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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.