Marvellous Madagascar - Isalo National Park

January 29, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

My apologies for the long wait between part one and part two of my Madagascar blogs! Life got away with me but the good news is a lot of the time I was busy I was out in the field adventuring and taking photographs so I will loots more to share....when I get time to write!

Isalo National Park in Madagascar is known as the "Colorado of Madagascar" due to its sandstone massif which has been eroded by wind and rain to form bizarre ridges (known as “runiformes”) and impressive gorges and canyons

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​This shows a stitched panorama of 15 images of the main massif, gives you an idea of the size of this enormous rock formation....we were still many kms away.

As we neared the massif and the local village we started to see the Zebu cattle grazing under the watchful gazes of their caretakers. These cattle are very important to the Malagasy: an embodiment of their owner's wealth which is a tradition originating on the African mainland. Cattle rustling has been a rite of passage for young men in the plains areas of Madagascar. This tradition continues but is becoming increasingly dangerous as the traditional weapons (spear etc) have been replaced by guns. The Zebu are used as draught oxen, as dairy cattle and as beef cattle, as well as for byproducts such as hides and dung for fuel and manure. Traditionally when a man dies all of his Zebu are killed and their skulls used to decorate his tomb. This is a tradition that the government is working hard to change as it is a factor in the extreme poverty in the South of Madagascar.

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A typical Zebu. 

After a pretty bumpy trip along the dirt road which took about 1.5hrs we arrived at the end of the road near a village. The kids from the village were playing in the river when we got there. As we set off with our guide Mana on our hike into the Canyon we had a long line of sweet Malagasy children trailing along after us chattering and laughing. Our guard of honour came as far into the park as they were allowed and delighted in showing us chameleons and interesting insects. The kids were adorable and actually waited for us to come back again before accompanying us back to the village. Not that many people were going to this area at the time when we went so our presence was obviously quite a novelty for the kids!

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Beautiful Dragonfly pointed out to us by our little guides!

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A chameleon the children proudly found and showed us.

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The amazing sandstone walls outside the canyon.

Once we got inside the canyon the vegetation changed completely and we were suddenly in a lush and damp forest. The canyon walls are a beautiful reddish, orange, pink, yellow sandstone and loomed over everything. There was a stream running through large boulders inside the canyon and the place was full of life: fish, frogs, birds, chameleons, insects, ferns and many other plants. 

It was stunningly beautiful. We walked, climbed and scrambled down to the end of the canyon marvelling at all around us then slowly headed back.

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A Paradise Flycatcher (Rufous) in the forest inside the canyon.

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The lush green inside of the canyon.
 
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Once we exited the canyon and farewelled our little escort of children, we drove a short distance away to where the enterprising locals had created a picnic area and were making delicious food for the local guides and visitors. The food was delicious and, as after our long walk we arrived when everyone else had left, we had the whole place to ourselves....apart from the many inquisitive lemurs that is! There were Ring-tailed and Red-fronted Brown lemurs, all very relaxed around us and indeed very curious! 
 
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Amazing luminous eyes!
 
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How cute are these red-fronted Brown lemurs?!
 
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These Ring-tailed lemurs were just as curious about me and my camera as I was excited to see them!
 
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Wow what an amazing day....we headed back to our accommodation and had a lovely meal with Mana and Tojo. The adventure wasn't over yet though as I decided to go out onto the rock formations near us and photograph the milky way. The stars were absolutely incredible and it was a moonless night, making the sky pitch dark and the stars light up the heavens like nothing I have ever seen before. Incredible!


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The Milky Way over the Isalo rock formations.

 

Sadly the next morning we had to leave this amazing area to head onto the next part of our adventure.

The scenery was stunning along the way....

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We also met these delightful children in one of the villages when we stopped for Mana and Tojo to get fresh paw paw snacks! The kids saw our cameras and everyone wanted to be photographed! We started with just a couple and before we knew it all the kids were there!

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The kids absolutely loved seeing their photos on the back of the camera and we have made prints to send to them via Mana when he next passes that way.

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Every day and every drive, walk, meal, encounter was an interesting and delightful experience in this incredible country with its wonderful people...... Next instalment: The Anja Community Reserve and the road to Ranomafana.


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