The most popular excursion in Manakara is a pirogue day trip along the Canal des Pangalanes, which was dug out by the French in the 1890s to circumvent the capricious Indian Ocean. Tours usually make a couple of stops on the way (eg cultural monuments, a village, an artisanal distillery) and include a sumptuous lunch on the beach. Half-day tours are also possible.

A highly recommended guide is José Francis Andriamitantsoa, who not only speaks excellent English but also sings beautifully (helped along by his crew's backing vocals and the captain's handmade ukulele).