Small Group Safari

Madagascar Whale Shark Expedition with Stella Diamant

Dive into the waters of the Mozambique Channel alongside the founder of the Madagascar Whale Shark Project, Stella Diamant, on this pioneering research trip that will put you in the right place at the right time for intimate encounters with the world's largest fish. You'll also have the chance to spot lemurs, turtles and manta rays, and relax on pristine island sands.

Duration 11 days
Price From $3,820
When Nov 2019
Destination Madagascar

Safari Overview

Join the founder of the Madagascar Whale Shark Project (MWSP), Stella Diamant, and her team for a pioneering research expedition to the pristine waters of Moromba Bay, crossing the beautiful Radama Archipelago and stopping on idyllic Nosy Iranja en route. This marine safari combines swimming with whale sharks off Nosy Be and seeking out black lemurs in the Lokobe Reserve with six days on board the scientific research vessel Antsiva. Whilst on board a smaller tender zodiac is used to search for marine wildlife during the day, and possibly spot whale sharks which guests can participate in documenting. The journey ends at a baobab-fringed beach on mainland Madagascar for more lemur encounters and swimming with turtles.

What makes this trip extraordinary?

  • A 6-day scientific expedition in the company of marine biologist Stella Diamant, core researcher for the Madagascar Whale Shark Project, including hands-on participation.
  • Swimming with whale sharks in the company of the guides from Les Baleines Rand’eau, seeking out whales, whale sharks, dolphins and turtles which live in the tropical waters off Nosy Be.
  • A guided walk through the last remaining primary forest of the Lokobe Reserve, seeking out the black lemur, Madagascar pygmy kingfisher, panther chameleons and other denizens of the forest.
  • A relaxing morning on Nosy Iranja, two islands linked by a sandbank, crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches.

Contribute to the protection of Madagascar's rich marine life on this thrilling expedition alongside leading wildlife conservationists.

Your Expedition Leader

marine biologist and conservationist Stella Diamant

discover madagascar's marine life with a whale shark expert

Stella Diamant is a marine biologist who spends her time between Madagascar and her home country, Belgium. In 2015 she left her job in plastic pollution to further research whale sharks in Madagascar, a country she is very familiar with following a work stint with WWF in 2011. Initially a wild guess, Stella quickly realised that Nosy Be was a key feeding area for the endangered whale shark; she eventually procured the support of the Marine Megafauna Foundation to run a first pilot season in 2016, deploying satellite tags to track the sharks.

Stella founded the Madagascar Whale Shark Project following the success of the pilot season, and since 2018 has been dedicating her time exclusively to the project, setting up an educational programme for local children, recruiting Malagasy staff and implementing a code of conduct in Nosy Be. To date, Stella and her team have identified more than 300 different whale sharks. Stella’s findings and achievements have been widely shared in international media, including the BBC, The Telegraph, Mongabay, Lonely Planet and Diver Magazine. Stella currently is working on her data from the 2018 season, while scaling up the project and spreading the word about Madagascar’s incredible wildlife. Stella is also a keen adventurer, wildlife photographer and artist.

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Day by day

Day 1

Nov 16: Arrive Nosy Be

Upon arrival at Nosy Be International airport, you will be met by an NWS representative and transferred to your hotel. Known for its vanilla, pepper and ylang-ylang infused air, brilliantly colourful sunsets and peaceful island life, Nosy Be (meaning "Big Island") has firmly set itself on the tourism map. This large, volcanic island is easily accessible and acts as the main gateway to the stunning archipelago of the same name. Check in and spend the rest of the day at leisure enjoying this beautiful island, then meet your fellow expedition companions at dinner.

Day 2

Nov 17: Lokobe Integral Reserve

This morning you will be collected by your naturalist guide and head to Lokobe Reserve, the last remaining Sambirana Primary Forest of Nosy Be. The reserve is home to the black lemur, few of which are left in the wild, however with the help of your guide you will attempt to seek out this endangered species. Lokobe is also home to some endemic species such as the Madagascar pygmy kingfisher, panther chameleons and several snakes. Enjoy a full morning in the reserve before you are transferred back to your hotel for lunch. The rest of the day is yours to spend at leisure.

Day 3

Nov 18: Whale Shark Day Tour

This morning after breakfast you will be transferred to the jetty to rendezvous with the team from Les Baleines Rand’eau, the partner operator of the Madagascar Whale Shark Project. Embark on your first experience of swimming with the whale sharks. You will benefit directly from the team’s extensive experience at sea and Stella’s knowledge of the whale sharks, while obeying to the code of conduct set up in 2017 by the project. You will spend the morning seeking out the whale sharks before stopping for lunch on the beach at Nosy Sakatia. This afternoon you will head out on the boat once again, where you can either swim with the whales once more or snorkel above the reef, looking out for green turtles. You can hope to see whale sharks, humpback whales, Omura's whales, spinner dolphins and green turtles.

Day 4

Nov 19 (Expedition Day 1): Nosy Be - Iranja

After breakfast, check out of your hotel and transfer to the harbour to board the Antsiva – a research-class expedition vessel. You will be based on board for the next 6 days / 5 nights. Pack lightly and prepare for an extraordinary journey in the company of Stella Diamant and her research assistant, as well as the Antsiva crew, who are well experienced in hosting research missions in the Mozambique Channel. Moor off Nosy Iranja Island for the afternoon, seeking out the whale sharks that frequent the lagoon here. During early evening and throughout the night as guests sleep, the crew will do the long-leg sail southbound.

Day 5

Nov 20 (Expedition Day 2): Iranja - Moramba

Awake this morning as you draw closer to Moramba, a bay located off the northwest coast of Madagascar that is a well-known area for marine megafauna to congregate. Although data collected by the Madagascar Whale Shark Project indicates that Moramba Bay is a feeding area for the region's whale sharks, it is still understudied because of its remoteness. This year, thanks to the support of Natural Word Safaris and guests accompanying the research expedition, Stella will visit these rich waters and attempt to localise the whale sharks here, a first for whale shark science in this remote area, and possibly the second hotspot for whale sharks in Madagascar after Nosy Be.

Days 6-7

Nov 21-22 (Expedition Days 3-4): Moramba - Narinda

While based around Moramba, daily explorations will take place from a smaller boat to better spot tuna aggregations that whale sharks usually feed in association with throughout the bay. Once a whale shark is spotted, clients are allowed to jump in the water to assist Stella and collect photo-identification data; Stella will also take skin samples if possible. GPS points and tracks will be recorded, and once the survey finished, data will be entered into Excel charts back on the boat. Guests can also assist with storing and processing pictures of the sharks' unique "fingerprints" – a mark on their left side, behind the gills – which is used by scientists worldwide to differentiate individual sharks. In the evening, Stella will give a presentation about her work with the Madagascar Whale Shark Project and comment on the day's findings. This is a research expedition to charter and map out as yet undocumented sites for whale shark aggregations and then collect and collate data. While all current research supports high chances of encounters in this optimum location, sightings and encounters with whale sharks are not guaranteed. The participation of paying guests on this expedition provides the valuable opportunity for the MWSP to extend research beyond the current zone.

Day 8

Nov 23 (Expedition Day 5): Moramba - Ramada

A day sailing on the return leg towards Nosy Be through the Radama Archipelago, a staggeringly beautiful group of small coral islands, turquoise seas, mangrove forests and baobabs, with traditional fishing boats crossing your way. The main island of the Radama Archipelago is located 50 miles south of Nosy Be. The surrounding water is astonishingly transparent, and once landed your feet will sink comfortably into the powdery sand of a wonderful wild beach. Beyond the beaches, all the islands are characterised by the unique rock formations of eroded limestone known as tsingy. On some islands, forest grows through and upon the soaring cliff faces. Endemic birds and reptiles inhabit the forest. A pair of endangered Madagascan fishing eagles inhabits the area, and on the island of Nosy Valiha, as many as 10,000 graceful sooty terns come to nest in November.

Day 9

Nov 24 (Expedition Day 6): Arrive Eden Lodge

30 minutes south of Nosy Be on Madagascar's mainland is the picturesque Baobab Beach, where you'll disembark and settle in to your home for the next two nights, the eco-friendly Eden Lodge. 100% solar-powered and with not a car or road in sight, this sought-after eco-camp with a conscience blends sustainable design with blissful beachfront ambience. Bid your farewells to Stella and the crew of the Antsiva. Settle in at the lodge as you acclimatise to terra firma, following days at sea.

Overnight: Eden Lodge B, L, D

Day 10

Nov 25: At Leisure

Spend today exploring the islands and deciduous forests that surround your lodge. Look for lemurs, follow walking trails, swim with turtles and make use of the complimentary Hobie Cats, sea kayaks and windsurfing equipment, or simply spend a relaxing day on the sun-dappled beach. You may wish to arrange a visit to nearby Nosy Komba, also known as Ambariovato, which translates to "the island surrounded by rocks". Covered in thick rainforest, the island is home to many maki (ring-tailed lemurs) and macaco (black lemurs). Alternatively, and depending on the number of whale shark encounters already achieved during the expedition, a further whale shark tour can be arranged, payable locally.

Overnight: Eden Lodge B, L, D

Day 11

Nov 26: Depart Nosy Be

Fond farewells are in order as you transfer 25 minutes by boat to Nosy Be, and then onward by road to the airport and your international flight home. Optional extensions to Ankarana and the Amber Mountains are available – please enquire for details.

Trip Details

This is a small group safari with marine biologist Stella Diamant departing on a single set date in November 2019.

2019 Departure Antsiva Cabin Price
Nov 16 - 26 Quad-Share (x1) From £2,985 per person
Twin (x2) From £3,980 per person
Single (x1) From £4,475 per person

An additional optional single room supplement at Heure Bleue (Days 1-3) and Eden Lodge (Days 9-10) is payable at a cost of £410 per person.


Disclaimers

Please note that travel insurance, with evacuation to your home country included, is required for this safari. A signed statement of good health and swimming competence is also required in order to ensure your safety while in the water.

Please also note that all diving during the expedition will be conducted with snorkels only. No scuba diving equipment will be permitted.

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