Isalo National Park is one of the most visited travel treasures of Madagascar. It is nestled in the southwest region and lies about 400 km south-west of Antananarivo, the country’s capital city; and 226 km south-west of Fianarantsoa, Tuléar.

Isalo National Park Madagascar

Isalo National Park Madagascar

Established in 1962, Isalo National Park prides in several eye-catching natural features of touristic interest such as the striking Desert-like sandstone formations; impressive eroded-rock formations dating from the Jurassic period the most popular being La Fenêtre, which is a natural rock formation; towering baobabs; massive cactus; colourful ancestral tombs; delicate coral reef; Fort Dauphin; Berenty Nature Reserve with its spiny forest, succulents and lemurs; and Libanona where there are beautiful swimming beaches and some of the best tidal pools. These are breathtaking features to be enjoyed on the way to the park.

Vegetation

In Isalo National Park, the dominant vegetation has rare species including the fire-resistant tree tapia, pandanus pulcher, and the locally prevalent feathery palms. Most of these species are concentrated in the canyon base where streams flow. Some sections of the park are covered with dry low deciduous woodlands.
On the rock faces are widespread succulents such as the elephant’s foot.

Wildlife

Visitors should know that the probability of failing to spot a single animal is high in the park on a safari. Animal life isn’t the park’s most prominent feature, however, a few species to look out for include the catta lemur, ring-tailed lemur, red-fronted brown lemur, and blackhead lemur and verreaux sifaka. Isalo is home to rare reptiles such as Oustalet’s chameleon, jewel chameleon, frogs, spiny-tailed iguanid lizard and stump-tailed chameleon. The park visitors cannot miss seeing any of these creatures.

Birdlife

Isalo National Park provides shelter to approximately 55 species of uncommon birds, including the shy Benson’s rock-thrush, Madagascar little grebe, the coucal, wagtail, white-faced duck, partridge, Torotoroka scops-owl, white-throated rail, and Madagascar kestrel.

Birdlife in Isalo National Park

Other Attractions Of Touristic Interest

While the spectacular mountains of the Isalo massif are the most well-known feature of the park, there are a few other attractions worth seeing in the park.

  • Canyon des Singes: The tightly constricted Canyon des Singes (canyon of monkeys) is an interesting day walk from Ranohira, it is better, however, to make it an overnight trip and leave time for exploration.
  • Piscine Naturelle: A popular excursion is from the campsite at Canyon des Singes through the Isalo Massif to the Piscine Naturelle. It’s a hot and long walk but the landscape along the way is breathtaking with hidden canyons, brilliantly colored ranges, bizarre strata and the chance to observe sifakas as well as ringtail lemurs.
  • La fenêtre (The Window); when you are in Isalo canyon, pay attention to what guides tell you and don’t miss the picture of this La fenêtre. Winds and rains combined their actions so as to give birth to such shapes. It is a rock with an amazing shape of the rock. When sunrays pass through it while the sun is setting, it produces a striking phenomenon.

Activities

  • Photographic safaris; At Piscine Naturelle there is a natural stone cave that overlooks a waterfall that tumbles into a deep green pool surrounded by overhanging pandanus trees.
  • Swimming; This is a common green pool. It is ideal especially after a long hot trip over the massif from Canyon des singes.
  • Game Walks

Where to Stay

There is no accommodation within the park, all lodging provisions are found in the nearby towns.

Masoala National Park is the largest and one of the most esteemed national parks of Madagascar. It is located in the northeast in the province of Diégo-Suarez, Antsiranana; and covers a total area of 250 000 ha. Established in 1997, Masoala lies on the Masoala peninsula an exceptionally diverse wetland with a high biodiversity of plant and animal life. In 1985, Masoala National Park was designated as a natural World Heritage Site in attribute to its biodiversity and attractive marine ecosystems which harbor high diversity and abundance of rare species.

Masoala National Park

Masoala National Park

Climate

Masoala National Park has a lowland tropical rainforest climate with high humidity widespread in this part of the island. It has an average temperature of 24°C. The driest part of the year in the Park area occurs from mid-September through December. The total annual rainfall seldom goes below 3000mm. Masoala is however prone to cyclones from the Indian Ocean.

Vegetation

The flora in Masoala Park comprises several forest types ranging from primary forest to lush evergreen forests on the marshy bottom through the mangrove forests. Majority of these various vegetation species are more prevalent in the Big Island.

Wildlife

It is also a home for several species of rare animals. The Red-Ruffed Lemur, White-fronted Brown Lemur, Aye-aye, Greater hedgehog Tenrec, Fossa, Fanaloka, and Falanouc are found here in their natural habitat. However, despite the high number of animal species, wildlife in the park’s rainforests can be a challenge to spot. The aye-aye and the Red ruffed lemur highly classified as endangered by international conservationists is best spotted at night.

There are also lots of insects. Chameleons particularly are relatively abundant with species such as the exceptionally colorful Furcifer and Brookezia more prominent. Endemic varieties of reptiles are also in abundance and the Uroplatus fimbriatus is the most amazing. Other marine wildlife available includes 44 species of frogs; Bats (14); Butterflies (135 species); 4 species of sea turtles; 97 species of bony fish; 2 species of whales; 2 species of dolphins; and 9 species of rodents.

Bird Life

Masoala National Park is recognized as one of the prime bird watching destinations in Madagascar. Over 90 species of birds are found in the park including the Helmet Vanga, Swamp Francolin, White- Bellied Heron, Dalmatian Pelican, Spot-billed Pelican, Eastern Imperial, Grey Headed fish eagle, owls, and the serpent eagle. The serpent eagle is an extremely rare bird globally. A good population of them is found in northeast Madagascar.

Blue Coua in Madagascar

Blue Coua in Madagascar

Best Time to Visit

Each year from July to early September, hundreds of Humpback Whales visit the Antongil Bay during their long migration. The warm protected waters of the bay provide an ideal breeding and calving ground for these magnificent marine mammals. As the park is accessible only by a three-hour boat journey, the cyclone season (January to March) is best avoided.

Getting There

The easiest way to Masoala National Park is from the towns of Maroantsetra and Antalaha. Specially arranged boats are used for visitors coming from Maroantsetra. Safari travelers from Antalaha can also enter the park by road to Cap Est with bush taxis.

Where to Stay

Tourists can install their tents as the camping areas for tourists are promptly put in place. Campsites are available at Nosy Mangabe, Cap Est, Ambatolaidama, and each of the three marine parks. Cheap bungalows and visitor lodges are also available in most peninsula communities especially Antalaha and Maroantsetra.

Activities

— Kayaking and snorkeling; these are popular activities in the marine parks of Ifaho in the East, Tampolo in the West and Ambodilaitry in the South.
— Boat Rides and Diving; Marine diving is an impressive way to spot coral reefs, dolphins and rare fishes. However, park visitors are cautioned to be watchful where to dive and swim especially at Antongil which is notorious for sharks.
— Game Drives; several long-day game drive trails are arranged at most campsites.
— Bird Watching; Most birding trails in Masoala National Park start at Nosy Mangabe and Ambodiforaha