Isalo, Andringitra and Ranomafana National Parks

These reserves are generally visited in combination and as part of a guided road trip along the famous RN7.

Situated in the south west of the island, close to the village of Ranohira, Isalo is a popular park where the landscape is dominated by large eroded sandstone outcrops rising from the grassy plains in stunning architectural formation and the rolling plains are occasionally interspersed by lush ravines hiding cool streams and waterfall. The main activity in the park is walking and there are several trails of varying degrees of difficulty to the ravines and also on the top of the main massif itself.

The trails are reasonably well defined but you will need to do some clambering across rocks and vegetation. Wildlife densities are not as great as elsewhere but there is a good chance of seeing ring tailed lemur and sifaka when hiking through the forest following the ‘Canyon des Singes’ circuit. A popular extension to this hike is to reach the Piscine Naturelle, a natural pool with sparkling waters where one can cool off after a full day hike. Birding is interesting too with over 80 species including the crested ibis, white throated rail and the rare Benson’s rock thrush which can be seen in the Canyon des Nymphes.

Andringitra is home to Madagascar’s highest mountain, Pic Boby, and the park is characterised by immense granite mountains and deep valleys. There are a variety of excellent walks, varying from half day to multi-day trails. Keen naturalists can also go in search of ringtail lemurs, chameleons, reptiles and birds. The park is home to a variety of interesting flora, including several species of orchids. Unfortunately there is currently no suitable accommodation in the area.

Ranomafana lies about two hour’s drive north-east of the town of Fianarantsoa. The habitat is primarily one of mid-altitude rain forest which straddles the hillsides and it can be quite humid. The paths are well defined and well kept, although the long slopes can be steep at times and slippery after rain. The park covers nearly 40000 hectares and is home to 12 species of lemur, including all three species of bamboo lemur; the Golden, Greater and Eastern. Amongst other lemur species, the park has resident red-bellied, red-fronted brown, Milne Edwards sifaka, black and white ruffed, Eastern woolly and if you are lucky the elusive aye-aye.

Numerous tenrec species, the fanaloka (also known as the Malagasy civet), and two species of mongoose (Eastern ring-tailed and broad-striped) are also resident but rarely seen. Birdlife is superb and with a good guide you might be lucky enough to view the brown besite, short-legged, pitta-like and Rufous-headed ground rollers, Henst’s goshawk, Madagascar yellowbrow, wedge-tailed jery, red-fronted coua and Madagascar magpie-robin. Also keep an eye out for the incredible giraffe necked weevil.

There are various trails in the park, from popular short walks on well-maintained paths to longer walks which will offer a more exclusive and unpredictable wildlife experience. A certain level of fitness is required when visiting Ranomafana.