Andasibe-Mantadia National Park


I have finally gotten around to it! I bring you now my final installment from Madagascar 2012;
Rainforest.

After my work for Operation Wallacea had come to a close, and I had recovered from some mystery illness that befell me the day all the volunteers left, Brandon Semel (my lemur-loving colleague) and I headed for a bit of refreshment: rainforest. After trying unsuccessfully to get access to a forest called Ambohitantely (honey forest), as it was apparently on fire, we decided that we would head back to a forest we are both somewhat familiar with: Andasibe-Mantadia NP.
Mud houses

Rice paddies now lie where forest once stood.

Rice paddies now lie where forest once stood.

The seventies are alive

Derelict vehicles line the roads

Derelict vehicles line the roads

A stray rock stopped this truck in its tracks

A stray rock stopped this truck in its tracks

Mitsinjo

We hired a car (and a driver) and made good time over to the forest. Our plan: to make camp, get a guide, and see if, in two half days and one full one, we could find ourselves some Uroplatus or “leaf-tailed” geckos. These unusual creatures fascinate me, and Brandon and I were eager to see if we could find the ever-elusive Uroplatus phantasticus (the Satanic Leaf-Tail Gecko).
We arrived late in the afternoon, after a few delays, and sorted out our affairs. Then we made our way to the main reception of the Andasibe park to see if we could still get a guide for the afternoon.
‘No sir, all of our gecko guides are out right now, and it is not worth going into the park when there is so little time left. But if you go down the road for a little, you will come to a small, private, community-run park. There you can do a short walk.’
So we headed on our way, payed the small fee, and went on our walk with a young female guide. This was an area of forest I had not been to, and I was very pleasantly surprised. Within twenty minutes, we came across a Uroplatus!

Uroplatus sikorae in its resting position. Click to enlarge. It is dead centre.

Uroplatus sikorae in its resting position. Click to enlarge. It is dead centre.

This is a closer photo of the same animal. Click to enlarge.

This is a closer photo of the same animal. Click to enlarge.

Leaf-tailed geckos are among the few animals in the world that you can look straight at and still miss.
On this first day, we also came across three Indri, before heading back to the main park reception to set up our tent.
Indri indri

The next day and a half was spent searching for Uroplatus geckos in a variety of different forest areas. We had a great guide, whose enthusiasm was a little overwhelming at times.
I shot a series of ferns for an exhibition/book I am working on.

A natural clearing in the rainforest becomes home to light-loving ferns and tiny Blommersia frogs

A natural clearing in the rainforest becomes home to light-loving ferns and tiny Blommersia frogs

Ferns from a knot in a tree trunk
Vibrantly green forest ferns
Ferns and forest
A fern-covered tree trunk

One of my favourite shots from the trip: a bird's nest fern sits on a vine, while Indri call above me.

One of my favourite shots from the trip: a bird’s nest fern sits on a vine, while Indri call above me.

Light falls on a fern-bestrewn vine
Ferns and Vines
Fern light
Fern filligree
Feeeerns
Ferns on a massive tree trunk
Ferns take over a decaying tree
Rainforest floor
Trees and Ferns
Small ferns and trees
A large bird's nest fern
All shades of ferns
Ferns from below
Ferns
Young fern-leaves
The base of a tree fern
Unfurling fern leaf
Abstract leaves

The trunk of a tree-fern covered in lichen and moss

The trunk of a tree-fern covered in lichen and moss

But it wasn’t all ferns of course. I was looking for scenes of interest and strong perspective shots, taking advantage of the full 14mm range of my 14-24mm, but also a little bit of macro.
The lighting here was very difficult. I raised my ISO as much as I dared, considering that I was planning to print many of these in large format. Mostly it just required a very steady hand though.

Twisted vines hang low across a clearing in the middle of the forest

Twisted vines hang low across a clearing in the middle of the forest

Climbing vines cling to the trunk of a tree on the side of the path

Climbing vines cling to the trunk of a tree on the side of the path

A fallen rainforest tree becomes the host of a thousand more creatures

A fallen rainforest tree becomes the host of a thousand more creatures

Struggling to survive on a sapling tree

Many of the forest leaves are covered in various different lichen species

Many of the forest leaves are covered in various different lichen species

Sapling trees

Fungi cling to a rainforest trunk

Fungi cling to a rainforest trunk

I believe this is from the bamboo family.

I believe this is from the bamboo family.

A moss-covered tree trunk
Small bracket fungi
A tiny plant grows from a knot in a young tree

Very few plants are still in flower this late into the season.

Very few plants are still in flower this late into the season.

Unfortunately, the orchids are not in flower. But I find their bulbous forms endearing nonetheless.

Unfortunately, the orchids are not in flower. But I find their bulbous forms endearing nonetheless.

A very young orchid

Some plants have shocking armament, even in the rainforest.

Some plants have shocking armament, even in the rainforest.

At the base of a vine's curve
Forest berries
Leaves and chopped wood
A tiny plant on a tree fern's trunk
Gregarious moss
Contrast of wood and moss
Leaves and light
Little leaves coat the forest floor
Strange bright red leaves

Alone in a small forest clearing (except for the leeches), this elephant ear grows tall and proud

Alone in a small forest clearing (except for the leeches), this elephant ear grows tall and proud

I was also aiming for the contrast between the intense greenery of the forest, and the incessant decay that fuels it.

Unusual in the extreme. How did it get there?

Unusual in the extreme. How did it get there?

Decay
Dead leaf cluster
A strange leaf
Leaf on branch

We came across many animals in our wanderings as well.

I will never get tired of this photo.

I will never get tired of this photo.

Saford's brown
Leaping lemurs
An aposematically coloured moth
Parson's chameleon
Parson's tail
Brookesia thieli
Boophis sp.
Boophis madagascariensis
Owl moth

These animals included a few Uroplatus geckos. These were all Uroplatus sikorae though.

The second Uroplatus

The third Uroplatus in situ

Uroplatus sikorae, as found. Click to enlarge.

Uroplatus sikorae, as found. Click to enlarge.
Uroplatus sikorae closeup

But the main target was the ever elusive Uroplatus phantasticus. These geckos habitually hide among dead leaves, making them incredibly difficult to spot. We spent hours combing branches and leaf bundles.

Prime habitat

Prime habitat

Even better.

Even better.

Finally, and with a triumphant “Ha, I win!”, Brandon found one!

Uroplatus phantasticus as found

Uroplatus phantasticus as found

Uroplatus phantasticus showing off its camouflage

Uroplatus phantasticus showing off its camouflage

Uroplatus phantasticus in its nocturnal hunting position.

Uroplatus phantasticus in its nocturnal hunting position.

Fiery belly
Staring Uroplatus phantasticus

And just as proof, here’s a shot of yours truly with the gecko!
PROOF!

I was immensely excited to find this species in the wild. I cannot wait to get back out and find more!
Rainforest is my favourite habitat to work in, but I think even photos don’t do it justice. I wrote a piece about it here, which I think does an equally bad job. Together they might just convey the feeling you get from being there. I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Leave a comment below!
That is all for this installment from the blog. It will doubtless be another wee while before I get another chance to process and post photos. But I hope this tides you over until then.
~ Mark


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

0 thoughts on “Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

  • Sandy

    I really enjoyed seeing these…I want to go next time! My favourites are the geckos that look like brown/red leaves. Mom xx