Tuesday 6 March – Isolo National Park near Toliara

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March 6th 2018
Published: March 13th 2018
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Tuesday 6 March – Isolo National Park

The weather was magnificent, with clear blue sky other than a couple of white fluffy clouds, as we left at 7.45am to pick up our guide and cook in the town (Ranohira). On the main intersection of the town was a bright red and yellow pub which was the colour of the Three Horses Beer company, a regular site in these villages. From time to time we saw staggering men on roads who had obviously had a bit too much THB or home-made rum.

Our guide had very good English as he explained to whilst driving out to the entrance of the Park that when local Bara tribes people die they place their bodies in a temporary grave for 3 years. After that time the bones are cleaned and coated with zebu fat, particularly from the hump of the zebu, and put in a grave on high ground for their final resting place. There is always a big village feast with zebu slaughtered for the occasion, the number depending on the wealth of the family.

Our cook was a young local with a big backpack full of our food etc for our lunch.

The park is known for its wide variety of terrain, including sandstone formations, deep canyons, palm-lined oases and grasslands. Isalo National Park was created in 1962 and has been administered by Madagascar National Parks authority since 1997. The Bara people have traditionally inhabited this area, a nomadic people subsisting on cattle (zebu) farming. This area has a tropical dry climate with seasonal rainfall.

After arriving at the Park entrance our guide showed us a map similar to the one he showed the previous day, pointing out where we were going to walk. After a kilometre or 2 of easy walking we started to climb. The path was well prepared with concrete and rock steps or steps cut into the boulders. It was impressive.

We came to the campsite which was the start and finish of the circuit we were going to walk and the point where we were going to have our lunch. Some people do a 3 day hike and camp at this site as it had toiles and running water.

We passed the sign to the ridge-top walk on the way to the first natural feature, the waterfall. It had a lot of water flowing due to the very heavy rain from the day before. We had noticed the creek we had started to follow had signs of fast flowing and much higher water. Fortunately, the water had dropped considerably over night. The bottom of the creek was sandy as the surrounding escarpment was of sandstone.

Our guide said the pool at the bottom of the waterfall was usually very clear but with the heavy rain, it was brown.

We continued our beautiful walk, climbing up and down, stopping from time to time for photos. There were many mini waterfalls seen cascading over the rock faces. We eventually climbed up the top of the escarpment for a magnificent view. Ah it’s good to be alive!! We sat for 15 minutes admiring the 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside which was very green.

Being in the morning the sun was shining on the escarpment which made it more spectacular.

We then started our 200-metre descent into the river valley, continuing over boulders and into sand beds but always over well prepared paths were this was necessary for easy walking.

We arrived at the Black Pool (which was brown from the rain) and then to the Blue Pool (which was also brown) where we were to have a swim. I went down to feel the water and though I might wait to have a swim back at the hotel. I had bought my swimming goggles and underwater camera with me but decided I wouldn’t be able to see much.

We then walked back to the camp site to have lunch. As soon as we arrived out came the ring-tailed lemurs, and lots of them! They were fascinating to watch as we waited for our BBQ zebu shasliks to be prepared. Our cook had set the table (made out of rock) with a tablecloth, plates and cutlery and serve us a THB (beer). He then bought a large plate of salad for us to eat before the main meal.

As we were eating our BBQ Tom noticed a dancing Sifaka lemur arrive at the camp site. He was not afraid of people but he was the only sifaka there. We learned that 4 months previously there was a fire (which we saw plenty of signs of on our walk). All the other sifakas had left the area to go further into this large Park. This one had got lost and was alone with all the ring-tailed lemurs.

I took a fantastic movie of him ‘dancing’ around the campsite. Unlike the ring-tailed lemur who walk along the ground, the white sifaka jumps, using its tail as additional leverage. The sifaka also eats leaves rather than fruit.

We were at the lunch site for over 2 hours, which included following all the lemurs around, watching their antics and listening to their calls to each other. Several very loud calls bought the whole tribe of ring-tailed lemurs. Tom counted over 18 but the guide said there were many more. It was good to have the time to observe them.

Satisfied with our experiences, we started the 2 km walk back to the car park. We saw more chameleons, colourful insects and many birds. What a beautiful day we had.

Arriving back at our hotel after dropping our guide and cook off in the town, we did some washing and some reading of my great novel I was reading before going for a swim in the pool. Tom then organised our beer by the pool while the sun slowly set. We both agreed that going for long walks in the morning and getting back at around 3.00pm was ideal.

We had some fantastic photos between us which was record of the day. It was good that Tom had a camera also, which he had to buy when I was stuck in Nairobi due to my full passport and he was to travel through Kruger NP and Swaziland without me and my camera!

Additional photos below
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