Trekking to the national park of Isalo in central Madagascar

June 21, 2013 

The national park of Isalo in Madagascar is interesting for geology that sees the presence of sandstone rock formations in bizarre shapes, small canyons, natural pools, rare endemic plants such as some species of Aloe and Pachypodium, as well as the ever-present families of lemurs. In the rainy season it is also possible to observe numerous reptiles (casual encounters with geckos and chameleons are in any case possible all year)

National Park Isalo in Madagascar
Panoramic photo showing the bizarre geology of the Isalo National Park in south-central Madagascar. The national park of Isalo was set up to protect an area that includes the mountain range of the same name; it is home to several species of lemurs and reptiles, as well as some succulent plants endemic to the region.
Isalo Madagascar
The normal trekking circuit to the national park of Isalo is on average between 9 and 12 kilometers depending on the various detours taken and therefore a full day of rest should be devoted to this destination.
Temporary tomb
Immediately you notice the first temporary tombs made by the local tribe. Basically it is a heap of stones where the body is held before the complete decomposition.
Final tomb
The bones are then transferred into large cavities of the mountain, inside metal boxes decorated with Airary coins (this tomb was later abandoned, perhaps because the burial site was not considered suitable).
Stick insect Macro stick insect
A big stick insect that blends perfectly with the branches of a bush. In the picture to the right, a macro that shows the head of the animal.
Fire resistant trees Uapaca Bojeri
Uapaca Fire resistant trunk
Photo of a Uapaca Bojeri a fire-resistant tree. The park Isalo is heavily populated by trees resistant to fire, probably due to their thick bark that acts as a powerful fireproof insulation. Indeed, apparently, it seems that the seeds are in need of a fire in order to germinate.
Mountain Isalo Madagascar
Madagascar Isalo Photo. Picture of the rock formations in the national park of Isalo.
Gecko Gecko phelsuma
On the bark of a tree, I notice a small gecko probably belonging to the genus Phelsuma without the tail.
Pachypodium isalo Madagascar
Pachypodium rosulatum

But the real gem that you can find the National Park of Isalo, is the Pachypodium rosulatum, a succulent plant caudiciforme (which owns the base of the trunk enlarged to act as a water reserve) endemic to central Madagascar.
Trekking isalo
Isalo Massif

I go up a small hill where you have a 360 degree view over most of the territory explored on foot and on the bizarre rock formations of Isalo.
Natural pool
I reach a natural pool fed by a small stream, where you can swim in summer (in winter the water is too cold).
The rich vegetation of palms around the natural pool.
Succulent plant

Photo of Pachypodium rosulatum. The treking to the Isalo park continues through beautiful Pachypodium rosulatum growing between the inlets of the rocks, sometimes protected by other herbaceous plants.
Blooming aloe
Aloe flowers

I also meet some small blooming Aloe
Aloe on Isalo mountains

Aloe flower and in particular on the rosette of leaves.

The rocks of the Isalo range are sometimes covered by a yellowish-green lichen, almost phosphorescent.

I continue to see numerous Pachypodium rosulatum.
The rocky landscape of Isalo National Park in south-central Madagascar.
Trail in the mountains
The trail approaches the outer boundary of the Isalo massif, then drops into a mini-forest bordered by a narrow canyon.
Lemurs catta
And in the forest, there are plenty of very nice ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta).
Lemur catta
Some examples of ring-tailed lemur in Isalo National Park.
Lemur katta
Dancing lemur
I also meet a nice white lemur (sifaka) resting on a tree, which is not often seen here in Isalo.
Finally I reach another natural pool contained in a large cave in fed by a waterfall. For the complete absence of the sun and because of the winter, the water is very cold.
Grey Chamaleon
Green Chamaleon

I do the reverse path and meet a gray chameleon and a green chameleon belonging to the genus Furcifer.
Isalo ranch
Accommodation for two consecutive nights at the lodge of Ranohira (Isalo Ranch), an ideal starting point for excursions to the National Park of Isalo.

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English translation by Lorena Anzani.