Long known by its previous French name Fort Dauphin, this was an important port for the island nation until deterioration of the roads limited its effectiveness in the late 20th century. Today it is reactivated by the major ilmenite mining operations being initiated nearby. For us, it is also a good vantage point from which to explore some of the island’s exotic indigenous flora and fauna. Both of these are easily visited at the Saiadi or the Nahampoana Botanic Gardens, where several species of lemurs may be viewed, as well as other oddities such as chameleons, tortoises and crocodiles. The exotic plants of the Malagasy Spiny Forest are also on view, as are local species of orchids. For a breathtaking overview, ambitious visitors can hike up the 1,700-foot St. Louis Peak, possibly followed by a swim at the popular Libanona Beach.