Isalo National Park covers 81,540 hectares of eroded sandstone massif and is located in the southwest region of Madagascar. Isalo National Park is approximately 400 km south-west from Madagascar’s capital city, Antananarivo, and 226 km south-west from Fianarantsoa en route to Toliara.
An unearthly landscape – with rocks dating from the Jurassic period – it’s no wonder that this marvelous evolutionary process has sculpted incredible, unusual shapes of impressive gorges and canyons. Isalo National Park was established in 1962 and the rocks (known as “ruiniformes”) are an incredible heritage.
Its interior boasts canyons filled with waterfalls and valleys, dominated by the fire-resistant tree tapia, pandanus pulcher, and the locally prevalent feather palm. Cliffs and rocks are dotted with common succulents including the Elephant’s Foot and Isalo Aloe.
While the spectacular mountains of the Isalo massif are the park’s most famous feature, there are other attractions worth seeing such as natural swimming pools, astounding scenery at the Canyon des Singes and Canyon des Rats. The tightly constricted Canyon des Singes (which means “canyon of monkeys”) offers a long, hot walk through the hidden canyons of the massif to Piscine Naturelle.
The natural stone cave at Piscine Naturelle overlooks a crystal-clear waterfall flowing into an emerald pool surrounded by leafy pandanus trees. This tranquil pool is an oasis in the heat, and offers a welcome relief after the long hike to get there. Another particularly fascinating attraction is the Window of the Isalo, which is especially beautiful at sunset.
Although animal life is not the park’s most prominent feature, there are a few species to look out for, including:
- Catta lemur
- Ring-tailed lemur
- Red-fronted brown lemur
- Blackhead lemur
- Verreaux sifaka (white lemur with a black snout and brown cap)
There are 55 species of birds, including:
- Benson’s rock thrush
- Madagascar little grebe
- Darter and white-faced duck
- Madagascar partridge
- Torotoroka scops-owl
- White-throated rail
- Madagascar coucal
- Madagascar wagtail
- Madagascar kestrel
Isalo’s reptiles and frogs, including:
- Oustalet’s chameleon
- Jewel chameleon
- Spiny-tailed iguanid lizard (oplurus saxicola)
- Stump-tailed chameleon
- Brookesia ebenaui
- Two locally prevalent frogs, the beautifully coloured scaphiophryne gottlebei and the mantidactylus corvus