Departing September 24th knowing we will miss the extraordinary scenery of Andringitra we hit the road to make our way to Isalo National Park, about 220 kms south west and about 230 kms from the west coast of Madagascar. The RN7 on this portion of our journey was excellent and we cruised at an average of 80 km/ hr. There were still the occasional surprise potholes but the going was generally smooth and uneventful. Traffic was very light as we passed through wide open vistas of endless uninhabited grassland and distant rocky crags. The land so far in our travels has primarily been composed of red clay with limited farming potential. The area here seemed unsupportive of agriculture as it was flat and not conducive to building and cultivating rice terraces so therefore, not many villages and people, just wide open infertile land.
We reached our destination, Isalo Ranch, in 4 hours. It is such a luxury to be able to travel 200+ kms in 4 hours!
The “Ranch” is a collection of bungalows located right off of the RN7 just outside of the town of Ranohira, the gateway to Isalo NP and the sandstone canyons and forests that dot the most visited national park in Madagascar. There are 20 nice bungalows, a swimming pool and bar and restaurant area and it is populated by seniors groups seeing the sights in three weeks, couples with their drivers and us, the only couple they have met so far who are driving independently through this country. In our travels to date we have seen maybe 3 cars/4×4 vehicles that had a white driver and white passenger so we know there are others doing what we’re doing but they are few and far between. When the locals ask us if we are with a group or a guide and we tell them no, they seem impressed, it’s unusual, and in our opinion it’s the only way to fly!
Andringitra NP was established is 1962 and is the third largest park in Madagascar. The landscape is giant sandstone canyons, some up to 200 metres deep and lined with tropical forests, meandering creeks and shallow and deep pools among the boulder strewn landscape.
There are several species of diurnal and nocturnal lemurs as well as the elusive and rare Verreaux’s Sifika, aka the dancing sifika. Sifikas are part of the lemur genus but belong to the Indriidae family. These animals run on two feet and can jump up to 10 metres between tree branches. We were told we were very lucky to see this sifika and quite up-close as well.
We also came across Ring tailed lemurs, a large name unknown chameleon and a Madagascar Hoopoe bird.
It was another great hike, the beer was cold back at the ranch and we prepared for our next and first stop on the south western coast.