Mananara is a small and very out-of-the way town set in an attractive clove- and vanilla-producing area at the southern entrance to Baie d’Antongil. The coast south of Mananara is particularly striking, with small, isolated fishing villages and little else – certainly not any serviceable roads. Mananara has seen big social changes of late, as the price of vanilla has soared. As a result, large shiny 4WD cars bump up and down the potholed streets. Auctions are hosted at the Saturday-evening parties in the town hall, in which newly rich vanilla barons prove their status by paying ludicrous prices for random objects such as roast chickens.
Mananara is also the starting point for visiting Parc National de Mananara-Nord, the Nosy Atafana Marine National Park and tiny Aye-Aye Island. For a bit of snorkelling, walk along the long peninsula behind the airport, which has some white-sand beaches and coral about 100m offshore. Watch out for sea urchins here.
There is electricity in Mananara, but no telephone service.