Paul Slyer's Photography blog

A blog all about photography, travel and wildlife

Madagascar, A photographer’s dream (Part 1)

Madagascar is a place unlike anywhere else in this world with its unique mixture of fauna and flora that seems to have evolved on a completely different level to the rest of the planet. It contains around 5% of the worlds wildlife with 80% being completely endemic to the island which is very extraordinary as it is only the 4th largest island in the world and slightly bigger than France, but the diversity of animals and plants on the island is out of this world. Apart from nature its landscapes and spectacular views rival the best in the world from lush rainforests with cascading rivers to dry arid deserts with rocky moonscape mountains being just the start to the different terrains it has to offer. I was fortunate enough to spend a month on this magical island and to say I was impressed is an understatement, I was blown away.
Tana2

Antananarivo

Landing in Antananarivo, (Tana for short) is something you need to brace yourself for. As soon as you step out of the airport the noise, smells and sights hit you like a ton of bricks.  The city is alive, bustling with swarms of people, cars and confusion all packed in along colourful stalls which sell everything from fruit and meat to bicycle parts, centred around a maze of old buildings, decrepit houses and shacks. It’s very overwhelming at first and you are not quite sure what to think, but you soon settle down and join in with the flow of things.

Food stalls (taken by John Slyer)

Food stalls (taken by John Slyer)

 If you are on a tight schedule I would say you would not need more then a full day in Tana. Some of the more popular attractions are the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, the Queens Palace and Tsimbazaza Zoo.

 Heading south it is well worth a night in Ialatsara Lemur Forest Camp.  Ialatsara Lemur Forest Camp is a fairly small reserve located on Route 7 south of Tana. The accommodation is made up of beautiful rustic open sided log cabins with fold down canvas flaps. The beds in the cabins had the most comfortable mattresses we experienced in Madagascar and it was really nice lying awake at night listening to the noises of the forest with a cool breeze on your face. 

chamelion

Chamelion

 

At night we went in search of Chameleons which proved to be a challenge at first as they are very camouflaged, but once your eyes become accustomed to what you are looking for we found dozens of them.  On top of that we also saw a mouse lemur which is about the size of a hamster and has one of the cutest faces you have ever seen with their pointy ears and big round eyes.

 

 

Mouse Lemur

Mouse Lemur

The next morning we went in search of the Milne-Edwards sifaka and found 3 of them after a fairly easy 2 hour walk. Milne-Edwards Sifaka’s are an arboreal, diurnal lemur species (active during the day and solely live in trees).  Their diet consists of leaves, fruit, seeds and flowers. They are a fairly large lemur dark brown to black in colour with a light brown back. We spent about 20 minutes with them before moving on. Shortly afterwards our guide found a Brookesia chameleon, which is the smallest chameleon in the world about 2-3cms in length.  They are extremely hard to find given their size and brown colour making them very camouflaged and usually found hiding under bark and leaf litter. After a few photographs we headed back to camp for breakfast and packed up.

Brookesia chameleon on 3cm's long (smallest chameleon in the world)

Brookesia chameleon on 3cm's long (smallest chameleon in the world)

Ranomafana National Park is one of Madagascar’s best known parks.  It became a national park in 1991 following the discovery of the golden bamboo lemur in 1986. The park is situated in a very rich montane or high altitude forest. It looks very similar to a rainforest having thick lush vegetation growing on steep mountain sides with fast flowing turbulent rivers and cascading waterfalls flowing down the valleys which provide stunning panoramic views.

River flowing through Ranomafana National Park

River flowing through Ranomafana National Park

Ranomafana supports a rich diversity of plants and wildlife. On our expedition we were lucky enough to see red-fronted brown lemurs, black and white ruffed lemurs, small toothed sportive lemurs and the very rare golden bamboo lemur with which the park is famous for. On top of that we got great shots of the very colourful daytime gecko plus loads of other interesting reptiles, frogs and insects. One night we went on a walk and came across a Malagasy striped civet sitting in the middle of the path not bothered by us at all. I also almost walked into a leaf tailed gecko which was hanging on a leaf in the middle of the path.

Daytime Gecko

Daytime Gecko

Regarding hiking, I would suggest that your fitness levels should be fairly good as the hikes can be strenuous with steep paths up and down the mountain sides and high humidity. I would recommend spending 3 nights in Ranomafana, spending the first and last night in one of the many hotels next to the park and the middle night camping within the park at the halfway point of the main hiking trail. The trail can be done in a day, but gives you little time to explore the forest.

Leaf tailed gecko

Leaf tailed gecko

My next instalment will be on Andringitra and Isalo National Parks.

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Posted in Travel 8 years, 3 months ago at 9:36 am.

1 comment

One Reply

  1. Thats very good to know… thanks


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