A nature photography tour of Madagascar, Part 4: The Long Way to Isalo


This post is by Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com) from Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

In the last three articles in this series, I talked about my visits to Andasibe NP, where I shot lemurs and chameleons, and to Tsingy Rouge NP, where I shot beautiful formations made by erosion. I also talked about shooting sifaka lemurs and baobab trees in the Kirindy Forest reserve. This time, instead of discussing one spot, I’ll present a series of locations I briefly visited on my way along the west coast of Madagascar.

Once finished in Kirindy, I took an extremely bumpy ride north to the famous Tsingy De Bemaraha National Park. Unfortunately, I didn’t have too much time to stick around and explore the vast expanses of karstic formations in the park, but I did devote some hours to shooting some more beautiful lemur species in the forest next to those formations.

Female red-fronted brown lemur at Tsingy De Bemaraha National Park. These medium-sized lemurs with reddish-brown fur are commonly found in the forested areas of the reserve. They are very agile, but when relaxed, they’re comfortable resting on branches for long periods, making them relatively easy to shoot.

Canon 5D4, Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3
293mm | 1/200 sec | 5.6 | ISO 800

This sportive lemur was looking (and acting) like a truck driver when looking down at me from its tree house. Talk about crazy eyes!

Canon 5D4, Canon 70-300mm F4-5.6
300mm | 1/125 sec | F5.6 | ISO 800

Red-fronted lemurs are sexually dichromatic, meaning that males and females have different fur patterns; males are gray to gray-brown, and females are reddish brown. In this shot, you can see the limitations of high-ISO photography, as the quality isn’t as good as one would hope.

Canon 5D4, Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3
388mm | 1/160 sec | F8 | ISO 3200

My favorite lemur family is the Sifakas. After shooting the Diademed sifakas in Andasibe and the Verreaux sifaka in Kirindy, I was keen to shoot another species in the family: the beautiful Decken’s sifaka. This species is especially fluffy and features all-creamy-white fur, which accentuates its red eyes.

The Y-shaped branch contributed a great deal to the composition. I don’t even hate the fact that the background is blue sky – I think it compliments the sifaka’s creamy-white fur.

Canon 5D4, Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3
275mm | 1/640 sec | F5.6 | ISO 400

I spent one afternoon shooting the Tsingy themselves, but felt unable to achieve many good compositions. Movement is extremely slow and difficult on these sharp formations, and one often needs to wear a harness and climb to get to the viewing platforms. The view is astounding for sure, and I wished I spent more time exploring the area. Leaving after one afternoon was an unfortunate scheduling necessity.

Backlit trees and rock formations in Tsingy De Bemaraha.

Canon 5D4, Canon 11-24mm F4
18mm | F1/125 sec | F13 | ISO 400

After Tsingy De Bemaraha NP, I returned to the city of Morondava and, before starting a long drive south, stopped by the famous Baobab Alley. This is an over-crowded location, as I quickly found out on an afternoon visit, but it’s both empty of people and often foggy during sunrise. It’s a nice place, but honestly, it’s way overshot. There are beautiful baobabs all over Madagascar (as you saw in the article about Kirindy), where you can get more original compositions and avoid the masses.

Baobab Alley. I would only go there to shoot if it’s on your way and if you can go at sunrise. If you do go, make sure you try the baobab fruit juice in the cafe!

Canon 5D4, Tamron 24-70mm F2.8
24mm | 1/40 sec | F7.1 | ISO 400

Then began the long, long journey south – a two-day drive that I didn’t know whether it was more boring or more grueling. The worst dirt roads you can imagine had us going at a snail’s pace. We did stop at a few locations along the way, and I took a few shots of less-photographed subjects. One of those was the forest of fat baobabs close to Andavadoaka, a beautiful place in its own right but also one that is way off the tourist path.

The fat baobabs are shorter than the famous ones you have in mind, but in my opinion, they are much more interesting photographically. They are also usually grouped close together, which, while making them harder to shoot, also allows for more interesting compositions. They also kinda look like turnips, don’t they?

Post-sunset glow is the perfect time to shoot the fat baobabs. The red light accentuates their natural reddish hues against the purple sky. The close grouping of the trees allowed me to create a more interesting near-far composition.

Canon 5D4, Canon 11-24mm F4
15mm | 6 sec | F13 | ISO 100

To shoot this image, I had to focus stack three images to get both the closer and more distant trees in focus (the camera was positioned only tens of cm from the tree on the left).

Canon 5D4, Canon 11-24mm F4
11mm | 5 sec | F8 | ISO 400

Fat baobabs also have a type of fungus growing on them that creates absolutely astonishing natural patterns. By the way, if you do visit them, make sure you put on lots and lots of mosquito spray. I was viciously attacked when I first arrived and had to retreat to the car for a proper slather.

Fungus patterns on a fat baobab.

Canon 5D4, Canon 70-300mm F4-5.6
300mm | 1/40 sec | F5.6 | ISO 1600

Canon 5D4, Canon 70-300mm F4-5.6
221mm | 1/80 sec | F11 | ISO 200

The most fungus-ridden baobab I saw was further south. It was completely covered in amazing patterns that looked like they were painted by graffiti artists.

The sun star sparkles through the branches of a fungus-ridden baobab.

Canon 5D4, Canon 11-24mm F4
11mm | 1/160 sec | F14 | ISO 200

We continued our two-day drive, passing beautiful views of the Mozambique Channel. The whitest sands I’ve ever seen were washed by resplendent turquoise waters when we had to turn east, inland, toward Isalo National Park – the subject of the next article in this series.


Erez Marom is a professional nature photographer, photography guide and traveler based in Israel. You can follow Erez’s work on Instagram and Facebook, and subscribe to his mailing list for updates and to his YouTube channel.

If you’d like to experience and shoot some of the world’s most fascinating landscapes and wildlife with Erez as your guide, take a look at his unique photography workshops in Madagascar, Greenland, the Lofoten Islands, Namibia and Vietnam.

Erez also offers video tutorials discussing his images and explaining how he achieved them.

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