Dhow Photos – My Photographic Tribute to the Malagasy

During my extensive stay in SW Madagascar, I most enjoyed the opportunity to take dhow photos. The dhow is the ubiquitous sailing vessel used by the indigenous Malagasy fishermen (Vezo) and also for all forms of transportation. Indeed, traveling on the dhow is one of the most memorable aspects of my Madagascar travels.

History of the Dhow

The ancient dhow sailing vessel is certainly not exclusive to Madagascar. Throughout the last 2500 years this iconic wind powered sailing vessel has sailed over the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Indeed, both the Indians and the Arabs extensively used the dhow throughout history. As a result, it is not certain which one of them invented it. However, it was most likely the Arabs that first introduced it to Madagascar.

Primarily, the vessel was used for trade and could hold up to 30 crew members and 2 masts. Although in Madagascar it is primarily crewed by 1-3 sailors and has one mast.

Most essentially, this venerable sailing vessel has tremendous transportation utility. In addition, I found the dhow to be the most photogenic object in Madagascar.

Ifaty Sunrise Dhow Photos

This mastless dhow was moored on the beach right near my hotel in Ifaty. Fortunately, one morning there was no breeze blowing and this photo opportunity presented itself.  

Dhow Photo Ifaty Sunrise
Sunrise dhow photo at Ifaty beach in Madagascar.

The image of the boat is reflected on the still water and the result is a better photo. In contrast, you can see this same dhow during sunset when the wind is much more active which disturbs the water and disrupts the photo.

sunset dhow photo, Ifaty Madagascar
It is still a pretty good photo but my preference is for the former.

Front Lit Dhow Photos

The coastal aspect of SW Madagascar provides for a sunrise in the east and sunset in the west. In the following photos, the sunrise provides ambient front lighting for the colorful dhow sails as they sailed away from the beach in Anakao Madagascar.

Vezo fisherman set sail in their dhow
Vezo fisherman set sail in their dhow at sunrise.
Sailing dhow Anakao, Madagascar
Sailing Dhows Anakao, Madagascar

Back lit Dhow Photos – Anakao Madagascar

In addition, back lighting creates silhouettes. As a result, the photos are simplified into mere outlines and therefore the effect can be very enhancing when used properly.

Sunset dhow Anakao, Madagascar, Nosey Ve Island
Nosey Ve in the distant background with the lone Vezo sailor in the foreground.
Sunset Anakao Madagascar, Nosey Ve
Sunset dhow photo with Nosey Ve in the distant background.
Sunset Anakao, Madagascar
Vezo sailors coming into Anakao for the evening.

These back lit dhow photos are some of my favorites from Madagascar. Unfortunately, back lighting is not always a positive attribute and it only works under optimal circumstances.

However, the simmering Madagascar sunset makes it much more simple to get a grand effect. I do not use any photo enhancing color filters and all of my photos are 100% natural lighting (flash notwithstanding).

Miscellaneous Lighting

dhow anakao madagascar
The Vezo fisherman are transporting their nets out to the fishing grounds.
dhow nosey ve madagascar
Vezo sailor maneuvering his vessel near Nosey Ve.
dhow nosey ve madagascar
The Malagasy “Vezo” fishermen are diving for lobster, their spear gun propped up in front of the boat.
Vezo Shark Fishermen in Anakao, Madagascar
Vezo shark fishermen in Anakao, Madagascar.

The essence of the Malagasy Vezo fisherman is best captured with dhow photographs. I hope you enjoyed my short photographic tribute to the Vezo sailors and Madagascar.

Recommended Madagascar Travel Posts

Visit Antananarivo, Madagascar in Style
Don’t miss Isalo National Park
Sub-Saharan Africa Demystified