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Isalo National Park

Located in Madagascar’s Ihorombe region, Isalo National Park covers 815 square kilometres of extensive plains, rocky outcrops, deep canyons, and plateaus. This Jurassic landscape was formed over time, sculpted by water and winds. Its landscape offers visitors various opportunities for trekking through the park, with hikes rewarded with naturally occurring swimming pools.

Isala is a remarkable art form created by nature that allows travellers to visit spectacular sunsets beneath the big sky. Isalo National Park is located within a dry forest with declining natural vegetation. It has six diverse habitats that provide a home to its numerous wildlife, dry vegetation, grasslands, evergreen-humid forests, sclerophyllous woodlands, pandanus thickets, and secondary shrub communities.

Isalo National Park Hiking Circuits

  • Canyon des Singes: Canyon des Singes, the Monkey Canyon is also known as the Cave of Monkeys, and has a popular hiking trail. It takes hikers through the beautiful forest as well as the canyon itself. The hiking route is for seasoned hikers who can keep up with different types of terrains.
  • Portuguese Cave Route: It is one of the toughest hiking trails in Isalo National Park. The hike is a four-day long expedition that starts at the caves in the north region of the Isalo National Park. The journey takes hikers through the Sahara forest on a safari walk and hikers can explore its wildlife and flora. Experienced and enthusiastic hikers are known to frequent it to keep up their fitness.
  • Piscine Naturelle Trail: At the end of the Piscine Naturelle trail, hikers will find a fantasy stone alcove with a waterfall and old-world pandanus trees dropping from overhead. The green water enhances the magic of this oasis, a natural swimming pool. This natural pool shares its name with the 7-mile Piscine Naturelle Trail. Birdwatchers can spot Benson’s rock thrush at the pool. The scenic trail leads to Canyon des Singes (Monkey Canyon) through the forest, where visitors can spot lemurs.
  • Namaza Circuit: Namaza circuit has a lot in common with the Piscine Naturelle trail. The trail passes through one of the many forests in Isalo National Park and leads hikers to another naturally occurring stunning swimming pool. Both hiking trails are gruelling due to the heat, so hikers have to carry plenty of water.

Wildlife at Isalo National Park

Isalo National Park is home to fourteen lemur species, out of which, the ring-tailed lemur, is easily spotted. The red-fronted brown lemur, Verreaux’s sifaka, and ring-tailed lemur are spotted in the daytime. Others such as the red-tailed sportive lemur, grey mouse lemur, and coquerel’s giant mouse lemur are nocturnal and can be spotted on night safari walks.

The park also has plenty of small animals such as fossa, oustalet’s chameleon, Nancy Coutu’s skink, jewel chameleon, stump-tailed chameleon, and western plated lizard. Furthermore, Isalo is quite well-known for its four rare amphibian species, two of which, the Malagasy rainbow frog and blue-legged mantella, are dramatically colourful. The other two known by their scientific names are Mantidactylus noralottae and Gephyromantis azzurrae. Visitors will also have rare sightings of painted burrowing frogs.

The park also has 47 reptile species such as Dumeril’s boa, Madagascar ground boa, and Madagascar tree boa.

Although it’s not amongst the top birding destinations, Isalo National Park has more than 80 bird species, 70% of which are endemic to Madagascar. A few of Madagascar’s endemic species bee-eater and Madagascar magpie-robin are often spotted by visitors. Other commonly spotted birds include Benson’s rock thrush, crested drongo, and red-billed duck.

When to Visit Isalo National Park

Isalo National Park has a hot wet season and a cool dry season. Isalo is a hiking destination which makes May to October the best time to visit the park as these are the driest months. The dry season is also an ideal time for wildlife viewing when the animals are easier to spot. Lemurs are Madagascar’s speciality and can be seen in Isalo National Park throughout the year.

The park also has a healthy population of reptiles that come out during the wet season and are easier to spot. The rain also makes them stand out and look brighter amongst the foliage. The best time to visit Isalo National Park for bird-watching is from September to November. Although the park welcomes migratory birds throughout November to April, the wet season makes it hard to travel to Isalo.

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