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Isalo Madagascar – Explorer guide
An oasis in the middle of the desert, that’s what Isalo national park in Madagascar looks like. The park is one of the most popular parks in Madagascar and what makes it so special is the diversity of wildlife, plants and surroundings.
This huge rock massif from the Jurassic period rises up in the middle of the plains and once you step inside.. it’s a whole other world. The trails lead you through wet gorges with natural pools, over savanna fields and on top of Lion King like rock formations.
Read all about it in this Isalo Madagascar explorer guide!
Ranohira is your entrance to the famous Isalo national park. After you’ve booked your tour at your hotel or the park office in Ranohira, you will head out to the park with your guide.
Tours & guides
The park’s main attraction are the beautiful hiking routes, which differ from 2 hours to 15 days in length. Just like in all other national parks in Madagascar you are required to hire a guide that will take you through the national park.
Entrance fees Isalo np
Entrance price per person: 65.000 ariary (€15,45)
Community price/Tax per person: 5.000 ariary (€1,20)
Guide: 120.000 ariary (€28,50) for more than 5 hours
Keep in mind extra costs for porters, camping fees and tips.
So expect to pay a minimum of €60 when you visit the park with two people.
How to get there
Almost all towns are connected by the RN7, the best maintained road you’ll find in Madagascar. This road will lead you from Antananarivo in about 15 hours to Ranohira and Isalo national park.
It’s a long way to drive, but there are plenty of great stops along the way. Such as the beautiful lush Ranomafana national park.
You can also choose to fly to Tulear (Toliara) and make your way to Isalo from there.
When to visit the park
Unlike other national parks in Madagascar, Isalo is great to visit year round. The temperature is dry and hot throughout the year, but there is a slightly cooler period from May to October.
There are many many trails going through the massive 815km² Isalo Madagascar national park, from short trails to long trails and from high plateaus to blue natural pools. But, there’s three trails that stand out and you should definitely consider.
Also check out “Ranomafana Madagascar – Explorer guide”
1. Piscine Naturelle trail
This is one of the most popular trails inside the park, probably because of its length. It will take you to the Piscine Naturelle, a beautiful crystal blue pool fringed with lush greenery. It's only 3 km from the parking and it's an easy hike over mainly flat terrain. It's nice to combine this hike with the Canyon des Singes.
2. Namaza circuit & the Cascades des Nymphes
This amazing route will take you through the wonderful world of what Isalo is all about. The cultural heritage and ruins of the Bara tribes, lush green gorges and beautiful natural pools that will take your breath away. A beautiful highlight of this trail are the natural pools. There's the blue and black pool and the stunning Cascade des Nymphes, a natural clear blue rock pool with a waterfall. Make sure to bring your swimsuit!
This sandstone massif is spread over a huge part of Southwestern Madagascar. The Makay Massif is fairly unknown and lots of it hasn't been explored yet. It's a real expedition that can take multiple days, sometimes up to 15. So are you a real explorer that needs a huge adventure? This might be it!
The different landscapes and its flora is what people attract to Isalo national park. Over time species of plants have flourished and created some survival skills of their own.
There’s more than 500 plant species in the park, some of which are endemic to Madagascar such as the Elephant’s Foot, Aloë and some special palms. One of these palm species can even resist fire because of tis thick bark.
Although the wildlife is not as abundant here as it is in other national park in Madagascar, there’s still lots to see and learn. There’s about 14 species of Lemurs to spot here, such as the famous ring-tailed lemur and the Verreaux’s Sifaka.
Another big Malagasy animal to look for is the Fossa, a beautiful cat-like animal that’s not easy to spot.
Because the landscape in Isalo is so incredibly diverse, the flora and fauna are really diverse as well. Going from the savanna to wet gorges and you’ll find a whole different world of plants and animals, like the Benson’s Rock Thrush bird.
The town of Ranohira
Ranohira is the base town of Isalo national park. Here you can book your tours and stay at one or more of the beautiful accommodations. The town itself is really basic with sandy streets, a big market and some shops and restaurants.
Where to stay
There’s plenty of places to stay around Isalo Madagascar, because of its popularity. The accommodations range from cheap to luxurious, so you can choose whatever is in your budget.
Have a few dollars to spend? Choose the Isalo Rock Logde to get pampered after some amazing days in the National Park. This beautiful four star lodge is situated up in the sandstone mountains, overlooking the national park.
Or try the Satrana Lodge, which offers incredible tentbungalows and that for just €35 a night in low season.
ITC lodge, a camping at the edge of town and owned by a dutch guy, is a great mid range option. With small wooden houses overlooking Isalo from a distance, this is a very nice place to stay.
There’s a restaurant, bar and a reception on site, where you can get all your information about the surrounding area. There’s also a touroffice located on site called Momo Trek, which is the place to book your Isalo tour!
Another great option for mid range pricing in Ranohira is Chez Alice. A nice countryside property with cute bungalows and a nice view.
Momo Trek trekkings
This company organizes trekkings through the Isalo national park for all levels of fitness. They’ve been doing this for over 20 years and really know the best places to make your experience and money worth it! The tours range from 2h for everyone to 15 days for the more advanced outdoor enthusiasts.
We chose the 3 day loop and it was perfect. They set up our bed, made us dinner and showed us all the beautiful parts of this stunning national park.
Book your tour through Isalo with Momo-Trek Madagascar.
There are a view options to camp overnight in Isalo national park. Your first option is to book a multiple day tour, which will lead you to stay overnight inside the park. This is a great experience, because you’re really deep inside the park and in raw nature. Beware that of course, the amenities are very basic (no toilet, no shower, just a tent set up).
Another option is to stay at one of the two campsites a bit closer to the edge of the park, Namaza and Analatapia. Both campsites are large and offer toilets, showers and even barbecue facilities.
If you want to camp at one of these campgrounds, visit the park office in the town of Ranohira to book your stay.
What to pack
Depending on the months you are going, you have to pack a few things when visiting Isalo national park. The warmer months are usually dry and you’ll definitely want to take a dip in the fresh waters in the park.
So what to pack?
– light clothes, layers are best
– Long pants, or shorts but with high socks
– Bikini, swim shorts
– small towel
– Good, sturdy walking shoes.
– A hat when it’s sunny
– Lots of water
– Backpack with some food, depending on the trail
– Tipping money for the guide & spotter
vaccinations & Precautions
Traveling to Madagascar almost always requires you to be vaccinated for certain health risks.
Below the most common health risks and vaccinations.
– Chikungunya, Dengue and Zika virus.
These are all mosquito related, so protect yourself day and night
– Malaria. Sometimes Malaria tablets are required
– DTP vaccination
– Hepatitis A vaccination
– Hepatitis B vaccination (not always)
– Rabies (not always)
– MMR vaccination (BMR in dutch)
– Tuberculosis vaccination (not always)
– Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia). It’s a parasite, found on the surface of fresh water
– Yellow fever (only when traveling from a Yellow fever area)
Disclaimer: always contact your healthcare specialist before traveling to Madagascar.
Hi! We’re Tim & Ilse
Together with our fluffy cat Snowy we travel around the world searching for adventures.