The dry deciduous forest is absolutely worth to visit. It is privately managed and not a National Park, the reason that night walks are allowed.
The reserve was created in 1956 and is popular for the terrific tsingy, caves, and underground rivers. Schedule a minimum stay of three nights to get an idea of this stunning place.
The dry season from April to October is the best time to travel to the north. Usually, it's very hot at midday. Avoid the rainy season from December to March. Tropical storms can occur and it is even hotter.
The National Park was established in 1962 and covers an area of 815km²/81,500ha. Isalo is located at an altitude of 900m/2952ft to almost 1100m/3608ft.
The Isalo National Park is accessible throughout the year due to its dry tropical climate. However, the winter time from December to February experiences most of the annual precipitation. The tourist season starts in April, the peak season is during summer in July and August and the best months are September and October. At these months, the end of the dry season, there are only a few mosquitos around, and you may spot newborn baby lemurs.
Compared to other parks wildlife is not as numerous due to the higher temperature. However, Isalo is an outstanding park to spot the awesome Verreaux’s Sifakas along the streams in the canyons.
Another highlight is the elephant’s foot plant (Pachypodium rosulatum) which is in bloom from August to early October.
The most popular spot in Isalo is the "Piscine Naturelle" therefore it can get pretty busy especially during midday to escape the heat.
The dry season lasts from April to late October, but there is not much precipitation in the south west of Madagascar. Pleasant day temps from April to September ranging between 23°C and 28°C / 74°F and 82°F though nights are chilly between 10°C to 15°C / 50°F - 59°F. The rest of the year temps are around 30°C / 86°F. Inside the canyons, it's cooler while hiking through the savanna without any shelter is pretty hot and strenuous. The hottest months with higher humidity are November to March.
Average Monthly Temperature and Rainfall for MDG at location (-22.5,45.41) from 1991-2015; source. worldbank.org
The Best Hotels Close to Isalo
Some of the best lodges of Madagascar are located next to the Isalo National Park entrance. Usually, the available hotels have a lower standard and rating. Advanced booking is recommended to ensure having an excellent stay.
- The Isalo Rock Lodge has truly a spectacular location; embedded into the rocky landscape. The staff is super professional and the management perfect; that is rare to experience in Madagascar.
- Le Jardin du Roy is also excellently located surrounded by huge rocks. It's an incredible view from the terrace or balcony. It's a high standard hotel with a gorgeous restaurant. Take your breakfast outside and enjoy the scenery.
The Park was declared as UNESCO world heritage site in 2007 with it’s huge endangered endemic biodiversity.
Ranomafana (the Malagasy words for “hot water”) is without a doubt the most spectacular places in Madagascar. Its name is derived from the hot springs which pour out warm water into the valley. Because it is easily accessible and provides immense biodiversity, it became one of the most visited areas on Madagascar. The rainforest stretches over a mountainous terrain of over 410 km² and is Madagaskars 3rd largest park. Besides 12 different lemur species, it is home of the golden bamboo lemur. A species discovered in 1986 and the reason why this park exists. The tarred roads crossing the park made it accessible all year. Only during the rainy season, the travel may take longer than usual.
Weather and Crowds
Madagascar's overall climate is subtropical, with a hot and rainy season between November until end of March, and a cooler and drier season from May to October. Each of the five regions of the island is subject to its climate and precipitation varies widely between the regions. During the wet season and times of high rainfall, travel can become difficult, if not impossible. Based on the different geographical areas huge temperature variations can occur.
The Ranomafana Park is located on a high elevation between 800m and 1200m, and the densely forested hills are covered by primary and secondary forest. The climate is warm and humid often with a relative moisture of 90-97%. The average temperature seldom increases over 25°C and drops not under 14°C. During the night it can cool down significantly. The temperature highs and lows may vary depending on the occurrence of a tropical cyclone.
Best month to visit are from May to November although the dry season usually extends from April to December. Precipitation during the wet season is highest in January with 430 mm and the driest month is August. Because annual rainfall is in the range from ~1,600 to 4,017mm rain can occur every day and it's highly recommended to come with waterproof shoes, rain jacket, and umbrella. More weather details: Ranomafana Weather Statistics
It is essential to spend enough time in the park and hike to the primary forest at higher elevations. If you only plan to hike the short tracks, it can become very crowded during the peak season (July to September).
The Andasibe-Mantadia National Park and Analamazaotra Special Reserve are two protected areas;
The Analamazaotra Reserve and the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park are famous for the Indri; the largest lemur still in existence and today classified as critically endangered. The Analamazaotra Reserve is just a three hours drive from Tana, easily accessible and therefore crowded. Although the park is accessible all year, hiking conditions are better during the drier season from April until November. Continue reading to get the most out of your visit.
Black-and-white ruffed lemur in Andasibe-Mantadia
Weather and Crowds
- Dry Season (May to October) - Peak Season
The weather improves and it gets drier from May onwards. Anyhow, precipitation can always occur in the east for around 210 days each year. Madagascar is a popular destination from May/June to October. Analamazaotra gets pretty busy especially in July and August with visitors from Europe. The best time to visit the entire island is the end of the dry season in September and October. You avoid the heat, and there are fewer mosquitos.
- Rainy Season (December to March) - Not recommended
Precipitation increases already in November, but December to February are the worst months and cyclones are likely to happen. Roads and trails can get flooded.
- Shoulder Season (April, May, November)
The season already starts in April, but April and May are still not too crowded. In November rain increases and crowds thin out. If you can handle precipitation, you experience a much quieter island. Prices are not on the highest level, and plenty of accommodations are available. Different orchids species start blooming when the rain begins until January.
Average Monthly Temperature and Rainfall for Madagascar from 1991-2015
Top Tip to Avoid Crowds
If you are physically fit, and you like hiking a lot visit the Andasibe Mantadia National Park. A 4x4 is recommended to get to this part of the park. There are two existing trails not well developed. You may leave the tracks when following the lemurs to the thick primary forest. It's pure wilderness to hike here, and you may enjoy the lemurs with very few people only. We spent here a whole day hiking, observing lemurs and sweating from the fast pace to follow sifakas and indris.
Diadem Sifaka and Baby in September
Where to Stay Close to the Reserve
It's Madagascar, so hotels are commonly below the European standard although some have similar quality. Wifi is not often available. Try to book a hotel where breakfast and dinner are included. Chose wisely where to stay and where you eat your meals. We traveled almost a month through Madagascar, and we saw some people sick from the food. Sometimes we just ate pure rice for dinner only. The Mantadia Lodge Andasibe is the only one we can recommend for 2019. They will spoil you with the best food on entire Madagascar.
Amber Mountain has a lush vegetation and offers a rich biodiversity. If possible try to stay there for a night or in Joffreville. It's only 30 km from Diego.
Best time of the year is September to November. Rain can occur from time to time particularly in the night. Avoid December to March; the rainy season with a high risk for cyclones.