April 20 - May 16, 2023
Intro Anjozorobe Andasibe Akanin'ny Nofy Ranomafana Anja Isalo Arboretum d'Antsokay Ifaty

I had been to Madagascar twice already, once in 1996 with my wife and a couple of friends, and once in 2007 with my wife and my sister. But for someone entranced by wildlife, and particularly reptiles and amphibians, it's impossible to visit Madagascar enough times. I had been dreaming about another visit for many years.

Traveling in Madagascar isn't easy. It has gotten easier since 2007 and much easier since 1996, but the roads are still terrible (maybe even more terrible), and it's still hard to communicate in many places unless you are fluent in French and/or Malagasy, which I am not. Also, figuring out where you have to go and to whom you have to talk in order to visit National Parks and other natural areas still requires local expertise. So I had no illusions about planning a trip by myself. But when I saw that the Ecuador-based organization Tropical Herping had begun to offer trips to Madagascar, I couldn't resist. I signed up for their Madagascar herping tour and began dreaming of my upcoming third visit to this fantastic island of chameleons, geckos, lemurs, and so much more.

That was in 2019, with the trip scheduled for April 2020. You might remember what happened next. When the world was finally more or less safe enough to travel in again, this trip had been pushed and pushed and pushed once more, until it finally settled in April 2023. You can imagine that I was more than ready by then.

Cast of Characters

We had two guides from Tropical Herping: José Vieira (originally from Venezuela) and Frank Pichardo (originally from Peru). They were joined by ecologist and general knower-of-all-things Rainer Dolch (originally from Germany, but living in Madagascar for 30+ years). Together the three of them made all of the arrangements for lodging, transportation, food, etc., spotted and identified animals, helped with photography, and did the million other things required to make the trip smooth, enjoyable, and productive. Rainer's wife Maholy Ravaloharimanitra, a primatologist, joined us for some parts of the trip, to everyone's delight.

Five of us were paying travelers: Aaron, his dad Mark, Ryan, Mike, and me. Aaron and Mark had signed up only for the first half of the trip; Ryan, Mike, and I stayed for the whole thing.

Left to right: Mark, Aaron, Maholy, José, Ryan, me, Rainer, Mike, Frank

Rainer had hired a Malagasy man named Joshua to drive us from place to place in his rugged Russian-built van, which we quickly and rather unimaginatively designated "the Russian Tank". It featured 4WD, raised suspension, hard-as-rock seats, and a snorkel that implied that the vehicle was designed to ford rivers as deep as the top of the windshield. Joshua spoke no English, which wasn't a problem for us since Rainer spoke fluent French and Malagasy. Joshua was a terrific driver on the terrible roads and was wonderfully good-natured about our lunatic herping schedule.

The Russian Tank

Joshua, along with an alternative form of transportation that we chose not to employ


I've put names on most of the photos in this trip report. Some of them I identified, but there's no way I could have identified all of these species myself. Thanks to José, Rainer, Frank, Aaron, and many experts at iNaturalist for helping me identify the animals and plants I photographed. Herp taxonomy in Madagascar has been in a state of rapid change since the last attempt to pin it down (Glaw & Vences, 2007), so even if I currently have everything right (approximately zero chance), by the time you're reading this some of these animals will probably have been reclassified. Please do let me know if you notice any mistakes.

Itinerary Overview

We all flew in to the international airport in the capital city of Antananarivo (often shortened as "Tana"). From there Joshua drove us to eight destinations over the next four weeks. We spent one to five nights at each destination, staying in some sort of lodge at each location (no camping on this trip). I've split this travelog into this intro plus one page for each destination.

First up: Anjozorobe