Isalo National Park

Map Isalo

Established in 1962, the Isalo National Park is located approximately 700 km southwest of Antananarivo and protects 815 km² of sandstone massif wildly eroded by wind and rain into bizarre ridges (known as “runiformes”) featuring wild forms, impressive gorges and canyons and tiny stalagmite pinnacles. The far Wild West reminiscent of the landscape, dominated by rugged massive that rises up from the flat surrounding grassy plain, attracts hikers from the whole world that gather here to admire the sweeping colours of this Jurassic scenery. The climate is dry tropical with warm temperatures all year around.

Though wildlife is here not as prominent as in other parks of the country, there are still a couple of species worth to look out: Ring-tailed lemurs, brown lemurs, sifakas and  14 nocturnal lemurs hide in dense vegetation along the streams. 
The park homes also approximately 80 species of birds (including the rare Benson’s rock-thrush
, the knob-billed duck or the crested ibis), 35 of reptiles and several endemic frogs.
The flora is indeed more interesting than the fauna. There are several local endemic plants among the 500 species which are found within Isalo, such as the elephant´s foot and some rare palms and aloe species.  

Isalo National Park
Spectacular sunset   © Gail Johson

The entry fee costs Ar 25,000 for a single day and Ar 37,000 for two days. A guide is, as always, compulsory. Due to the big affluence of tourists the guides in Ranohira literarily bounce over the visitors. Choosing a good qualified guide will be a difficult task. A recommendable one is Jean-Baptiste (mobile: 034 44 242 37).

Here you find a description of the most popular trails:

  • The piscine naturelle

A natural stone cave overlooks a crystal-clear waterfall, which tumbles into a deep green pool surrounded by overhanging pandanus trees. The piscine is a true oasis in the heat of the canyons. This tour is ideally combined with the canyon des Singes, as the piscine offers a very welcome refreshment after a exhausting hike. 

Prices: Ar 16,000 with a car and Ar 20,000 on foot (guide excluded)

  • The Canyon des Singes

The Canyon des Singes ('Canyon of Monkeys') is a popular hike through the dense foliage of the forest to discover ring-tailed lemurs leaping through the trees, with their faces tilted to the sunrays and the lovely Sifakas, with their legs sideways along the ground in a bizarre and singularly cool dance step. A popular but thirsty excursion leads from here to the piscine naturelle along a breathtaking way of brilliantly coloured ranges. Prices: The Canyon circuit costs Ar 20,000 with a car and Ar 24,000 on foot.

The canyon and the piscine naturelle costs Ar 36,000 or Ar 45,000.

  • Namaza circuit

A rather uneven canyon through luxuriant vegetation, a water fall and a deep swimming pool.

Ar 16,000 with a car, Ar 20,000 on foot. Combining this trip with the priscine naturelle it would cost 32,000 and 36,000 respectively. If we include the maki canyon price will be Ar 36,000 / Ar 40,000.

Isalo natural pool
  Piscine naturelle  © Gail Johson
Those equipped for trekking and camping can spend several days or longer wandering around the Isalo Massif, which is undoubtedly the most rewarding but  time consuming way to explore this place. A guide would charge about Ar 25,000 per day and a porter Ar 10,000. A recommendable two day trip would be visiting the piscine naturelle and the Nymphes waterfalls with an overnight at the waterfalls campsite and making the Maki canyon on the second day. If you add a third day, you can visit the Rats canyon too.

A big challenge, only reserve for the very fit, is the Portuguese cave. The cave is at the northern end of the park and getting there involves 4 days back and forth through the beautiful Sahanafa forest with natural springs and a lot of lemurs.

Isalo is accesible during all the year. It lies just next to the RN7, the highway connecting Tana with Tulear. The road is one of the best of Madagascar, so the journey is quite comfortable. From Tana it takes around 15 hours (700 km), from Tulear 4 hours (250 km).There are several daily taxi-brousse connections between Tana and Tulear. You just have to ask the driver to drop you out at Ranohira.

For accommodation visit Ranohira
There are a pair of nice campsites inside the Park with shared facilities and showers.

The Park Office is great: a lot of information, many excellent guides who speak fluently English and an interesting museum about the geology, fauna and flora of the region.

Parc National Isalo
BP. 6 Ranohira – 313 Ihosy
Phone :+ (261 32) 44 261 16 / 032 44 440 75 / 033 13 172 58
Email : parc.isalo@yahoo.fr  aronyaina@yaho