With its multitude of intersecting rivers within deep canyons, yellow savannah grasses carpeting the bottoms of vertical gorges, and domineering sculpted buttes, Isalo National Park is an artist’s canvas of a desert canyon. Jocularly called “Madagascar’s Colorado,” Isalo was founded in 1962 and is located in the southern highlands of the island. The park covers an area of 800 sq km and offers prime hiking opportunities among natural pools and uniquely carved landscapes.
The climate of Isalo is tropical and dry; in spite of the little rainfall that amounts during the year, it is one of the most important fresh water reservoirs in the area. The park has several vegetation zones given its discordant terrain and has over 400 species of plant in the park, many of which are endemic to the region.
Although Isalo is not the most recognized park for wildlife sightings, there are still many species that draw attention, such as the ring-tailed lemurs, brown lemurs, sifakas and another 14 species of nocturnal lemurs. In addition to the lemurs, there are approximately 80 species of birds, 35 species of reptiles, and 15 species of endemic frogs.
The large camping grounds in Isalo invite visitors to do a multiple-day trip to the park and immerse themselves in the surroundings by foot. The most popular trails are the Piscine Naturelle (Natural Swimming Pool), the Canyon des Singes (Canyon of Monkeys), and Namaza circuit. The first leads visitors to a natural stone cave that overlooks a crystal-clear waterfall, which tumbles into a deep green pool surrounded by overhanging pandanus trees. The Canyon de Singes takes hikers through the dense foliage of the forest to see the ring-tailed lemurs leaping through trees. Lastly, the Namaza Circuit wanders through an uneven canyon with luxuriant vegetation, a waterfall, and a deep swimming pool. In other words, don’t forget your bathing suit – or your hiking shoes, of course!