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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Living the Dream: My Life as a Professional Safari Guide Part 4: Madagascar - The 8th Continent

I have just returned from leading an incredible 14 day photographic expedition to the island of Madagascar.Often referred to as the “Eighth Continent”, due to its size and isolation, Madagascar is one the most remarkable countries on the planet. Its extraordinary fauna and flora have evolved over millions of years in this appropriately named “laboratory of evolution”. The island's legendary uniqueness is best reflected by its plethora of amazing lemurs, colorful chameleons, and one hundred and forty endemic or near endemic bird species, not to forget its charming array of endemic flora. But sadly most species are threatened by continuous habitat destruction, thus making Madagascar one of those “must-visit-soon” destinations. Below is a very small example of my images, to see the full collection please feel free to visit my website www.mariuscoetzee.com and follow the link for the Madagascar gallery: http://marius.photoshelter.com/gallery/Madagascar/G00007ZDlELuKf6M/

Portrait of a Coquerel's Sifaka (Ankarafantsika National Park)



Home to no less than 8 lemur species, Ankarafantsika National Park or commonly known, as Ampijoroa Forest Station is a photographers dream destination. The comical Coquerel’s Sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi coquereli) is the jewel in the primate crown and in my eyes one of the most photogenic of all lemurs. I was walking along the banks of Lac Ravelobe when I came across a small family group resting in the comfort of a shady tree. This individual was the first to wake up, climbed to the bottom of the tree and inquisitively starred at me. Permitting me to capture a series of images before disappearing back into the dry forest vegetation.

Camera: Canon 7D
Lens: Canon 300 f2.8 IS USM
ISO: 1250
Aperture: f/6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/160 sec

Madagascar Flying Fox (Berenty Special Reserve)



The Madagascar Flying Fox (Pteropus rufus) is the largest flying fox found on the island of Madagascar. It is an unusual fruit eater and provides an important ecological service as seed scatter’s. The bat roosts in small areas of forest in colonies that can contain thousands of individuals. Deforestation is reducing the available roosting and feeding sites for this bat and in many parts of the island it is still killed and eaten by people. A small colony of approximately 300 individuals in Berenty Special Reserve offered me the opportunity to capture these astonishing mammals.

Camera:
Canon 7D
Lens: Canon EF300mm f/2.8L IS USM +2.0x
ISO: 1600
Aperture: f/6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/2000 sec.


Ampijoroa Sunset (close to Ankarafantsika National Park)



After a delightful day of photographing the inhabitants of the Ankarafantsika National Park, my guests and I headed back to the north – west coast of Mahajanga. Shortly after leaving the confinement of the reserve we came across yet another rise paddy. Rice is the staple diet of the Malagasy’s and one of the major reasons for the destruction of vast tracks of natural vegetation.

Camera: Canon 7D
Lens: Canon EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM
ISO: 800
Aperture: f/8.0
Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec

Leaping Indri (Andasibe-Mantadia NP)



Approximately 90% of all indigenous forests in Madagascar are destroyed by farming, mining and other illegal practices and the future for the remaining 10% looks seriously depressing. For 6 days I photographed the Indri (Indri indri) in my quest to portray this enigmatic primate in its natural environment. Listening to their ‘eerie’ whale like call as they move through the lowland rainforests of the eastern part of Madagascar is undoubtedly one of the greatest wildlife experiences on the planet. Deciding to use my widest lens, I positioned myself close to the tree in order to capture as much of the forest surrounding me.

Camera: Canon 7D
Lens: EF17-40mm f/4L USM
ISO: 800
Aperture: f/7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/640 sec

Backlit Sifaka in Spiny Forest (Berenty Private Reserve)



I wake up before dawn in order to capture an image of a Verreaux's Sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi verreauxi) backlit against the sunrise in Berenty’s xerophytic ‘spiny’ forest. The vegetation type of the family Didiereaceae is found in poor subtracts with low, erratic winter rainfall and forms a prominent component in the dry eastern region of the country.

Camera:
Canon 7D
Lens: Canon 300 f2.8 IS USM
ISO: 640
Aperture: f/6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/6400 sec

White-breasted Mesite (Ankarafantsika National Park)



Rare, secretive and endemic; the White-breasted Mesite (Mesitornis variegatus) is known from only four locations in the north west of Madagascar. I photographed this individual late one afternoon as the last bit of sunshine was piercing through the forest vegetation. My clients and I waited for some time for the Mesite to move into a small path, allowing us a couple of seconds to capture images of this ‘mega’ bird.

Camera: Canon 7D
Lens: Canon EF300mm f/2.8L IS USM +2.0x
ISO: 2000
Aperture: f/5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/100 sec

Finger Licking Good (Berenty Special Reserve)



I captured this portrait of a male Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta) several hours after sunrise. Ring-tailed Lemurs are highly social, living in groups of up to 30 individuals. Fortunately for photographers they are the most terrestrial of all lemur species and offer unrivalled photographic opportunities of the island’s more than 100 lemur species.

Camera: Canon 7D
Lens: Canon 300 f2.8 IS USM +2.0x
ISO:640
Aperture:f/5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/4000 sec


Rotating Eye (Andasibe-Mantadia National Park)



It was early in the morning and I was photographing in the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. My local guide Luc got extremely excited when we heard the call of a male Red-fronted Coua. He immediately ordered me to move deep into the forest in search of the uncommon bird. While sitting in the thick undergrowth waiting for the Coua to call, he casually pointed to the Parson's Chameleon (Calumma parsonii) that was less than 5 meters away from us. I cautiously set up my tripod and reached for my trusted 300 mm lens in order to shoot from far away without distracting my subject.

Camera: Canon 7D
Lens: Canon EF300mm f/2.8L IS USM
ISO: 1600
Aperture: f/4
Shutter Speed: 1/160 sec

3 comments:

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Amazing photos, I place I would love to see. Diane

Two French Bulldogs said...

absolutely incredible! Our friend lived in Madagascar and loved it..
Benny & Lily

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Lovely pictures and awesome photography.