Tuesday 27 May 2014

Comoros Islands


With only about 3000 tourists a year, visiting the Comoros is definitely special.  The spotless beaches, clear warm water, and gentle people make it an amazing destination.

No, there's not a whole lot of tourist infrastructure - not anymore anyway.  There's some relics of an international-class hotel on one of the northern beaches - but with well over 20 coups d'etat in about as many years, the investors have long since been scared off and the the 5-star bungalows are now squats.  Nice squats, mind.

We arrived on the island of Grand Comore via Mayotte - the fourth of the four islands of the Comoros.  At least that's what the Comoro government insists.  In fact, Mayotte's residents chose to stay with France when Comoro negotiated independence in 1975, and the alignment was strengthened even more with a referendum in 2009 as some 95% of the residents opted to go all the way and change Mayotte's status to a full-blown Department of La Republic Francaise since 2011.

This deeply annoys the government in Moroni - and there's plenty of propaganda posters everywhere asserting that Mayotte is part of Comoro blah blah blah.  Sounds a bit like Argentina and the Falklands - or even Ireland.  Hmm.

What is for sure is that Mayotte is about a million times more developed than anywhere else in the islands - fancy new airport, booming tourist trade, package holiday super resorts - the lot.  I don't envision the French capitulating too too quickly to the Comoro requests.  But then again - who knows... things can always change!

What's also for sure is that the Comores are an amazingly rewarding place to visit.  Just awesome.

The choice was a French island with French prices but a European infrastructure (think Bora Bora, Reunion) or an island that has had many coups in the last few decades and no tourist infrastructure. Of course whilst I was sleeping, Ty went ahead and sorted out flights to spend almost a week in the latter! In the end I was glad that we did. As we drove along pot holed roads, past half finished concrete buildings and rubbish piles,  we made it to the most beautiful beaches- and there were no tourists there. Our own private beaches with incredibly clear turquoise water, white puffy sand and coconuts. There were even orange butterflies fluttering on the beach. Pure paradise! 

Fascinating to see the coelacanth fish in the national museum- which is one of the oldest known living fish. It is thought to have evolved in its current form over 400 million years ago. Wow! At our hotel (the only hotel in town to have a wifi connection)local dudes would sit on their roof across the street on plastic chairs to snaffle the internet. The internet was so slow that it took two whole days to upload a video. Everyday there were power shortages, so it was surprising that the video even uploaded in that amount of time.   

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