Monday, September 14, 2015

Madagascar Part 1: Jungles and Canyons, Fine Art Travel Photography

Madagascar may seem like a tiny country on the map, but it is quite large and hugely diverse in its ecosystems.  We traveled all around zigzagging through the country to see all different terrains and wildlife.  Most people picture jungle and beaches when they picture Madagascar, which it has, but there's so much more.  We saw rain forests and deciduous forests and grand rocky outcrops in the middle of the desert that reminded me of Zion National Park, filled with lush greenery and waterfalls inside the canyons.   Our first stop of the trip was to the Vakona Forest Lodge on the Eastern Coast of the island.  The ride was long and bumpy on the terrible roads and was full of sad views out our window of decimated landscapes and very poor villages (read more about the country in my intro to the trip), but when we finally made it to Vakona we caught a glimpse into what Madagascar looked like 2,000 years ago before any humans lived on the island.

The Vakona lodge was lovely and has a wonderful lemur sanctuary right on its property.  The biggest threat to the lemurs is deforestation, which leads to habitat loss, but people also will capture these friendly and sweet animals and keep them as pets or in some cases will eat them as bush meat.  A sanctuary was set up to rescue the lemurs who have been kept as pets because they become habituated and if released will have no fear of humans, which will make them be easily caught again and possibly killed for meat.  We visited the sanctuary twice and it was a highlight of the trip having them jump right on you and being able to interact with them.  They're not caged in the sanctuary, rather it is an island that they have the right to roam free on and since they're not swimmers the surrounding water keeps them safe there.  I understand the urge people have to keep them as pets, they're so sweet, especially the bamboo lemurs whom I really bonded with over a banana during one of our visits to the sanctuary, but we have to remember the greater good and that these are wild animals who belong in the wild. 

I'm not usually a huge reptile fan, but the chameleons and geckos were fascinating!  Their camouflage skills are incredible (have fun playing where's waldo in the photos below) and one of the chameleon's we saw, also below, was so tiny it was barely the size of my fingernail!  It was fun to pull out my macro filters and shoot some closeups in the jungle.

After Vakona we headed inland to Isalo, a stunning landscape in stark contrast with the rain forest.  It's an arid area with rocky outcrops, canyons, giant baobabs waterfalls and ring tailed lemurs.  Hiking to the waterfalls in the canyon was one of my favorite parts of the trip and we even got lucky to spot some nocturnal lemurs during the daytime in Zombitse.  The second part of the trip featuring beautiful beaches and a lot more lemurs (including babies) is coming later this week!

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