With rare wildlife and unique landscapes both above and below landscapes unlike anywhere else in the world, Madagascar is a paradise for photography enthusiasts. Living out the dream of many avid travellers, photographer Andrew Macdonald spent a month at Time + Tide Miavana capturing the wonders of this extraordinary corner of the world. Already well experienced in photographing the Zambian bush, he put his skills to the test with unexpected new experiences in Madagascar. Read on for the highlights of his time there, as well as some top tips about what gear to bring.
What does Madagascar offer as a photographic destination?
Madagascar offers a unique photographic experience. You can photograph wildlife and landscapes that don’t exist anywhere else on Earth and that, to me, is very special.
What unique opportunities does Madagascar present for wildlife photography?
Thanks to its unusual natural and geological heritage, the wildlife in Madagascar is truly unique. From the crabs scurrying along the sands, to the chameleons and geckos hiding in the bushes, and the birds and the lemurs thriving in the treetops - most of them are endemic to Madagascar and found nowhere else in the world.
What does Madagascar offer for underwater photography?
I had a lot of fun with underwater photography and videography around the archipelago. There are some fantastic coral reefs down there with a huge variety of fish other marine life. On one dive we had two beautiful sea turtle sightings while listening to the calls spinner dolphins and humpback whales echoing through the water. Right in front of Time + Tide Miavana there are huge shoals of moonies and bigeye trevallies right beneath the surface, which are great for getting those split level over and under water photographs. I have always been fascinated by the sea, but after spending so much time diving I have developed a real passion for it.
What does Madagascar offer for landscape photography?
Landscape photography was what first ignited my photography career, and Madagascar does not disappoint. There are a huge variety of landscapes to photograph. You can photograph mountains, seascapes and forests of indigenous baobab trees. At Time + Tide Miavana you have the luxury of the helicopters, so you can be dropped off high on a mountain to get 'that view' or you can visit the unique tsingy landscapes for some more abstract images that are purely Madagascan.
What are your most memorable experiences photographing Madagascar?
I have had some truly memorable moments in Madagascar and I'm sure I have many more to come. Seeing my first ever lemurs was a big deal for me, and I also loved being in amongst the thousands of nesting sooty terns found on Nosy Manamphao, one of the other islands in the Nosy Ankao archipelago.
Pulling off the doors of the helicopter and photographing humpback whales from the air was amazing. I also found myself in the water next to a humpback whale and her calf. They passed within 7 metres of me - that was very special and I will never forget that moment. It was incredible to experience these amazing animals from both the air and the water - very out of the ordinary.
Technically this shot isn't perfect, but photography isn't always about that. This image reminds me of a special diving trip where we had around five very playful humpback whales all around the boat as we returned to Time + Tide Miavana. The sea was a little choppy and I had no idea where the whales would breach next but I managed to fire of this shot.
What are your favourite photographs you've taken in Madagascar?
I loved this little sportive lemur that we found in the forest. As he is nocturnal he could hear us well but couldn’t really see us which made photography a little easier.
What I love about this chameleon shot is that I was able to capture it while simply walking past my villa. I spent a good 30 minutes just sitting and watching him go about his day, waiting for my moment. Turning one of nature’s most colourful creatures into a black and white image may seem strange, but even when taking this one image I knew that black and white would work well.
This little crab really tried my patience. He kept burying himself in the sand so I had to lay on my front in the wet sand and wait for him to relax a little. It was definitely worth it in the end.
What camera gear do you recommend travellers bring to Madagascar?
Gear is always a tricky question. Obviously it depends on budget for what gear you take, but it also depends on your photographic eye and style. Someone with a point and shoot can have a far more artistic eye than someone with all the expensive gear. That said, I personally would take a telephoto zoom lens to capture the more timid wildlife. A wider lens will work well for landscape and seascape shots and a macro lens for all those amazing insects and reptiles you will find.
I had great fun underwater with my GoPro and one of the various dome underwater housings you can buy. These domes are essential for the above and below water split shots. Whatever camera you have, try and source a waterproof case - it will be worth it. Ultimately, so long as you are taking pictures and enjoying it, that's the main thing.
To see more of Andrew's work, check out his website H E R E.