Best places to visit in Comoros
Comoros is an island nation located in the Indian Ocean comprising of three major islands and numerous smaller islands. It is situated off the eastern coast of Africa at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel, between North-Western Madagascar, the French region of Mayotte and North Eastern Mozambique. The capital of Comoros and the largest city in the country is Moroni. The major islands are usually known by their French names: Mohéli (Mwali), Grande Comore (Ngazidja) and Anjouan (Nzwani). As well as these three islands the country has a claim on a fourth major island, Mayotte (Maore). However, in 1974 Mayotte voted against independence from France and it continues to be administered by France. Comoros has an odd nickname, Cloud Coup-Coup, because of its history of over 20 coups since gaining independence in 1975.
At 640 square miles (not including the island of Mayotte), Comoros is the fourth-smallest African nation by area and the population is estimated to be around 795,601. The people are Muslim, with a heavy Swahili influence, its culture is quite traditional and because of this there is no alcohol and its dress is modest. The majority of the population’s religion is Sunni Islam.
The islands offer white sandy beaches, hiking in rainforests, giant fruit bats, volcanoes and much more. However, due to a lack of tourism infrastructure, navigating Comoros is not always easy. Here are some of the best places to visit in Comoros:
Mohéli is the smallest and yet the most fascinating of the Comoros Islands, measuring 50 km west to east and just 20 km north to south. There are not many inhabitants on the island and because of this it is largely undeveloped and completely wild, it has Comoros' largest biodiversity, over land and under the sea. On Mohéli you will find, amongst many endemic species, the biggest populations of Livingston bats, green turtle, imbricated turtle and between June and April, humpback whales crossing the Mozambique Channel.
Mohéli is home to the country’s only national park: Parc Marin de Mohéli. Lovers of nature will also want to check out the craggy islets that appear all over the island. The locals call it Mwali or Moili. There is so much perfect beauty on Mohéli that visitors don’t generally mind the lack of modern amenities. Mohéli is certainly considered by many people to be the highlight of the Comoros Islands.
Fomboni is the largest city on Mohéli, it’s capital and the third largest city in the Comoros overall. Despite this, it is a quiet and unassuming little place. It has a nameless main street running through the town, a marketplace and a jetty that are worth checking out. The locals in the town tend to be more reserved than their neighbours on the islands of Anjouan and Grande Comore however, they will always make you very welcome.
Anjouan has the nickname of “The Pearl of the Comoros” because of its Robinson Crusoe qualities. It is an independent island in the Indian Ocean that forms part of the Union of the Comoros. Its main town is Mutsamudu, it has a total area of the island is 424 square kilometres and its locals call it Ndzouani. If you are looking for something remote, unspoilt, and gorgeous, you’ll find it here. On the island you will find old Arab plantations and the scent of cloves and ylang-ylang fill the air. The locals are hard-working and intensely proud of their little island. If you travel up into the highlands you can enjoy cooler air and watch the mists roll across the rainforests.
Measuring 60 kilometres east to west and 20 kilometres north to south, Grande Comore is the largest of the Comoros Islands. It is also the most developed Comorian Island and has the most stable economy. The island's capital and one of the most popular towns is Moroni, this is also the national capital. Grande Comore is called Ngazidja by the locals, and it has a population of around 316,600. The island is made up of two volcanoes, with Mount Karthala being the country's tallest point, coming in at 2,361 metres above sea level (7,746 feet).
All over the island you will be faced with beautiful scenery, the dark and intriguing solidified lava against the contrasting white sand beaches make for a stunningly landscape. Most of Grande Comore’s population lives on the west coast but it is worth travelling south, where you’ll find a pretty agricultural landscape comprising of vanilla, coconut, banana and cassava plantations.
Mount Karthala is the largest active volcano in the world and it can be found on Grande Comore, it is the southernmost and larger of the two volcanoes that form Grande Comore island. Mount Karthala stands at just over 2300 metres (7,746 feet) and has erupted on a consistent basis, every eleven years since the beginning of the 19th century. Mount Karthala’s last eruption was in 2005 and it lasted for two weeks. When it erupted in 2005, the volcano did a lot of damage, but the country has since recovered quite well. Visitors love the strange yet spectacular landscape that the volcano’s lava creates and it makes the hiking rather unique. Over a difficult, two-day trek, visitors can climb right up to the volcano’s rim.
Located on Grande Comore Island, Moroni is the island’s largest city. It is also, the island’s capital, the nation’s federal capital and seat of the government of the Union of the Comoros. Moroni translates as "at the river" and the city's estimated population is around 41,557 residents. There’s a romantic and noticeably Arabian feel to the city and tourists feel like they’re in a different world completely compared to the other islands. Moroni has narrow streets that are filled with quaint shops and cafes and the locals wear traditional dress. Visitors can enjoy the Volvo Market and pick up some wonderful souvenirs, spices and handiworks from local artisans. The city has a port, several mosques such as the Badjanani Mosque and people can check out the medina near the Friday Mosque and get lost in the winding alleyways.
Mayotte is situated in the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and the coast of Mozambique. Mayotte is a department and region of France, although traditional Mayotte culture is most closely related to the Comoros Islands. Mayotte is perhaps the most traditional tourist spot in the Comoros. However, many tourists feel that the island is out of sync, in regards to pricing, with the remote paradise vibe shared by the rest of the islands. Mayotte is surrounded by a coral barrier reef, which houses a lagoon and marine reserve. Tourists will find unbelievable turquoise waters, white sand and excellent shelf snorkelling, sailing and diving here.
The Petite Terre Islands, which literally means “Islands of the Small Land" are two small uninhabited islands located about 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) to the south-east of of Grande-Terre (Guadeloupe), in the Lesser Antilles. Petite Terre comprises of: Terre de Bas island (literally "Low Land" island or "Down Land" island) to the southwest and the smaller Terre de Haut island ("Upper Land" island) to the northeast and their combined land area is 1.68 km². The 842 hectares (2,081 acres) of the sea around the two islands and the islands themselves have been declared a nature reserve, this area is known as the National Nature Reserve of Îles de la Petite-Terre.
The island community has two villages: L’Abattoir and Pamandzi. Tourists can visit Dziani Dzaha, (a volcanic crater), the Rock of Dzaoudzi (a less remarkable version of the Rock of Gibraltar) and Bagamayo (an archaeological site), where artefacts from a 10th century Shirazi settlement continue to be found. Budget backpackers may find it a bit expensive but if visitors are willing to pay a bit more, they will definitely enjoy the amazing French cuisine that can be found on the island.
Mamoudzou is the coastal capital city of the French overseas region of Mayotte, it is where you’ll find the restaurants, businesses and shopping on Mayotte. It’s a large town and lots of areas in the city are neglected, however this is still the best place for shopping and eating on the island. Local religious landmarks include Mtsapéré Mosque, with its white minaret and the 1957 Notre-Dame de Fatima church. Boats dot Mamoudzou’s harbour and the nearby Marché Couvert sells fresh produce and handicrafts. Mamoudzou’s beaches include Trévani, to the north, and the small Plage du Phare, to the south.
Mount Ntingui is the highest mountain on the Island of Anjouan. This mountain is a difficult and steep climb from Lac Dzialandzé at its base, up to the often cloud-covered summit which stands approximately 1595 metres (5231 feet). On a rare clear day at the summit, tourists will get a phenomenal view of the four islands that form the Comoros Islands. To reach the top of Mount Ntingui tourists will hike through lush green forest and have a chance to spot some of the exotic bird species that inhabit Anjouan.