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Isalo National Park
Isalo National Park has a combination of strangely shaped sandstone rocks, rare endemic plants and dry weather which makes a visit here particularly rewarding. Deep canyons in the rock have caves in them which one of the native tribes of Madagascar, the Bara tribe, bury their relatives.
Of particular interest for botanists are the elephant’s foot, which clings to rocks in ways that seem improbable due to its bulbous shape, and a species of aloe that is native to the country. For those who come to see the lemurs, there are sifakas, brown lemurs and ring-tails.
The park has some stunning natural features in terms of the sandstone formations, which can be seen and enjoyed from the road. One of the most popular is La Fenêtre, which is a natural rock formation that provides a window to the west through which you can see the setting sun; absolutely stunning photos of this can be taken with very little effort, and it is a breathtaking display that will make you want to experience it more than once.
For those who want to hike there are several circuits to try, with lemurs, cool leafy canyons, and hot plains with all the rock formations and specialised plants that accompany them. There are three main ones, which will have you following a stream through a canyon for a swim at a waterfall, another which follows a river and also has pools you can swim in with ferns overhanging from sheer rocks, and finally a natural swimming pool which is beautiful and refreshing, with the added delight of some thrushes who not only mind the human company but will actively flirt with anyone who gets too close!
Other places you can walk to get up close and personal with the park include across the plateaux to see some incredible views and fascinating plants that are like no other, whilst you can walk across the plains with the canyons in sight the whole time. Most of the walks end at the natural pool mentioned above (known as Piscine Naturelle) whilst others can go to several canyons including the Canyon des Rats and the Canyon des Makis. These are well worth the time and effort if you feel up to trying it.
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