Southern Madagascar has a wealth of amazing tourist attractions. The Isalo massif is among the wonders that one must see. Located in the city of Ranohira, on Route Nationale 7, it is a paradise for lemurs that roam in the middle of a breathtaking and magical environment. The sandstone formations stretch over more than 82,000 hectares and are composed of caves and canyons.
The Isalo massif is a mixture of colors and reliefs wonderfully sculpted by erosion. The alternating grassy plains embellished with stones which color shifts from silver gray to red ochre shows an impressive picture worthy of Western landscapes. The place promises spectacular views where absolute silence reigns and where nature quietly claimed its rights with pride. Its altitude varies between 515 and 1,268 m. It is nicknamed “ruin-like massif” by scientists because it has been sculpted by erosion, which has given it unusual peaks. The wind scraped and dug its way into it to create deep canyons, nestled in a magnificent and exceptional setting.
Fauna and flora of Isalo
The massif is home to more than 77 bird species, 70% of which are endemic, such as Benson’s Rock-thrush, as well as a few lemur species such as the ring-tailed lemur (maki), the Verraux’s sifaka and the wild Eulemur. 15 species of small mammals and amphibians as well as 33 reptile species can also be found there.
You will also discover some species of Euphorbia, Pachypodium and Aloe (whose trunks contain runoff water). The bottom of the canyons is favorable for the development of palm trees, ferns and pandanus. Large rivers flow through the canyons and supply the Onilahy and Mangoky Rivers.
Canyons, caves, natural pools
The massif shelters some spectacular canyons (the Canyon of Monkeys and the Canyon of Rats) and magnificent caves such as the Portuguese cave.
Visiting the Canyon of Monkeys and the Canyon of rats
To enjoy the beauty of these canyons, you have to take a footpath that will take you under a turquoise waterfall. The walk runs approximately 2 to 4 hours and allows you to enjoy a breathtaking landscape with a panoramic view of the forests, rice fields and cliffs. The Canyon of Monkeys allows you to observe “Sifaka” closer. You will discover a natural pool and Bara tombs in the Canyon of Rats.
Visiting the Portuguese cave
It is a natural refuge in which the Portuguese settled around the 16th century. It will take between 4 to 7 days of walking to reach the cave from the entrance of the park, but it is really worth the detour as your efforts will be rewarded by magnificent landscapes, archaeological sites, and rare plant species unique to wet and dry areas, as well as some species of lemurs and birds.
Discovering the NAMAZA Canyon
The canyon offers a breathtaking view of the forest, waterfalls and natural pools. Almost every animal and plant species that live there are endemic and can only be seen in this part of Madagascar, where you will find various species of lizards, butterflies, birds and lemurs.
The Bara tombs
Visiting the massif will also allow you to understand the culture of the Bara people who live in the region.
The Bara tombs are located in the facades of rock formations, where the Bara dug slits to slide the coffins of the deceased. Those set up at the base of cliffs are temporary tombs, while those high up are permanent. According to the Bara beliefs, the deceased are close to the gods, and it is forbidden to point your finger at the tomb. If you want to show it to your travelling companions, don’t forget to curl your index finger.