Gerry Ellis - September 16, 2006 - Mantadia National Park

The most virgin of all the rainforest remaining in the area of Perinet is in Mantadia National Park. The boundary is only 1.5 miles from the very comfortable lodge Vakona ($85 room & board/day), but it’s a further 8 miles deeper into the forest where the trailheads begin the search for the lemurs and sifakas.

Searching for mammals of any kind in the tropical rainforest is problematic—it’s dark, shadowy, and the creatures you are usually after are agile, camouflaged, and skilled at not being seen as they slip away silently. Malagasy rainforests are no different in many respects, but one—lemurs are often as curious as shy. You are just as likely to bump into a lemur that approaches you as one that will spring away across the tree tops. Today we got lucky, really lucky! Red-bellied lemurs that seemed as fascinated by us, for a few minutes, as we were by them. The two photos above are the result. Created at ISO 400, f/4 at 1/100th sec. with a 200mm.

The above Diadem Sifakas photos are representative of the difficulty and reward of photographing very mobile arboreal mammals in the tropical rainforest. The first photo illustrates the typical view one gets—Diadems feed at the very top of the highest trees and offer little to work with without incredible patience. The next two photos were created at ISO 320, at 200mm. Photo #1 at 1/100th sec. at f/3.5, the photo #2 at 1/100th at f/2.8 The last is one worth emailing home about. These opportunities came after over two hours of slipping and sliding along muddy hillside trails before we finally caught a break and got up slope from the Sifakas and they obliged by leaping down from their leaf-eating tree-top perches.

The detail from the under-story of the rainforest in Mantadia National Park can be compared to the larger landscape from Nosy Mangabe (island) rainforest created a couple days ago. To create rainforest images that have texture and depth it’s critical to insure layers of green, as well as shapes and textures that the viewers understand to mean rainforest.

Heading out of the rainforest can be a bit of a shock to the visual senses. The rainforests of the world are under tremendous pressure by the poor who continually chew away at these spectacular treasures of biological diversity. On the island of Madagascar it isn’t any different. These last couple of images were from the new peasant farms cleared into the edge of the park boundary at Mantadia and of a young woman with her banana harvest from one of these clearings.