The Isalo National Park is located in the Ihorombe region, southwest Madagascar and is known for its diverse sandstone terrain that dates back to the Jurassic era. While Africa is usually popular for wildlife exploration, this park offers exciting opportunities to traverse its heterogeneous landscape. The park covers over 800 sq km encompassing canyons, grasslands, plateaus, gorges, dense vegetation, oases and streams. The park is home to numerous varieties of flora, most of them endemic, and they create its unique yellow and red shaded landscapes.
The town of Ranohira is the closest to the park and it is a 15-hour drive from the capital, Antananarivo. Another way to get here is by flying from Antananarivo to Toliara and then hiring a vehicle to reach Ranohira. The arid tropical climate of the region makes the park a year-round destination. There are a few campsites within the park and plenty of lodges just outside its borders.
Note that you cannot explore the park on your own and you need to arrange with a local guide or tour company beforehand.
As mentioned earlier, the highlight of the park is its natural setting and not its wildlife. Nevertheless, the park is home to interesting species like the fossa, civet, praying mantis and 14 different species of lemurs. There are more than 80 species of birds and some of them like the Benson Rock bill are endemic to this region. Its reptiles and amphibians include big numbers of crocodiles, the endemic Madagascar boa and frog species like the rainbow frog.
The park offers numerous scenic trails that range from easy to hard. Some of the most popular trails include the Piscine Naturelle, Canyon des Singes, Namaza circuit and Portuguese Cave. Among these, the Portuguese Cave trail is the most challenging. It is a four-day round-trip trek to the cave through lush savannah, water springs and wildlife. The Piscine Naturelle trail is the easiest, just 3 km long, and will take you to a beautiful natural pool. The trails will involve a combination of trekking, hiking and rock climbing. You can also take a dip in the beautiful pools and waterfalls that you come across. In some parts of the park, mountain biking up and down the slopes is also available.
Make sure you wear sturdy shoes and comfortable clothes that are suitable to conquer this rocky landscape. Carry enough food and water, use sunscreen and stick to the prescribed routes.
The Window of Isalo is a popular attraction in the park, where boulders form a natural window frame and watching the sunset through this is simply amazing. Another interesting thing to look out for is the ancient burial sites of the Bara people.
The Isalo National Park is one of Madagascar’s most visited and best national parks. The park is also easily accessible than most others in the country and it serves as a big advantage. The diversity of terrain that is found here is unmatched and it goes without saying that if you are a fan of nature and outdoor activities, then this is the place to be.
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