Isalo National Park is located in the Fianarantsoa Province of Madagascar and it sprawls over 815 sq kilometers. The landscape is a geological wonderland that contains wildly eroded sandstone formations, deep canyons, gorges and shady oasis. As a result of the natural erosion the landscape is quite spectacular and presents some great photo opportunities.
Location of Isalo National Park
The park is located in south central Madagascar about 700 kilometers from Antananarivo. However, driving from Toliara it is only about a 3-4 hour drive to reach Isalo National Park. We had traveled from Anakao to Toliara early in the morning and did the drive from Toliara to Isalo in the afternoon.
Map of Southern Madagascar
The Madagascar countryside has some interesting landmarks such as the giant baobab trees. We were able to stop and have a look at them on the way to Isalo because they are adjacent to the road.
Hiking in Isalo National Park
One of the reasons that an Isalo National Park map is hard to come by is because all visitors must hire a local guide to enter the park. As a result of the compulsory guide service we didn’t need to worry about navigation inside the park because the guide was leading the way.
After we acquired our guide in Ranohira they drove us to the nearby trail head outside of town. Transportation was interesting because the vehicle seemed like it may blow up at anytime. Additionally, the road was in very poor condition and took some navigation skills. However, we arrived safely after about 20 minutes.
Stone Graves of the Bara People
One of the first things that we encountered after entering the park was the ancient stone grave sites of the Bara people. The Bara are indigenous to this part of Madagascar and they still inhabit the area surrounding Isalo National Park.
They consider the sandstone caves and cliffs inside of Isalo National park to be sacred. As a result, in certain sections of the park ancient burial sites can be found. A unique element of the graves is that they are imposed into the surrounding cliffs. They are not easily approached but I was still able to get some decent photos.
Highlands of Isalo National Park
The first leg of our Isalo National Park hiking journey went through the highlands where we enjoyed the beautiful eroded sandstone massifs.
A shady oasis was located along the route and we stopped off for a swim. Feeling refreshed, we then proceeded down the trail and after a couple hours of hiking we began the descent into a huge canyon.
The guide then brought us to the rim of a huge canyon where we would begin our gradual descent to the bottom. With the guide in the lead we followed him down the trail into the canyon below.
Isalo National Park Animals and Insects
Our guide had a natural inclination to see the unseeable flora and fauna. As a result, we were able to investigate this insect that is perfectly camouflaged to look like a small branch.
Can you spot it below? This natural camouflage is perfect cover for these insects among the plants in Madagascar.
The Lemurs at Isalo National Park
Another peculiar species of Isalo National Park animals is the lemur. The lemurs live in the canyon lowlands and tended to accumulate at the entrance to Maky Canyon. In the local dialect, “maky” is the word for lemur. Maky Canyon is a deep narrow gorge that contains waterfalls and small fresh water pools.
There were two different species of lemur that we encountered at the canyon head. First, we encountered the ring tailed lemurs and then we came across another lemur subspecies called the brown lemur. For me, the brown lemurs were a new experience because I had already encountered the ring tailed lemurs at Tsimanampetsotsa Nature Reserve.
Unfortunately, these Isalo National Park animals did not get along. Indeed, lemur subspecies do not intermingle and when a brown lemur approached the group of ring tailed lemurs there was an altercation.
More Photos of Isalo National Park Animals
The 2 groups of Isalo National Park animals were both very approachable and we were able to get some great Madagascar animal pictures. The lemur subspecies are also very sociable within their own groups and they tend to cuddle up when they are cold.
Hiking in Maky Canyon
We hiked through the entrance of maky canyon and made our way through the narrow gorge until we reached the waterfall at the end.
Inside the Maky Canyon Gorge there were crevices and nooks that emanated a surreal atmosphere. This was a result of the turquoise water and high cliffs surrounding us on all sides.
Sunset on the Madagascar Landscape
Spending the day at Isalo made a great adventure in our opinion. Additionally, the Isalo National Park animals created some great photo opportunities and likewise for Maky Canyon. However, the day was not yet over. We left the park and now returned to our lodge.
We stayed at Isalo Rock Lodge and the landscape in the surrounding area is very photogenic. Therefore, because the sun was going down we decided to visit some of the nearby vantage points for a few sunset photos.
As usual, the best photo opportunities come out when the sun is low on the horizon and you don’t have to go far to get some good pics. Unfortunately, there are not many Isalo National Park hotels to choose from. Isalo Rock Lodge had some faults but it was the best at integrating with the natural environment. However, accommodation is quite limited in this area. Unfortunately, I do not think camping is a very good option.
The hiking opportunities in the park were fairly limited due to the fact that there were established trails and compulsory guide service. However, this is necessary for preservation and important for posterity.
The sun had set on our trip to Isalo and I was putting my girlfriend on a plane home (permanently) and traveling to Fort Dauphin. Indeed, it was time to pursue the real reason why I came to Madagascar – surfing.