Hiking the Isalo Massif was quite simply the high point of our Madagascar experience, and I can't recommend it highly enough. However, it can get extremely hot - when we visited (November), the temperature climbed into the 40s and there is not a lot of shade as you trudge across the main plateau.The perfect antidote to the heat was to take regular...more
La Fenetre (The Window) is by far the best publicised tourist attraction at Isalo, and one of the most accessible, being easily accessible in an ordinary sedan from the main road.La Fenetre is an impressive natural arch formed by erosion of the sandstone: what makes it doubly special is that it faces pretty well due west, so it is possible to view...more
Ranohira is a bustling little town that serves as the gateway to Isalo. It is a good place to replenish your stocks, and a pleasant place to spend a few days, with some reasonable hotels and some attractive low key tourist destinations such as the colonial era church in the photo.Ranohira is where you need to organise your ANGAP tour guide at the...more
Ever noticed that I insisted on you hiring ANGAP guides while visiting national parks? Not only because local ANGAP guides are the ones who know about "their" territory. Also, ANGAP (association nationale pour la gestion ds aires partagees) aims at protecting nature. For decades, nature parks, and other areas btw, have been under threaten. Peasants...more
How would you know about this flora species, for instance, if you haven't taken a guide? Anyway, it shouldn't be a problem since guiding is mandatory, i was just told.Now, I tell you. It is named "Rose du d?sert" or "Faux baobab" or "pachypodium". I like the metallic grey shade of its trunk. It can grow big but would keep its features: the big...more
OK... writing those tips just remind me that what I consider as mundane experiences can be must-see for others (for themnot having experienced them yet) or even off the beaten track ones.I wanted to limit myself to the lemurs as fauna must-see. Still, Isalo is home of other species too: apart from lemurs, Grives de Beson (Beson thrushes),...more
It seems obvious but one has to say that you need guiding when you visit the park. Without that, you would miss many things, you wouldn't know the places, the species, the interdicts.Enlarge the picture. Look at it carefully: what's in there ? Can you say ? Yes, you may but if you were sent alone in the Lemur valley, you wouldn't have been able to...more
The park has a ruin-shaped relief (cf. intro pic), vast grassy plains. This seemingly dry area contains several rivulets and springs in the narrow canyons. Worth noticing, it is located in a hugely eroded sandstone massif. Yes, wind and rain combined their actions to erode and grant rocks with strange shapes.As for Isalo massif itself, it results...more
Just to show you about what I talked about in my previous tip. Enlarge the picture.In 1995, this was a quite deserted area with some houses (small houses). In 2001, it was all different (date of the picture). The mine workers have dug the desert savannah. Here and there, one finds lots of sapphire galleries, deep holes of 10 meters, sometimes...more
Canyon des makis has different names: Vallee des singes, Vallee des lemuriens, Canyons des singes, Vallee des makis... I would say all is OK except the ones that include "singes" or "apes" in it. According to what I read and was taught, lemurs (a maki is a type of lemur) are not apes neither monkeys.In Isalo park, 7 species: Cheirogaleus medius...more
Scientific name: P. verreauxi. Sifaka is a relatively small-bodied species (under 4 kg on average). Funny enough, it is identified following its raucous "si-fak!" call. Hence its name in Malagasy: SifakaThe fur of sifaka is mainly white, with the top of the head black or chocolate brown. The ears are white, slightly tufted & only moderately...more
.. at the end of your walking and visit of the Isalo park, swim in a fresh rockpool water.If you want the rockpools, make sure you would choose the walking circuits that include the rockpools at the end. In fact, there are several types of circuit according to the time allowed for the visit, to your physical conditions. Also, there is a circuit...more
Enlarge the picture. These are mythical makis. Those are ring-tailed lemurs, not all lemurs are ring-tailed but makis are. This Maki, more than any other lemur, is the Madagascar poster boy.I would say that lemurs are the main fauna elements to see in Isalo. Still, as I said earlier there are other nice beasts to see as well. Not every park in Mada...more
Now, some room for bright and lighthearted activity: Photography is a must do in this area.I saw those landscape, features of Isalo park though I was running out of film when I visited. Hopefully, friends still had film rolls left so they could shoot those pic... This series, particularly is important and of good quality (IMHO).Bring film, strong...more
I haven't done it there but I am longing for it... One day, I would do it. Just imagine waking up in the middle of this weird area, lunar landscape, hearing the call of the lemurs...How fascinating that should be. Though I haven't done it, I kind of advertise about it, realizing what I missed by just walking throuhg it for some hours, without any...more
I haven't had any chance to camp within the park. Still, the nightlife tip that came to my mind was camping.
And yes, there is a camping site near the rockpool, from where to watch the sun setting behind the mountains. Then, be sure to book the "Maki Valley" trail (or "Lemur Valley" or "Maki canyon") trail. It is the one that ends at the rockpool.
Also, you can have this experience once reaching whatever top part of the massif: a 180° view on the area.
Dress Code: for the rockpool, swimwear
for camping nights, warm clothing (fresh nights)
In Isalo park, sandstone ridges surround the grassy plains. Also, even if you don't see them, Bara tombs are secluded in the rocks. Tombs are dug in the rocks and the entry is blocked by a block of rock. You wouldn't see anything, except when the rock that serves as a gate has rolled out and that bones are seen from outside. Otherwise, you wouldn't notice anything and only guides (and lemurs ?) would know about the locations of these tombs.
For that reason, you'd better ask the guide about what to do, to know (and I prefer you ask). Yet, if he seems uneasy about telling about the tombs, don't insist. Fady (taboos) operate in the region.
Also, in this area (and others in the island), lemurs are considered as those who host the ancestors' spirit. Does that explain why they can jump from a rock to another, nest in the rocks? Mystery for me.
This is the tourist trap n?1 while visiting the parks in Madagascar. For one main reason, unless you are botanist / biologist, you wouldn't spot the animals easily (are they nightactive, dayactive ? where to spot them the best ?), you wouldn't know about the plants that easily.
Especially, if you look for Maki canyon (valley) / Lemur canyon (valley), it would be a 10-hour-hiking with only lemurs in sight. But if you don't hire a guide, you wouldn't see the path. Also, I was just told that guiding is mandatory in Malagasy parks.
Still, I would like to report that a friend of mine who used to be a guide for some time told me that in Isalo, two Italian tourists went on visiting Isalo park without hiring a guide... Eventually, they have spent 6 hours in the park without seeing anything.
Unique Suggestions: I think that since guiding is mandatory (I was told it), you wouldn't encounter this trap anymore.
Otherwise, if guiding is still non mandatory, hire a GPS, guide books on animals & species, maps of the park you visit, all necessary tools for camping in case you are lost in the park and obliged to camp at dawn.
Fun Alternatives: One alternative: hire a ANGAP guide
See my must-see to know why.
Luggage and bags:
Plastic bags for your garbage, esp. when you camp.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Good walking shoes, hat, sunglasses
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: sunlotion, mosquito repellent, sunglasses, extra-units of your lenses if U wear lenses, cleaning products
Photo Equipment: Films, lenses, a cover to protect equipment from water spills, dust when you camp or cross rivers.
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: For all season, warm clothing for the night (if you camp there)
Miscellaneous: dry fruit, sugary food, water (min. 2l/ pers)
YA BETTER BRING THEM!
Madagascar is justly renowned for the quality of its gemstones, particularly sapphires. Most of these gems are mined from 'placer' deposits, where the stones have been eroded from their source and have preferentially concentrated along current or historic river courses.Placer deposits are often very high grade, but on the downside, are usually...more
I haven't done it but visiting Teniky grottes and Sahanafa forest seems to be the ultimate experience in there. The most interesting of the circuits (archaelogical sites), the toughest as well, requires some very good physical conditions: you will have to go through 2-day-walking, climbing steep slopes, crossing many rivers. Some tricky and...more
It's so obvious: hiking would be your n?1 sport in there.
Depending on the circuit you've chosen, you will have to pay attention to your physical condition. Try to evaluate with the guide what would suit you best.
For instance the Lemur/ Maki Canyon circuit would take you like 10 hours of hiking. Some people do it for two days, with camping.
Equipment: walking shoes
warm outfit for the low temperatures at night (if you camp)
a hat / cap + sunglasses
bottled water, water, water
dried fruits, cookies aside your bfasts, diners
sunscreen lotion (sun can be v. strong in summer)
cane for hiking
a plastic bag to put your trash. Please, don't throw your trash in the park (esp. the non-biodegradable pieces), keep them with you & get rid of them at your hotel or where you find a trashbin)
Tavy is a slash and burn technique that locals use for agriculture. Thinking of it, I always understood that the more you burn soil, the more you kill nutriments in it... Peasants in Madagascar always believed the contrary. Then, for decades, they just slash and burn hundred of thousands of sq. meter per year. Like if there was a race for the...more
It's after seeing those red- soil sceneries that "Red Island" comes to your mind.This is not only in Isalo area but throughout the Central Highlands too. Tana, Fianarantsoa and Toliara provinces.In the past though, the country was nicknamed "Blue island" for it being so green, dark green that it seems blue when seen from above (plane, for...more
Does it surprise you to encounter rivulets in the desert Isalo park ?It shouldn't since two main rivers in Southern part of Madagascar depart from Isalo area.Remember ? It is a massif, with different altitudes. Then rivulets and rivers run through it. :) Once again, one of fondest memories of mine is the sharp contrast between the lush oasises,...more