I have finally gotten around to it! I bring you now my final installment from Madagascar 2012;
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I was also aiming for the contrast between the intense greenery of the forest, and the incessant decay that fuels it.
We came across many animals in our wanderings as well.
These animals included a few Uroplatus geckos. These were all Uroplatus sikorae though.
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.
Finally, and with a triumphant “Ha, I win!”, Brandon found one!
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.