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Fat Baobabs

Actually called fony baobabs (Adansonia rubrostipa), these reddish trees with bottle-shaped trunks look like giant sprouted potatoes (or perhaps a surreal modern art sculpture installation). These are the shortest baobabs of Madagascar, and their fantastical forms are fun to photograph, especially in the preternatural glow of Madagascar’s colorful twilight.

Where: You can find fat baobabs throughout many parts of Madagascar, but there is an especially photogenic grove just north of Andavadoaka on the western coast. There are several lodging options that are less than a 20-minute drive to the baobabs. The nearest airport is in Toliara, about a four to six hours drive away from Andavadoaka (depending on road conditions).

When: You can photograph the fat baobabs any time of year, but most people visiting Madagascar do so during the dry season from April to October.

Photography: You’ll want a wide-angle lens, although longer lens opportunities are also available. You can make effective images with simple compositions that highlight the trees’ twisted shapes, but also be on the lookout for more complex compositions, such as using nearby trunks to frame more distant trees. The fat baobab grove is a chaotic place, and compositions that simplify the scene to showcase only one, two, or three trees often work best.

Many of the baobabs have some sort of fungus or blight on them, which grows in beautiful swirling patterns. You can step back and use a short telephoto to zoom in on and isolate the patterns, or you can go wide and incorporate the patterns into your overall visual design.

Sunrise, sunset, and twilight are the best times to photograph the fat baobabs. If you are lucky, you will have some clouds to break up the sky and catch some color from the sunset or sunrise, but clear skies also work well with these fantastic trees. Madagascar has amazingly colorful twilight skies, which can cast a warm glow on the landscape; this glow peaks about 15-20 minutes after sunset or before sunrise. The colors at twilight are surreal, painting the trees with a soft reddish light. Bring insect repellant, as this grove has particularly aggressive mosquitoes even during the dry season (in the early morning the mosquitoes are less active).

Learn more: There’s not much information about the fat baobabs online, but you can work with your Madagascar tour company to plan a visit.

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