Derek Schuurman
Derek Schuurman Senior travel and product specialist
"The undeniable 'weirdness' of so many Malagasy animals and plants adds to the country’s attraction as a destination for nature enthusiasts."

Isalo National Park Holidays

Isalo, with its spectacular rock formations, diverse landscapes and extraordinary succulents (and its location on the RN7), is one of the most visited national parks in Madagascar. It is a wonderful place for walking and hiking, and you can be rewarded with varied terrain, fascinating endemic plants, evidence of Bara culture and some of Madagascar’s unique wildlife and birds.

Habitat and landscape

Isalo National Park covers 81,500ha of the Isalo Massif, which rises from the flat grassy plains. The park encompasses an astonishing variety of terrain. The most prominent features are the sandstone massifs and jagged rock formations from the Jurassic, which, despite their inhospitable appearance, contain pockets of fire-resistant tapia forest.

Hidden away in this vast semi-arid landscape are a number of lush canyons with riparian forest, cool streams and waterfalls are surrounded by thick vegetation -  despite its arid appearance, the Mangoky and Onilahy rivers originate in Isalo. Open grasslands and palm-fringed oases add to Isalo’s diversity. 

The famous Piscine Naturelle rewards people who make the 1-hour walk from the car park with a refreshing dip in a stunning setting. The more demanding Namaza trail (4 – 6 hours) encompasses the Piscine Bleue, Piscine Noire and Casade des Nymphes. In the evening, visitors gather at La Fenêtre to watch the sunset through the natural window towards the southern end of the park.

Wildlife

While Isalo is justly esteemed for its landscapes, the quality of the light and its wonderful walking trails, its wildlife should not be underestimated. It only seems less plentiful than elsewhere because population densities are lower in this enormous protected area.

In fact, Isalo has its fair share of reptiles and frogs, around 80 bird species, including over 50 endemics, and insects.

Particular highlights include Madagascar partridge, White-throated rail, the localised Benson’s rock-thrush and, at night, the White-browed owl.

You have a good chance of seeing lemurs at the campsite on the Namaza Trail where some bold ring-tailed and red-fronted brown lemurs are often seen. The Canyon des Makis also offers a good opportunity to see Verreaux’s Sifaka.

When to go

Isalo is a year-round destination, but it can be very hot between November and March. January to March is the wettest time of year, although it is dry in comparison with the rest of the country. Between June and August, rain is virtually unknown, but nights can be cold. The elephant’s foot is generally in bloom in September and the first half of October.

Location

Isalo is located on the well-maintained RN7, about 6 hours drive south from Ranomafana or as much as 10 hours including stops. It is about 4 hours from Tulear. The park office is located the village of Ranohira, which is also the start of the walk to the Canyon des Makis. The car park for the Namaza Trail and the Piscine Naturelle is a few kilometres further south. The Maison de l’Isalo houses an interesting display on the geology and wildlife of the park, as well as a small exhibition about the surrounding people.

Read more about Isalo National Park

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Holiday Type
Total Holidays: 2      
Madagascar Wildlife Discovery Tours 2017
  • Responsible
  • Small Group Tours
  • Wildlife
From £3895 per person
16 day holiday
Flights included
See the full trip
Madagascar
Our very popular fully escorted, set, small group Wildlife & Discovery Tours combine wonderful wildlife viewing in a range of Madagascar's most highly- praised protected areas with incomparably diverse scenery and also, visiting the domains of many of the country's interesting tribes.
Classic Madagascar Overland: the RN7 Route
  • Adventure
  • Family
  • Responsible
  • Wildlife
From £3675 per person
15 day holiday
Flights included
See the full trip
Madagascar
This tailor-made individual tour follows the scenic RN7 road, long praised as a journey through diverse landscapes and including many wildlife hotspots and sites of cultural interest.
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