The rock-laden Jurassic landscape of Isalo National Park is one of the top five parks to visit in Madagascar. Arguably the country’s most scenic region, the mystical Isalo is often referred to as the Colorado of Madagascar because of its rocky desert landscape, swathes of lush forest, and deep-set canyons. It’s no surprise that locals consider the park a sacred destination. Isalo National Park’s sandstone landscape is dominated by rock formations and plateaus, intersected by many rivers and streams. Visitors are rewarded with sights of palm-fringed oases, hidden waterfalls, rock pools, and grasslands. Darting across this landscape, safari-goers will discover the Sifaka, brown and ring-tailed lemurs.
Passionate birders are encouraged to look out for Benson’s rock thrush, a rewarding sighting for any passionate birder. This region is not known for its prevalence of wildlife, but rather for its contrasting landscapes and picture-perfect natural scenes. Situated in Madagascar’s Ihorombe region, Isalo National Park’s closest town is Ranohira. The closest airport is Toliara Airport, which is reachable from the international airport in Antananarivo.
Isalo National Park prides itself on its abundant lemur populations. Visitors can expect to see Sifaka’s lemur, and the brown and ring-tailed lemurs. Another adorable creature to spot is the mouse lemur. These mammals are frequently spotted in the drier parts of the park. Interestingly enough, the drier regions support the magnificence of the praying mantis.
The perennial rivers within the park host species such as crocodile, giant eels, rock monitors, ground boa constrictors, and the rainbow frog. There are 47 species of reptile in the park, four of which are endemic to the area. Birding in Madagascar is fantastic. Approximately 77 bird species call Isalo home, 70 of which are endemic. The rarest of them all is Benson’s rock thrush and Benson rockbill, and most commonly spotted is the attractive knob-billed duck.
The dry season is the ideal time of year to visit. The park is best explored on foot, so the rainy season means slippery paths. Isalo National Park is a dry tropical climate, and the heavy rains fall from November to April. May to October is the dry season, which is when visitors are encouraged to visit.
Isalo National Park offers a wealth of dramatic landscapes and lemur viewing opportunities for curious visitors eager to explore their terrain on foot. This is a dream destination for photographers and hikers, who frequently marvel at the awe of this surreal landscape. Walking safaris often lead to sightings of lemurs, birds, and amphibians. The pockets of forest provide the most consistent sightings of lemurs and occasional sightings of boa constrictors. Walks and hikes are guided by knowledgeable leaders who offer their services for both day hikes or multi-day hikes. There are numerous circuits available within the park, each catering to different fitness levels.
A popular tourist hotspot in the park is Piscine Naturelle, a beautiful natural pool fed by crystalline streams and waterfalls. This natural pool is crystal clear but icy in temperature. There’s abundant birdlife in the area, providing ample opportunity for birders to spot an array of birds on their checklist. Canyon Des Singes attracts hikers who descend upon the area to view ring-tailed lemurs and the comical Verreaux's sifaka lemurs.
Isalo National Park is ideal for adventure lovers wanting to experience wild camping. There are two main campsites in the park, each offering basic camping facilities. Deep within the park, there is a rustic lodge, ideal for hikers and trekkers. Bordering the park, there are luxury hotels, some of which are carved into the rocks. Most accommodation options sit on the fringes of the park and are uniquely designed to look like an extension of their landscape. Hotels are of international quality, and come complete with bar and restaurant areas, swimming pools, and viewing platforms to take in the splendour of the park’s surrounds. Isalo accommodation options cater for a variety of budgets.