Isalo National Park Adventure In Madagascar

Where is Isalo National Park Located?

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. 

Isalo National Park Map

Isalo National Park Map

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.

Plants in Madagascar include baobab trees in isalo national park

This giant baobab tree sits roadside while traveling from Toliara.

Giant baobab trees in Madagascar countryside - Isalo National Park

The giant baobab trees were sprinkled throughout the Madagascar countryside.

Isalo National Park Facts & Landscape

The park is located in the Fianarantsoa Province of Madagascar and it sprawls over 815 sq kilometers. Additionally, it 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.

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.

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 decent into a huge canyon.

Isalo National Park

A view point on the first leg of our journey.

Oasis at Isalo National Park

The oasis was optimally located alongside the trail we were following.

Oasis in Isalo National Park

There were several oasis along the trail where we could cool off and go swimming in the shade of palm trees.

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

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? This natural camouflage is perfect cover for these insects among the plants in Madagascar.

Stick insect hides among plants in Madagascar - Isalo National Park

The park guide brought this to our attention or we would have walked right by it.

Isalo National Park Animals

The Lemurs at Isalo National Park

Another peculiar species of Isalo National Park animals is the lemur. The lemurs live in the canyon below and tended to accumulate at the entrance to maky canyon. In the local dialect, “maky” is the word for lemur. This 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. Unfortunately, these Isalo National Park animals did not get along. Therefore, lemur subspecies do not intermingle and when a brown lemur approached the group of ring tailed lemurs there was an altercation.

Madagascar animals include lemurs at Isalo National Park

This brown lemur was venturing too close to the group of ring tailed lemurs.

Madagascar animals fighting lemurs at isalo national park

The ring tailed lemurs had the brown lemur outnumbered and they were able to frighten it away.

Madagascar animals ring tailed lemur isalo national park

A vigilant ring tailed lemur keeps a look out.

Madagascar animals brown lemur isalo national park

Brown lemur poses defiantly for a photo in maky canyon.

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.

Ring tailed lemurs at Isalo National Park

Cuddling ring tailed lemurs at the head of maky canyon.

Madagascar animals ring tailed lemur - Isalo National Park

Ring tailed lemur wraps up with it’s own tail.

Madagascar animals brown lemurs isalo national park

Small group of brown lemurs.

Isalo National Park 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.

Maky Canyon - Isalo National Park

Entering maky canyon.

Waterfall Isalo National Park

We hiked in to the small waterfall located at the end of the maky canyon gorge.

Waterfall Isalo National Park

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.

Natural Landscape at Isalo Rock Lodge

Spending the day in the park 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. There were a few other Isalo National Park hotels to choose from. However, the Isalo Rock Lodge was the best at integrating with the natural environment.

The Isalo National Park hiking opportunities 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. Although there were some good hiking opportunities located right near the lodge. Just ask at the front desk and they will point out the trail for you. It is possible other Isalo National Park hotels offer these types of opportunities but the landscape near Isalo Rock Lodge is the best!

Madagascar landscape - Isalo National Park

The sun had set on our trip and I would now be traveling to Fort Dauphin in SE Madagascar.