Isalo National Park

We left early to the Isalo NP main entrance, a short 15 min drive from the lodge. The road connecting RN7 to the park entrance is in terrible condition. Now, I did not expect a paved road, but neither to cross a deep river in the peak of the dry season, nor to navigate though lunar size craters. This is the most popular national park in Madagascar and a little improvement of this 1km road would not hurt. We met our local guide who is originally from Fort Dauphin and speaks very good English. He got married to a local wife of the Bara tribe and settled here. He explained to us that a Bara gets married only once but to as many wifes as he can afford. He just needs to steal one zebu for each, not an easy task. He chose to follow the easy path of monogamy.

Isalo NP has a widely varying landscape that was at some point the sea bottom of the Madagascar-Mozambique canal. We trekked a total of 13km among impressive sandstone formations, canyons and rich vegetation oases. The trek from the main gate ascended through the yellow-brown sandstones up to the vantage point, 3km from the entrance, from where you get a grand-canyon-like view of the park.

Isalo vantage point
Yours truly with Vaissilis and Nana on Isalo vantage point
Isalo NP limestones
The turtle
A limestone formation in Isalo NP, called "the turtle"
Isalo NP
Isalo formations
Isalo NP

After a short stop we continued to the nearby Piscine Naturelle, an oasis with lush vegetation, a small waterfall and a lake. I decided not to dive as the water temperature was way below my comfort zone.

Piscine Naturelle;Africa;Madagascar;travel

Piscine Naturelle, a lovely oasis in Isalo NP

After a short rest, we continued for the next 4km through open grassland and deep canyons – here is the most difficult part of the trail – until we reached a rest area where we were served an average but much appreciated meal of salad and zebu.

Trekking in Isalo
Trekking in Isalo
Wild West
Isalo Limestone formations resemble the US wild west landscapes
Isalo National Park
A typical landscape of Isalo National Park
Isalo NP
Isalo Limestone rocks

Here we had our frst encounter with wild ring-tailed lemurs that frequent the area to get an easy meal from the food left overs. I was carrying the quite heavy Canon 7D and EF 100-400L just for this opportunity and did not let it pass.

Bad hair day
A ring tailed lemur in Isalo NP
Ring tailed lemur
A ring tailed lemur in the rest area of Isalo NP
Lemurs in Isalo
A mother and baby lemur in Isalo NP

We continued for another 3km inside a deep canyon through dense vegetation and a river – which I suspect gets impassable during the wet season – all the way to the Piscine Bleue and Piscine Noir.

Piscine Bleue
Piscine Bleue, a pool with the light blue water in Isalo NP
Oasis in Isalo
The canyon leading to the natural pools has dense vegetation and a running tiver
Canyon in Isalo
A canyon with lush vegetation in Isalo NP
A waterfall in Isalo NP
A waterfall in Isalo NP
Piscine Noire
Piscine Noire, a pool with the dark ice-cold water in Isalo NP

As the names suggest, these small pools, formed by waterfalls have deep blue waters that invite you for a swim. Despite the fact that water was extremely cold, I did not resist to put on my swimsuit and enter the water. It was surely the quickest swim of my life, as it lasted exactly 10 seconds. Dive, shock, thoughts about an imminent heart attack and the kids I have to sent to college, quick hand jerks to back to the shore where I was offered a towel to dry under the warm sun rays. Very refreshing but I would think twice to do it again.

We walked back to our vehicle, which was waiting only 2km away at the other entrance and decided to visit the annual Bara festival in Ranohira. It was taking place in an open area in the center of the town. There was a large performance scene, loud music and wooden booths with beer and food.

The Bara festival;Africa;Madagascar;travel

The Bara festival

What strikes you in Madagascar is the crowds of kids. Supposedly 50% of the population is under the age of 16 and here was no exception. I discovered quickly that the locals do not mind having their picture taken, you just have to follow the etiquette and smile or ask. Especially the kids went nuts posing for me and checking the pictures on the screen of my Olympus. After some point it got really difficult to keep them to a reasonable distance as they were trying to position themselves as close as possible to the white guy with the camera.

Bara girl
Bara girl in the Ranohira annual festival
Bara Girl
Bara Girl
Bara girl
A young girl in the Bara festival
Looking Smart
Bara people festival, Ranohira, Madagascar
Bara girls
Bara girls in the annual cultural festival
A young guy, organized some gambling the Bara festival in Ranohira
Bara kids
Kids posing in the Bara annual festival
A local beauty
A young girl posing in the Bara annual festival
A gang of four
A goung of four kids in the Bara festival
Three Horses
Having fun at the Bara festival
Bara beauties
A couple of young girls in the Bara festival
Happy kid
Happy kid in teh Bara festival
A young kid looking like you know who in the Bara festival
A woman dance in the Bara cultural festival
A kid in the annual Bara festival in Ranohira

The highlight of the day though was happening some 20m away. Vassilis started dancing with the locals to the Malagasy music and he was soon leading a crowd of locals to a dance frenzy. Great people, great music and lots of fun.

Leading the dance;Africa;Madagascar;travel

Leading the dance

We returned to the lodge, exhausted but with a big smile. Dinner, rum and a good night sleep as tomorrow we have a long journey. Next: Isalo to Ranomafana.

Isalo National Park