Day 16: Isalo National Park
Today was a rest day and we set out early to explore the Isalo National Park before the Midday heat arrived.
The National park covers 815 square kilometres of Jurassic terrain which features dramatic Sandstone cliffs and canyons that have been sculpted by rain and wind over the ages. These ‘’Runiformes’’, as they locally known, dot the landscape everywhere with their unique patterns.
The Unique ''Runiformes'' of Isalo
A guided walk was a great way to explore more of the area's bird life and flora that are endemic to the region. The walk followed an easy 2km trail that ended at a fantastic panoramic viewing point.
We were back at Isalo Ranch by lunch, in time to make the most of a relaxing afternoon at the pool overlooking the majestic cliffs of Isalo.
Isalo Ranch with its fantastic pool overlooking the Sandstone cliffs of Isalo
Day 17: Isalo - Tsaranaro Valley
The later start to the day allowed us to take a walk and explore the area around Isalo Ranch in the cool of the morning.
On the walk we found a small spring that irrigating some surrounding rice paddies and vegetable gardens – water can turn the most baron areas into life.
Spring supplying irrigation to rice paddies
We departed Isalo mid-morning on our way to the Tsaranaro Valley and the Andringitra national park.
En-route we passed large herds of Zebu and vast tracts of land recently burnt in anticipation of rain arriving and delivering lush green grass for grazing.
Just before the turning to Andringitra national park, the road became dirt, and we passed a small village with music booming and everyone dressed in there smartest and brightly coloured clothes. Our local guide informed us that it must be a ‘’Turning the bones ceremony’’ and we can stop and take a look.
Our curiosity got the better of us, and we had to stop and look it's not every day you get to see bones being turned!
Village gathering for the Turning of the bones
Turning of the bones or ‘’Famadihana’’ in Malagasy is a funeral tradition where family members bring out corpses of their ancestors from tombs and wrap them in fresh silk cloth before returning them.
The ceremony is a celebration with lots of music and everyone from the village dancing around the family tomb. The ritual typically takes place every seven or so years but can occur more frequently in villages with more wealth.
Some of the many happy faces enjoying the celebration of turning the bones
We were made to feel very welcome witnessing this unique cultural celebration and left just before many of the happy faces started to enjoy the seven Zebu that had been slaughtered for the celebration.
Day 18: Isalo - Tsaranaro Valley
In the Tasranaro Valley, the landscape has changed from sandstone cliffs to massive granite cliffs with more abundant vegetation.
Our outing for the day was to the Andringitra National Park often described as Madagascar’s most scenic national park. The park is vast and is home to three different tribes who utilise each sub-climate to survive. We are in the Tsaranaro valley region home of the Betsileo people who have developed an irrigation system from the mountains and use this to cultivate rice.
The spectacular Tsaranoro Massif