We rose early at the Relais de la Reine and Jardin du Roy Hotels, both nestled into the sandstone Massif of Isalo. Some of us followed Tom on an early morning walk across the nearby stream forested with Pandanus, palm and fig trees up to the top of the sandstone mountain for a scenic panoramic view of the massif. The sun was already bright over the grassland sprinkled with endemic palm trees. After a beautiful breakfast in the dining room, we boarded our buses and traveled to Ranohira, the small town where the Isalo National Park office and our local guides were located.  

Next began the adventure.  The road turned to dirt and we bounced along for twenty minutes passing the women doing laundry in the stream and arrived at the National Park parking lot. We began to walk the stone path into the Namaza canyon. At first the path was out in the sun, providing good views of the beige, red and brown bands of the steep sandstone cliffs.  Lime green lichen contrasted on some cliff faces, and there were clumps of Tapia trees fringing the tops of the massif and stretches of dry forest filling the canyons between the mountains. There were sightings of a Madagascar kestrel, Madagascar bulbul, the crested drongo, the bright red Madagascar fody male, two gray-headed lovebirds, as well as many medicinal plants.  

The shade of the dry forest was refreshing, as we gazed at the tangled vines and gnarly trees. As we approached the “campsite,” we observed in the trees Lemur catta, the ring-tailed lemur, in clumps of two or three. They were eating tiny green fruits that turned out to be “china berry,” an exotic tree. The opportunities for photographing the ring-tails were outstanding. Once we filmed five ringtails on a branch, all their tails lined up in a row. Another time some of us observed a young male scent marking a branch with his wrist spur (a territorial behavior) and we all saw mutual grooming using the tooth comb. There was a male Verrauxi’s sifaka (Propithecus verrauxi) resting in the trees and nibbling on filigree-like legume leaves. After about an hour a male red-fronted brown lemur (Eulemur rufifrons) arrived.  It was a real photo opportunity when the brown lemur began to climb up Noel Rowe’s tripod and check out his camera bag. The lemurs seemed to be undisturbed by our photography, feeding leisurely in the trees and occasionally leaving small gifts on the hats of some of our guests.  The lemurs began to drift off and we began the walk back to the buses. In the parking lot, two seven or eight year old barefoot Bara boys held out sculptures of a turtle and a crocodile hand made of clay. 

We arrived back at the hotels in time to pick up our luggage, and our box lunches for the journey back to Tulear and the Orion. At the dock there were vendors with handicrafts and we purchased t-shirts, jewelry and vanilla. We were welcomed aboard with a freshly opened coconut drinks.