The national park of Isalo is a site not to be missed if you come to Madagascar. It is one of the most visited parks in the country. The variety of landscapes in this beautiful place gives you the impression to make a thousand visits in one.
Isalo National Park is located in the southern part of Madagascar, in the Ihorombe region. Ihorombe is occupied by the Bara ethnic group, skilled herders and renowned for their animistic traditions that include premarital cattle rustling as well as various initiation ceremonies for young people. Created in 1962, it is the second largest national park on the island, after the Amber Mountain.
It has the shape of a wide belt of about 100 km long and 25 km wide. The territory extends over a total area is 81,540 ha of land, dominated by a spectacular sandstone massif eroded by time and climate. This has become an otherworldly collection of plateaus, canyons, gorges and pinnacles. Iron and mineral deposits stain the rock formations with a rainbow of different colors. The dense forests and grassy plains surrounding the park are filled with unique flora and fauna.
Isalo is Jurassic sandstone formations, ravines, canyons, waterfalls, palm oases, valleys, funerary monuments of the Bara ethnic group, tropical forests and much more. In short, it is a spectacle of nature where you sometimes feel like you are moving from one continent to another, you’ll see!
The biological diversity of Isalo, as well as its spectacular landscape, make it an invaluable tourist site for all travelers to Madagascar.
Its varied and endemic species of fauna and flora are well known to specialists.
Among the mammals, the park shelters different species of lemurs, like the ring-tailed lemur or lemur catta, also called maki. This particular animal is also the emblem of the island. Isalo is also home to the sifaka or glass sifaka, the lemur fulvus. Moreover, the park is inhabited by another species of lemur very known: the Tsidy or microcèbe.
81 species of birds have been recorded in Isalo, of which 27 are endemic to Madagascar. Different species of birds such as the kibo, the kariaka, the kirioke, the tome, the cisticole, the fifiokala, the tintina, the Malagasy roller and the monjo, can be observed in different areas of the Isalo.
The park is also a natural home for several species of endemic reptiles and amphibians such as the white-lipped frog with shiny eyes, the Madagascar boa and the Madagascan rainbow frog with its fabulous patterns.
The lovers of the flora are not in rest. The national park of Isalo shelters various species of plants and wild trees, even if some were damaged by the fire. In any case, you can enjoy the observation of amogensis pandanas, cyantea, synsepala, tapia, satrana, aerangis modest, isaloensis begonias, kalanchöe stormy, xerophyta …
Given the size of the park, several types and proposals of circuit are available. The most popular are the Namaza circuit and the natural pool + black pool circuit which last about 5 hours at an average level. They can be done by almost any traveler with an average physical condition. For more discoveries, the two circuits can be combined and done in 8 hours on average for visitors who have a good physical condition.
Before leaving this beautiful place, don’t forget to end your visit at the Window of Isalo, a natural rocky window that is the southern limit of the park, a magical place, very famous for enjoying the sunset.
Accommodation and hotels
Camping enthusiasts will have the pleasure of pitching their tents in one of the two large camping areas in the park, offering a shared toilet and bathroom. Spending a night in one of these two places offers an excellent opportunity to discover the park in all its rustic splendor. Especially since some lemurs such as the catta lemur and the sifaka like to visit the camping areas.
You can also enjoy great comfort and a friendly atmosphere by choosing one of the hotels located in the vicinity of the park: Le Jardin du Roy, Le Relais de la Reine, Isalo Rock lodge, Hotel H1, Hotel Satrana, Hotel Isalo Ranch, Hotel Orchidée de l’Isalo, etc.
For an extra activities, you can opt for a horse riding and via ferrata, offered at the Jardin du Roy hotel as well as at the Relais de la Reine.
If you are preparing your trip to Madagascar, our circuit down to the south via RN7, from Antananarivo to Tulear will surely interest you.