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A fantastic, colorful landscape and incredible panoramas
Walks and Hiking in the Isalo National Park. Short circuits
The Isalo National Park is the most visited protected area in Madagascar and a popular highlight when discovering the Great South. It is one of the country's most dramatic and pleasant national parks. The park ranges from just over 500m up to 1268m above sea level and the canyons are in places as much as 200m deep. Isalo National Park offers a fantastic, colorful landscape and incredible panoramas. It is not just about the colors and shapes of the land damaged by the erosion, but also the great scenery and the general silence that surrounds everything. It is also a set that all "Bara" people consider as sacred.
Isalo National Park has several options for brief and extended one-day walks, as well as multi-day camping circuits. Above the cool canyons, the trails on the plateau can be hot and steep. The Tsingys d’Isalo make gorgeous photo motives, as well as the Nymph waterfalls, Maki canyon and the Portuguese grot. We can highly recommend a hike to “Piscine naturelle”, a natural pool inside the rocks, which is fed by a small waterfall. Piscine noire and Piscine bleu, two additional natural pools, are also worth seeing. If you bring bathing clothes, just step into the water and refresh yourself. Most trails are well to walk, but non-slippery, strong footwear is definitely necessary.
ENJOY THESE… walks and hiking:
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Circuit Namaza Canyon. The easiest trail, the Namaza Trail (up the stream and canyon of the same name, 1.5km in each direction) starts at 4km northwest of Ranohira. From here, the easy footpath runs for 800m through the beautiful Namaza valley. Green Forest, river, birds, butterflies, lizards. Throughout this trek you will have the possibility to spot lemurs. The valley is rich in flora and fauna endemic to the South. Even at the height of the dry season, pretty greens and yellows fill the canyon, with purple-flowering Koehneria flowers, related to purple loosestrife, everywhere. After a further 700m, with a little climbing (60m gain), you reach a beautiful, cool pool at the base of dark cliffs, where the Cascade des Nymphes waterfall tumbles from the plateau above, and you can swim.
Circuit Piscine Naturelle. The well-known Circuit Piscine Naturelle leads you to a palm-fringed pool, constantly fed by a warm waterfall. The footpath ascends 70m over the Isalo plateau before dropping after 3km to the pool itself, the largest and most popular in the park, with its fringe of Bismarck palm trees. A natural stone cave overlooks a crystal-clear waterfall, which tumbles into a deep green pool surrounded by overhanging pandanus trees. The Piscine Naturelle is a true oasis in the heat of the canyons. The short hike is worth a good relaxation in the natural pool with all the greenery that surrounds it; perfect from every perspective for a pure relaxation. From the pool, a 3km path running northwards across the plateau descends (180m drop) to the Namaza valley, enabling a circuit to be made. This is the most popular circuit in the park offering panoramic views over a valley that resembles the famous Death Valley or some valleys that look like the valleys of Colorado. You will walk through diverse ecosystems passing eroded cliffs with strange shapes, the plain of Tapia trees, the big savannas and several tombs of the Bara and Sakalava people. The rock formations received typical names: You will notice the "Turtle", the "African woman", the "Skull" and the "Crocodile". The trail is dotted with the famous plant called "Pachypodium”, dwarf baobabs, and you can come across birds and chameleons. Beside various plants, one can observe the Ring-tailed lemur in the Mangily forest.
Circuit Canyon des Makis and Canyon des Rats. In the northeast side of Isalo National Park are two spectacular clefts into the side of the Isalo Plateau, the Canyon des Makis (maki: ring-tailed lemur in Malagasy) and the Canyon des Rats. This circuit combines the wild nature and cultural discoveries. The walk allows you to have an impressive view of the incised cliffs, rainforests and rice fields, gorges, the Canyon of the Makis and Rats as well as the huge Ihorombe plateau, a savanna. The hike will take you to a former ancient royal village, where you will see the surrounding palace wall, the royal bath, the royal tombs as well as traditional Bara tombs. While hiking up the huge gorges you can discover the unique flora of the forest and observe numerous colonies of lemurs, birds, butterflies and lizards. At the end of the trek you can go for a swim in the canyon.
The Canyon des Makis is the southernmost and easiest of the two, it oriented to the observation of the “Sifaka”, the ring-tailed lemurs: you take the footpath for 1km or so, crossing a couple of streams and irrigation ditches and then cutting through fields and gardens, before breaking through a tangle of bush at the mouth of the canyon to emerge in the glorious ravine with a waterfall of turquoise water. Here, multi-directional sunlight bounces off the orange sandstone walls, illuminating the stream and pools on the canyon floor, where lush flora bursts from the damp ground against a backdrop of dripping water and little rainbows fizzing over moss-covered boulders. The mouth of the Canyon des Rats is just 700m to the north of the Canyon des Makis, though you’ll need a long half-day to do justice to them both including a waterfall and another natural pool for a shower, and a visit to the Bara graves.
Circuit Canyon des Singes. It is a popular hike through the dense foliage of the forest to discover ring-tailed lemurs leaping through the trees, with their faces tilted to the sunrays and the lovely Sifakas, with their legs sideways along the ground in a bizarre and singularly cool dance step. A popular but thirsty excursion leads from here to the piscine naturelle along a breathtaking way of brilliantly colored ranges.
Circuit Cascade de Nymphes, Piscine Noire and Bleue Swimming Pool. Easy trek (3.5 hours) to the campsite, however, the ascent from the river up the waterfall or to the Black Swimming Pool can be more strenuous. This tour takes you through the canyon to the Black and Blue Swimming Pools. You will climb along waterfalls inhabited by many rare birds, butterflies and lizards. From the top, one has a panoramic view over the green canyon. Throughout this trek you will have the possibility to spot lemurs. The highlight is a bath in the dark waters of the Black and Blue Swimming Pools.
Circuit Malaso. Medium circuit, 42km by car, thereafter a trek. The Malaso circuit draws its name from the zebu thieves which use the natural labyrinth of the Isalo for their activities. The car will take you to a site where Pachypodium, Aloe and Kalanchoe grow. Thereafter you will hike with the opportunity to discover the vegetation of the Isalo National Park. You will see the southern wall, the Tsihitafototra canyon, lemurs, the Isalo Ranch and The Boot. Thereafter the trek will continue through a geological site, where you will see the Tsingy of Isalo in the savanna, the Ampasimaiky cliffs and The Wolf rock formation. From the peak at a height of 975m above sea level you will have an unlimited view over the entire park, the best place to admire the vast extent of Isalo. 30km further you will be near Lac Andranovorinkaolo, a lake paradise for wild ducks. Thereafter, cross the Satrana savanna to get to the Window of Isalo - a natural rock formation in shape of a window through which the sunset can be seen.
Circuit Crête. Medium circuit, 3km by car and thereafter 4km on foot (2.5 hours). Discover famous the natural geological forms of Isalo: "Reine de l’Isalo" - The Queen of Isalo, "Botte" - The Boot, "Loup" - The Wolf, "Tsingy de l’Isalo" - sharp limestone karst pinnacles.
Circuit Antsifotra. Medium circuit, 29km by car and thereafter 5km on foot. This circuit will take you to a riparian forest where lemurs live. The trek and ends at the foot of an amazing waterfall.
Circuit Anjofo. Medium circuit, 29km by car and thereafter 5km on foot. This trek along rain-loving vegetation gives you the opportunity to see orchids, birds and lemurs. The hike ends at a wonderful waterfall.
Circuit Lac Vert de l’Isalo. Medium circuit, 20km by car and thereafter on foot. You will cross the Tapia forest, a riparian forest with palms and lemurs, to reach the Green Lake (Lac Verte) which is a sacred location.