to other currency exchange services (major banks included) used, Travel Exchange offered a slightly better exchange rate for the local currency. 

Larger denominations may receive better exchange rates. If you bring US dollars, please note that bills older than 5 years or worn may be refused. You may need to call ahead to your bank to have newer currency ready for you. For currency exchange rates, please consult You can use credit cards (Visa and Mastercard are your best bet) at your arrival hotel, and at larger hotels on the journey.

Avoid theft and use common sense when exchanging currency or paying for items. Make sure you first count the money you are giving the vendor in front of them, ask for exchanged money or change to be counted out in front of you and finally, recount it in front of the vendor before you leave the counter. If they offer to put your money in an envelope before it is returned to you, kindly decline or ask for the envelope to be passed over separately. That is one more way a bill may magically disappear from the stack that was just counted!

Spending Money

Madagascar is primarily a cash-driven economy and we recommend using the local currency, Malagasy Ariary, for all payments. Madagascar’s currency can be confusing! The government changed the currency from the Malagasy Franc (FMG) to the Malagasy Ariary (MGA) several years ago, however, many Malagasy still think in terms of the Malagasy Franc, which is not the same value as the Malagasy Ariary. 1 Ariary (MGA) = 5 Francs (FMG), so when you see or hear the amount of money you have to pay, be sure you all are talking about Ariarys before paying! If you look at the Ariary, you will see that it has the Franc equivalent printed on it. 

Though larger hotels and resorts accept credit cards, most shops and restaurants are cash only. ATMs are available in large cities and at the international terminal at Antananarivo Ivato airport, but often not beyond those areas. All ATM’s will only dispense Ariary. The most widely accepted card is VISA, but we recommend that you plan to bring a credit card for emergency use only. Please do not take Travelers Checks as you will not be able to change them.

NOTE: You may wish to advise your bank or credit card company that you will be travelling in Africa to avoid questions on charges.  

Many people ask how much cash to plan to have on hand as spending money.  Part of that depends on how much you want to shop.  Typical items people purchase include: local souvenirs and T-shirts, handicrafts, drinks before or with dinner, telephone, maps and natural history books. Handicrafts include products made of raffia, silk, or wood, available at park headquarters at Andasibe and Ranomafana. One suggestion is enough Aviary (value of approximately $25 US Dollars) per day per person, for drinks from the bar, services such as laundry, and souvenirs/crafts, but that is just a guideline.


Tipping throughout the tour is at your discretion; some guidelines follow below. At larger (mostly city) hotels, tip maids and bar service as you would at home. At eco-lodges, there is typically a staff tip box in a public area; the going rate per person is US $6-$10 a day, which is shared among staff for maid service, and general staff service at the lodges. Gratuities for group meals are already included. Your Naturalist Journeys host will take care of smaller tips such field trip services by boat drivers, night drive outings, single activities. Your additional tip is encouraged for birding tour guides and drivers who are with you for several days or the full trip; US $10-$15 per day per guest is standard for guide service, and half that for a driver. If you have more than one local guide assigned to your journey, they will share the daily amount. We encourage tipping for the local teams hosting you; anything extra for your Naturalist Journeys host is at your discretion.

In Madagascar, it is customary to tip porters immediately, these are available at the parks to help you carry gear or keep your footing on trails; you hiring them contributes to the local economy so do not be shy if you want some help.

Our Birding Africa tour leader has offered to distribute tips for the hotel staff, local park guides, and the drivers (as we have flights, we used different drivers along the way) on your behalf – we have requested an amount they recommend to make to a tip pool to handle this and will advise you on this with your Schedule at a Glance. We want to keep it simple for you.


Electrical outlets in Madagascar are 220 volts/AC50Hz. Plug sockets are one of two European standard two round pin electrical socket types: Type C European CEE 7/16 Europlug and Type E/F European CEE 7/4 or CEE 7/5 Schuko. U.S. appliances and chargers will need a travel plug adapter – one for each of the two types of plugs.

But be aware, travel plug adapters do not change the voltage.  IN ADDITION to bringing an adapter, while most modern appliances now convert for you, please check that each of your cords has a box on it or is labeled to handle the different voltage. The electrical input specifications will appear on a label on the appliance itself, or on its charger or AC adapter if it uses one, near where the brand name and model number appear. Look for the word "input”:

  • Input: ~100-240V 50/60Hz 65W appliance is compatible with multiple voltages (just need adapter)
  • Input: 115/230V 50/60Hz 200W appliance can be switched between 110-120 volts in North America, and 220-240 volts in other parts of the world (flip switch on device, and use adapter)
  • Input: 120V 60Hz 2.8A appliance is only compatible with a single voltage, in this case, 120 volts (need voltage converter or transformer AND adapter)

Click here for more detailed information on socket types, adapters, and compatible appliances for Madagascar.

Note: If you want to charge your laptop in another country visited before or after Madagascar, such as on your flight route, you will need that plug adapter as well. Just query the country name and plug adapter and a picture should appear in one of the selections. 

Electricity will be available most nights. To be safe, please bring sufficient rechargeable batteries for your camera, torch/flashlight and other electronics. Some devices such as hairdryers can draw a lot of power and should not be used where electricity is powered by solar panels or a generator - kindly check with reception beforehand.


Accommodations will be with private bathroom wherever possible and at all pre-booked hotel locations.  As last minute flight changes often cause hotels to overbook, please be aware that occasionally we can’t guarantee our chosen accommodation. A list will be provided to you ahead of the journey, about 30 days ahead. To date we’ve had very good reception and accountability,  but we are always prepared to be flexible in Madagascar!

Cell Phones & Internet Service

If you plan on using your cell phone on this trip, please check with your wireless provider to see if your

phone and service will work in your destination country. Options include activating international roaming, purchasing a local SIM card at the airport (newer phones may not accept SIM cards), or simply turning off cellular service and relying on Wi-Fi to make calls and access the internet. You can also purchase an International pre-paid calling card to make calls from hotels as phone service is available.

To call United States from Madagascar, dial:
00 - 1 - Area Code - Land Phone Number 
00 - 1 - 10 Digit Mobile Number

Mobile network coverage is reasonable throughout most of Madagascar, though you may have to travel a short distance to reach an area of coverage. Although generally a reliable service, it can be affected by adverse weather conditions in more remote locations. Consider downloading smart phone apps like Skype, WhatsApp, or Viber to send text messages, and make voice calls, or video calls via Wi-Fi. Renting an international phone may also be an option.

If you plan NOT to use your cell phone, we highly recommend that you turn off your cellular data. This will ensure that you do not incur international roaming charges. Another technique is to put your phone in airplane mode when not connected to WIFI, you can still use it for photos and the battery will last longer too.

Phoning hotels and lodges directly is often not possible or unreliable. Our office will provide an emergency contact on the tour. The Naturalist Journeys office can also help you. Contact or 800.426.7781. Please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls in vehicles when traveling with other passengers, unless it is an emergency.


Madagascar is on Eastern Africa Time, and there is no daylight savings. This is UTC +3, and is ten hours ahead of California. A great website if you want to tell someone to check ahead of calling you is


Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey!


Pace & Protocols +

Pace of the Tour & What to Expect You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of Read more

Pace of the Tour & What to Expect

You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.

Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.

The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.

We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.

Naturalist Journeys International Trips: Guide Role

Naturalist Journeys supports ecotourism and the development of excellent local guides. Once we know our international partners and guides well, we can send out small groups working directly with these trusted partners, adding a Naturalist Journeys guide to assist the local expert when we have a group of 6-7 or more. This helps us keep your costs down while retaining tour quality. The local guide is your main guide. You can expect your Naturalist Journeys guide to be well-researched and often they are experienced in the destination, but their role is not to be primary, it is to help to organize logistics, help you find birds, mammals, and interesting other species in the field, keep reports, help facilitate group interactions, and to keep the trip within Naturalist Journeys' style. Local guides live in the countries we travel to, know the destinations intimately, and are often the strongest force for conservation in their countries. They open many doors for us to have a rich experience.


Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.


As a courtesy to each other, we ask that all travelers please rotate seating. On international trips we may all be in one small bus, on some trips we are in vans, particularly the roomy Sprinter Vans when available. Some areas require us to be in smaller 4-wheel drive or safari vehicles. Rotation allows you to sit with different drivers and alternate front and back seating.

Photo Release & Sharing

We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.

By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives’ permission to record on photography film and/or video, pictures of my participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochure, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.

Travel Insurance

You are traveling in remote areas. Naturalist Journeys strongly recommends you have full medical and evacuation insurance from a company such as Allianz, for all international travel. If you do not have medical coverage or evacuation coverage on your existing travel insurance policy or for some reason elected not to take that out, we advise getting an evacuation plan with Global RescueWorld Nomads, Medjet, Allianz (they can do evacuation only) or a similar company. These plans are typically $300-$400 for a year for multiple destinations. This coverage may be a part of a larger Travel Insurance policy but can also be purchased on its own.


Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.


Packing List +

Please pack light! Soft-sided luggage is much easier for us to load in vehicles, and we Read more

Please pack light!

Soft-sided luggage is much easier for us to load in vehicles, and we have quite a few moves to make, so if you have the choice, please use your soft luggage. Any other reductions in weight you can make are much appreciated. Remember, dress is casual, so please try your best!

NOTE: LOCAL FLIGHTS ON AIR MADAGASCAR HAVE A STRICT WEIGHT LIMIT of 23 kg (50 lbs) for checked luggage. The published limit for a carry-on is 5 kg (11 lbs). We know those with camera gear will be stretched, it may be possible to ask others to assist or wear one camera with smaller lens in a vest or coat on the plane. Going overweight is possible, but you may incur excess baggage charges. Madagascar Airlines baggage allowances.

Be sure to have your name and address on the inside of the bag, as well as on the luggage tag on the handle.  It is our hope that you can pack in one checked suitcase that does not exceed 44 pounds.  Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, passport, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag. You will want a day pack for field trips, so this is an ideal carry-on. Please reconfirm your airline’s baggage weight and size restrictions about a week or so before departure.

While at lower altitudes and on the plains, the temperatures in Madagascar can be warm to hot; however, it will be cold in the mid to higher altitudes, including evenings and mornings in Antananarivo, so please bring a fleece jacket or sweater to layer with a raincoat/windbreaker. In general, temperatures will range with highs in the high-80s°F to lows in the mid-50s°F.

Dress is very informal – be comfortable, light and casual. All lodges are fine with casual clothing at meals. Lightweight long-sleeve shirts, long pants, and closed toe boots make ideal field clothing, as they are more protective from sun, vegetation, and biting insects that may carry disease. Choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty. Dust is very common, so a bandana or loose-fitting scarf is great, and something to drape over your camera as you travel.

Note on clothing colors and insect repellent: We recommend muted colors of tan, brown, khaki, grey or green, as they are spotted less easily than white or bright colors, though camouflage clothing is not recommended. It is possible to purchase field clothing permeated with insect repellent such as the Craghoppers Insect Shield collection. Another approach is to purchase Permethrin spray (online or from REI) to treat your field clothing and socks before your departure. Another approach is to purchase Permethrin spray (online or from REI) to treat your field clothing and socks before your departure.

Laundry services are available in the hotels and lodges, for a nominal feel. This is best timed for when we have at least two nights in the same lodge.

Clothing & Gear

  • Lightweight long pants, 2-3 pair (pants that convert to shorts can be very useful)
  • Lightweight long-sleeve shirts, 2
  • T-shirts or equivalent (2-3 – remember you are very likely to buy one or more)
  • Personal underclothing (consider what dries quickly if you plan to do some laundry)
  • Socks – lightweight, and easy to wash and dry. Leech socks are optional for use on wet forest trails (tucking socks in pants is also effective)
  • Sleepwear
  • Swimsuit (some of the lodges have pools)
  • Sturdy walking shoes or boots suitable for uneven terrain or muddy mountain trails
  • Lighter footwear or sturdy sandals such as Teva-type sandals with socks work well travel days and in the hot desert (socks keep out sun and insects with spray applied)
  • Comfortable clothes for evening/travel days (a cleaner version of your field clothes or a skirt, sundress and shawl, etc.)
  • Warm fleece sweater or jacket
  • Raincoat, lightweight waterproof jacket, or waterproof poncho
  • Field vest (optional) These are incredibly handy in the vehicle when you are searching for a field guide, camera chip, pocket camera, Chapstick. A great source is Big Pockets
  • Belt, if needed, for pants
  • Hat with broad brim
  • Bandana (optional, great for cooling off when hot and sweaty, or as a camera dust cover)

Equipment & Miscellaneous

  • Airline tickets or e-ticket verification
  • Passport, visa (if required), travel insurance info, cash to change to local currency, credit cards and a tested ATM (check your passcode!).
  • A secure pouch to carry the items above on your person (such as a secure, under-clothing document pouch)
  • As a backup: copies of all the above (phone and/or paper) packed in a separate location than on your person, plus a set given to your emergency contact at home as a backup. For passport, copy of the  ID and entry stamp pages.
  • Small daypack/tote bag to carry/organize gear while in the vehicles
  • Binoculars (a hotel shower cap is great to cover these when it is raining or dusty). We suggest that you do not skimp on your binoculars or bring an old pair you have not used in a long time. Test them out at home. If it’s time to upgrade, the trip is a great excuse
  • Toiletry articles: shampoo and conditioner, body and facial soap, dental supplies, razor, emery boards, hairbrush/comb, hand lotion, feminine hygiene, deodorant, tweezers, etc. Note that power may be limited and a hair dryer is not always available. If you MUST have one bring it but consider that it may be one item, you can leave at home
  • Steri-Pen or other UV water treatment device to help cut down on the use of plastic bottles and make sure you have fresh water, safe to drink at all times (optional). We do carry water in vehicles, but sometimes you forget to supply for the evening, and this devise allows you to securely drink tap water
  • Another option for safe water is a water bottle with a built-in filter, like LifeStraw
  • Disinfectant antiseptic wipes or anti-bacterial gel in small bottle
  • Camera and extra batteries, battery charger, memory cards/sticks, lens cleaning supplies, and your instruction manual (optional, but really important if you have problems, digital copy handy)
  • Electrical converter and adapter plugs. If you have multiple items that need charging, a lightweight small power strip helps so you can plug in multiple items on the adapter. If you want to charge on a layover, also consider the type of adapter you may need in that country
  • Sunglasses with neck strap – really important with long days of bright sun
  • Flashlight or headlamp with sufficient fresh/rechargeable batteries for extent of tour
  • Alarm clock or phone with this function
  • EIGHT CLIP-TYPE CLOTHES PINS. Mosquito nets are supplied in all places where malaria occurs but are sometimes a little bit small. Clothes pins can help seal the ‘doorways’ in the nets so it’s useful to bring at least 8
  • Walking stick (optional but recommended if you regularly use one or if you plan to hike)
  • Umbrella – compact and not brightly colored (optional but very handy)
  • Pocket knife (make sure this is in your CHECKED luggage) (optional)
  • Cell phone (optional)
  • Journal and pen or tablet/laptop (optional)
  • Field guides (optional) - A wildlife checklist will be supplied for you to print ahead for daily tally
  • Reading material or Kindle/Nook (optional)
  • Waterproof sleeve that can hold your check list and valuable documents (optional)
  • Telescope (optional). Tour-leaders will carry a scope while birding when not on difficult trails or in thick forest areas. If you regularly use a scope and want to bring one fine, but leader scopes should be adequate


WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing, and your mind will be at ease!

Medical & First Aid Items

  • Anti-malarial drugs
  • Personal prescription medication (and copy of vital prescriptions, including glasses or have at easy reference to call home)
  • Emergency prescriptions. We recommend you ask your doctor about carrying a prescription for stomach and respiratory illness, just in case. Cipro is often recommended and works quickly – it can mean saving several days of your vacation
  • Personal first aid kit and medications for general ailments, cuts, and scrapes include antibiotic, antiseptic cream, band-aids, aspirin, acetaminophen, tear gel, sunblock and lip protection with sunscreen, and oral rehydration salts
  • Insect repellent (preferably containing a high concentration of DEET)
  • Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed on bus, van, drives, etc.
  • Heath insurance and vaccination information (kept in personal pouch with other travel documents)
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
  • Other: people often want anti-itch cream or perhaps talc for their feet – whatever keeps you comfortable. These items can all be donated at the end to lighten your load if you wish.

Donations and Gifts

If you would enjoy doing so, by all means bring a baseball cap, T-shirt or some memento from home you think our main Madagascar tour drivers and guides would like. At each local reserve there are numerous local guides! We can distribute school supplies such as flash cards, colored magic markers, or pencils. If you bring clothing or footgear you don’t need to take home, it will readily find a home as a leave-behind. All donations are optional, so any gifts are appreciated. Madagascar is a poor country and you will see poverty. For any gift items, we will ask our local guide to help us distribute.


Suggested Reading List +

Reading List  There are many titles of interest for Madagascar; the following are a few that Read more

Reading List

 There are many titles of interest for Madagascar; the following are a few that we have enjoyed that can get you started (and, of course, are optional). 

Top Picks

Birds of Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands

Merlin App. – Trinidad Pack. A phone-based birding app from Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. Before departing the U.S., download the app. for free, then from within the app, download the “pack” for Trinidad.


Field Guides

Birds of Madagascar: A Photographic Guide

Chamberlain's Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands: Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion, Rodrigues, Seychelles and the Comoros

Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide

Madagascar Wildlife

Wildlife of Madagascar (Wildlife Explorer Guides)

Lemurs of Madagascar

Lemurs of Madagascar Pocket Identification Guide,

Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Madagascar

Field Guide to the Orchids of Madagascar

Field Guide to the Mangrove Trees of Africa and Madagascar

Field Guide to the Palms of Madagascar

Wildlife & Nature

The Natural History of Madagascar

The Eighth Continent: Life, Death, and Discovery in the Lost World of Madagascar

Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction

Extinct Madagascar: Picturing the Island’s Past

Madagascar: The Eighth Continent

Muddling Through Madagascar

For the Love of Lemurs

Madagascar: A Short History

Flashman’s Lady

A History of Madagascar

Speak Malagasy While Traveling in Madagascar

As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.


Useful Links +

Learn more about your destination at these external websites, carefully researched for you. Read more







Nature, Wildlife & Biology







Spiny Thickets

Island of Lemur (trailer for NATURE documentary)

Madagascar Children of Lemuria (Planet Doc full documentary, 50 min)

Stand for Trees, Makira Natural Park Project

African Bird Club

Madagascar Species Lists

Conservation, Parks & Reserves

Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

Ranomafana National Park

Isalo National Park

Zombitse National Park

Anja Community Reserve (Anjaha)

Geology & Geography

Geology of Madagascar

Geography of Madagascar

Nosy Ve Islet

History & Culture

History of Madagascar

Culture of Madagascar

Languages of Madagascar

Malagasy Cuisine – Encyclopedic Overview

The Delights of Madagascan Cuisine

Helpful Travel Websites

Ivato International Airport (TNR)

National Passport Information Center

U.S. Department of State International Travel Information – Madagascar

Homeland Security Real ID Act

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Center for Disease Control (CDC) – Madagascar

Canada Travel Advice and Advisories - Madagascar

Travel Health Pro (UK) - Madagascar

Foreign Exchange Rates

ATM Locator

Electricity and Plugs – Madagascar

Date, Time, and Holidays - Madagascar

Photo credits: Banner: Ring-tailed Lemur by Bob Ashley; Chameleon by Bob Ashley; Green Sunbird, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Baobab Trees, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Moth, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Chameleon by Bob Ashley; Diademed Sifaka by Peg Abbott; Rickshaw Ride by Mike Anderson, Red Fody, Bob Behrstock; Andasibe NP Sign, Peg Abbott; Indri Andasibe NP, Peg Abbott; Ranomafana Scene, Carlos Sanchez; Ifaty Landscape, Bob Rodrigues; Group Photo, Carlos Sanchez; Long-tailed Ground-Roller, Bob Rodrigues; Verraux's Sifaka, Carlos Sanchez, Subdesert Mesite, Carlos Sanchez; Madagascar Iguana, Carlos Sanchez; Pita-like Ground-Roller, Carlos Sanchez


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