Madagascar for Photographers – Top Spots from a Tour Leader
At ORYX we always look forward to planning and hosting photographic adventures to the world’s fourth largest island – Madagascar. The country is situated just off the east coast of Africa, home to a wealth of unique flora and fauna to observe and photograph.
Madagascar is a destination of great endemism, over 70% of the 250,000 wildlife species on the island are found nowhere else in the world, while it’s estimated that 90% of the plant-life on the island is also native to the country. Not only do these species only occur in the country, but in many cases they are restricted to niche habitats on the island. When crafting our custom and scheduled group Madagascar photo tours, we try our very best to cover different areas of varying habitats. In search of species diversity, iconic scenery and cultural flare, we explore the country’s east, south and west. ORYX Photo Tour Leader Kirsten Frost shares some of his favourites with us.
Morondava is a sunny, laid-back town and is the perfect starting point to explore the west coast’s spectacular scenic and wildlife destinations. From here we can access Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, the Avenue of the Baobabs and Kirindy Forest Reserve. Although mainly used as a comfortable base for travel, Morondava town itself is worth spending some time in. An excursion to Betania, a little Vezo fishing village not far from our accommodation, is a great way to get a feel of the daily lifestyle of the local Vezo people. We hop on a local ‘pirogue’ (a dugout canoe) with boatmen and cross a shallow estuary to access the village. For the keen culture and street photographer, another highlight here is the walk through the local market at Morondava.
The Avenue of the Baobabs
The Avenue of the Baobabs is 15 kilometers from Morondava and needs little introduction. I usually aim to take our guests for a sunrise, sunset and night session to photograph this incredible gravel road framed by dozens of rare and ancient baobab trees. Visiting the Avenue of Baobabs is all about experiencing a beautiful gift from mother nature and enjoying the challenge of photographing the scene.
Kirindy Reserve is 2 hours drive from Morondava. The reserve is home to some rare animal species including the Fossa, Labord’s Chameleon, the Endangered Malagasy Giant Jumping Rat, the Narrow-striped Mongoose and 8 different lemur species. Walks through the reserve’s network of trails allows good opportunity for bird photography too. Night walks here are productive for sightings of nocturnal animals including species of mouse lemurs, sportive lemurs, fork-marked lemurs and dwarf lemurs.
The eastern rainforests of Madagascar are a must-see on any Madagascar Photo tour.
A key attraction is the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park and if you travel further to the coast you reach Ankanin’ny Nofy – home of the rare Aye Aye.
The park (which is actually two separate parks) is an easy 3-4 hours scenic drive from the capital city Antananarivo. It is probably one of the more popular of Madagascar’s wildlife destinations. The parks boasts 13 species of lemurs and more than 100 bird species. It is also a fantastic place to hone your macro photography skills. There will be many opportunities to photograph reptiles, amphibians and numerous peculiar insect species. You might even be fortunate enough to see the giraffe-necked Weevil, the golden Mantilla frog or the leaf-tailed gecko.
A big part of its attraction is the appeal of the Indri lemurs. The call of the Indri is my personal favourite sound in the natural world. It immediately quietens people and I often put my camera down to appreciate the moment in the forest. The Indri stands about a meter high, with a stump for a tail, black-and-white markings and a seemingly ever startled facial expression.
Having immersed ourselves in the forest environment of Andasibe, we headed further east. It is here at a location only reached by boat that the elusive Aye-aye calls home. Aye-ayes are rather creepy looking endangered primates. They are dark in colour and are distinguished by a bushy tail that is larger than their body. They also feature big eyes, slender fingers, and large, sensitive ears.
Surrounding our accommodation were lemurs which are completely comfortable being close to visitors. By day we discovered the local flora and fauna and after dark we went out in search of the Aye-aye. When not photographing, guests can enjoy the comforts of being based on the banks of Lake Ampitabe, such as taking a stroll along the beach, go for a swim, hop on a kayak or read a book from the comfort of the hammock at their bungalow.
One of the highlights of Madagascar’s southern region is Berenty. Berenty is probably one of the best locations to photography the Verreaux’s Sifaka (the “dancing” lemur). They are known by their distinctive elongated tails and wide-eyed charm. To get them moving on the ground is something special for our guests to try photograph. We position ourselves strategically for this and with some luck an opportunity may present itself.
Berenty also has a large and friendly population of ring-tailed lemurs. While exploring one of the last gallery forests to be found in Madagascar, we will come across a colony of Madagascar flying foxes. They live in noisy groups in the high canopy. With a wingspan of over a metre, they are an impressive sight!
– Kirsten Frost