Centre Ecologique de Libanona, The Libanona Ecology Centre

Nestled in a grove of pines atop a small hill on the very tip of the Libanona Peninsula, there lies the Centre Ecologique de Libanona – the Libanona Ecology Centre (CEL). CEL was established in 1995, and today remains the only establishment of its kind in southeastern Madagascar. The centre offers an undergraduate course (license professionel) in Environmental Management and Development, and takes on about 20 students a year. Additionally, CEL is a site for the School of International Training, which takes on study abroad students each year. You can read more about the centre on its website, http://cel-ged.org/

The buildings, though beautiful, present an interesting photographic challenge. The light through the trees is mottled and difficult to work with. I implemented the D800’s built in HDR to overcome the problem. Successfully, I feel.

Some things just long to be photographed.

Various states of dilapidation have befallen all of the buildings around the campus.

I came to CEL for the first time last year, at the beginning of my expedition, in order to clarify with the director, Dr. Lalaoharisoa Raolinandrasana, the research we intended to conduct. I returned at the end of the expedition, and gave a short presentation on our findings to the SIT students who were there at the time. The dissertation students who had been working on my team went on to complete their work there, and have now all successfully graduated from their courses.

There are a few gazebos lining the southern edge of the peninsula, with a spectacular view over the ocean.

This year, my business with CEL was much the same, though I did not have the official meetings at the end of the field phase like last year. I stayed at the home of my friend and colleague, Barry Ferguson, who has a bungalow on the grounds, for a week, before being deployed into the field.

Barry's house at CEL

Barry’s bungalow at CEL – it’s in need of a lick of paint and a bit of weather-proofing, but otherwise it’s fantastic.

Barry’s annexe is in need of a little work. Artistically perfect though, in my opinion.

I took advantage of the time in CEL to try to capture a bit of the spirit of the place. I would like a chance to go back and get more though – there are many things that are missing from the photos I present here.

Other bungalows are in pretty much the same state as Barry’s.

A cat guards the porch of Jim, head of the SIT programme at CEL

It is hard for me to give you an idea of how beautiful the grounds of CEL are. For reference, I counted about nine species of reptile within and around Barry’s house. I have already shown what the sunset looks like, and that perhaps is the most spectacular part of the whole location. I tried also to capture more intimate and interesting things about the nature around the place though, and this is what follows; a few small scale images of the whole beauty of the peninsula.

For some reason, someone has stuck a bird’s head on a stick at the edge of the path. Curious.

The campus is surrounded in greenery. Every morning, these plants open their riotous purple flowers to entice pollinators to visit them.

Laaast Christmas, agave you my heaaart...

An agave sits at the top of the cliff on the south east edge of the peninsula.

This, the Madagascar Periwinkle, contains the active ingredient in cancer treatments that are, I believe, currently under development. It is also used traditionally as a treatment for cancer. Fortunately, it is also rather abundant.

There were several plants just beginning to bloom whilst we were there.

The insect life at CEL is incredibly diverse. These butterflies, which mimic leaves when at rest, are quite common.

Skipper butterflies are also relatively abundant. Difficult lighting on this shot though.

Probably the largest shooting challenge I have come across in an animal – this butterfly is impossible to expose correctly in strong light.

I was able to get surprisingly close to these butterflies, with a bit of persistence and patience.

I got to practice my macro shooting on some fairly cooperative subjects in rather wonderful light.

There were several species of insect attracted to one very large plant on the road to CEL.

Composition becomes paramount when you have so many options for shooting.

This opportunity took me by surprise, and unfortunately, this is not as satisfying a photo as I had hoped.

That, unfortunately, wraps up this post. Coming up next, however, is fieldwork! Keep an eye out for that!

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