Comoros is an off-the-beaten-path destination you have to visit. I’ve been wanting to travel to Comoros for years, and finally last month I spent a little bit over a week backpacking there. Before I went there, I had never heard anyone traveling to Comoros. Most of the people haven’t even heard of this place, and it’s one of the least visited countries in the world. It definitely was the most remote place I’ve ever traveled to, and even in the capital city, my phone had no signal. As Lonely Planet says:
“Haphazardly scattered across the Indian Ocean, the mysterious, outrageous and enchanting Comoros islands are the kind of place you go to just drop off the planet for a while. Far removed from the clutter that comes with conventional paradises – sprawling hotels, neon discos – the Comoros are so remote even an international fugitive could hide out here.”
Comoros consists of three islands: Grande Comore, Mohéli, and Anjouan. There’s also a fourth island, Mayotte, but that’s part of France. Grande Comore is the main island with the International Airport (the smallest I’ve ever been to), and the capital city, Moroni.
The official languages are French, Arabic, and Comorian. Because I don’t speak any of those languages, I sometimes had problems getting myself understood. I’ve been trying to learn French for years, but it’s difficult, and the pronunciation feels impossible for me! But somehow I managed to get by, and I always found people who spoke English as well. I tried to learn Comorian but only manages to pick up three words: Thank you, water, and hello. What more do you need? I also found out that most people understand Swahili as well which is a good thing for me because after traveling several months in Eastern Africa, my vocabulary is a bit wider than in Comorian.
If you are flying from the mainland Africa, Kenyan Airways and Ethiopian Airlines fly to Moroni. Ethiopian Airlines flies only three times a week, but Kenyan Airways has flights every day. AB Aviation is a Comorian airline company flying between the Comorian islands, and also from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, and Mahajanga in Madagascar. Their booking system on their website didn’t really work when I was trying to find prices for flights, so it’s best to book your ticket through a travel company if you are already in Comoros.
When flying in, you have to pay for a visa which costs either $50 or 30€. So definitely have Euros with you as it’s a way cheaper!
There’s also an option for a ship. I was initially planning to take the ship from Comoros to Madagascar, but everyone was telling me that it’s not worth it. It takes three to four days, and it’s only a little bit cheaper than flying. You can also take boats between the islands, and apparently, there’s even a ship going to Zanzibar.
If you want to travel between the islands, the only option is the boat. Yes, AB Aviation flies between the islands, but they cancel the flights all the time. If you want to fly, let’s say from Grande Comore to Mohéli, but there are more people who want to fly from Grande Comore to Anjouan, they only have one flight that day, and it’s from Grande Comore to Anjouan. It doesn’t matter if you have booked your flights, and are already at the airport. I didn’t even bother trying, so I opted for the boat which is described as a death trap in Lonely Planet (more about that later).
Traveling on land, you have options for a taxi, hitchhiking and minibusses. If you want to go the International airport, you can find shared taxis near Volo Volo market in Moroni. A private taxi to the airport is more expensive and costs 15-20€. Minibusses going to Chindini or other places in the south can be found in front of Hotel Karthala. As always in Africa, you should start traveling early because all of the minibusses and boats leave in the morning.
Because of the remote location, Comoros is a bit more expensive than other Eastern African countries. I wasn’t prepared for that because you can’t really find any information online.
Where to Stay
If you read this post, you know that I spent my first night sleeping at a random girl’s house. My flight was late, and I missed my connecting flight to Comoros. The next flight was in the evening, and I then arrived in Comoros in the middle of the night when everything was closed. So I ended up staying in driver’s sister’s house. Here is a picture of the place:
You can’t book anything in advance using booking sites like Booking.com, Agoda, etc. because none of the hotels in Comoros use those! That’s why I didn’t have a hotel for the first night. You could try emailing some of the places, but it’s best to arrive there and then find a place. I don’t recommend arriving in the middle of the night like I did, and it wasn’t my original plan either.
I ended up staying in Jardin de la Paix, which was one of the nicest ones for the price I paid (30€ for a single room). I checked out other places as well and found something for 20-25€, but they were without a bathroom and were overall just crappy. Even the room in Jardin de la Paix is overpriced because anywhere else in Easter Africa you would pay around 10 € for a room like that. But as I said earlier, Comoros IS an expensive country.
If you want something more luxurious, stay in Itsandra Hotel which is probably the most expensive hotel on the island. You can also book a room through their website.
Safety. Honestly, I’ve never felt safer in Africa. Of course, I always try to be careful and avoid walking after dark, and I also take a good care of my belongings. But in Comoros, I never felt scared to take out my camera and take pictures, which is something I definitely didn’t do in Antananarivo for example. I also felt completely safe to hitchhike. The local people are just so warm and friendly, and I didn’t hear that anyone has gotten robbed there. Read more below!
Talk to the Locals. First of all, I want to start by saying that Comorian people were one of the warmest and welcoming people I’ve met! They did everything, I mean everything, to help me in every situation. Starting from the first night when I didn’t have money for the visa, didn’t have a place to stay, or food to eat. Or when I was going to Mohéli, my new friend Ridjal did EVERYTHING to help me (you can read the story later). So talk to the locals! They are not going to rip you off or ask for money, like in so many African countries. They are just genuinely trying to help you and hang out with you.
Religion. Comoros is a Muslim country, but a rather liberal one I would say. Not all women covered up their hair, but no one was definitely wearing a mini skirt. I made sure to dress conservatively, and most of the time I was wearing a long maxi skirt with a T-shirt covering up my shoulders. I only had a normal bikini when I went swimming, and it was fine because usually there was no one around (you can literally have a beach all to yourself!). Just in case I also had a swimming T-shirt and shorts with me, but I never felt uncomfortable swimming with my bikinis. Even though it’s a Muslim country, they sell alcohol in some restaurants and nightclubs, but it’s very expensive.
Things to Do in Comoros
I spent half of my time in Grande Comore and half of the time in Mohéli. Check out my another post about Mohéli.
Moroni is the capital of Comoros, but it’s just like a small village if you compare to other capitals in Eastern Africa. Go to the Volo Volo market (if you don’t mind the smell, there was a lot of garbage), walk along the coastline, see the Friday Mosque or go to the beach. You may have to take a taxi to the beach, but it’s quite cheap. There are two nice beaches: Itsandra Beach and a bigger beach before that. I was trying to find you a name on Google maps, but there’s no name for the second beach. However, if you can find restaurant Le Sim Sim on Google maps, that’s where the beach is located! Also, if you are looking for a nice place to have a dinner, I really recommend Le Sim Sim! Otherwise, you can find a plenty of restaurant options in the center of Moroni.
When it comes to beaches, there are so many unspoiled beaches in Comoros. Head to the north of Grande Comore for one of the best ones! From the north, you can also find Lac Sale.
Itsandra Beach is a private beach belonging to the hotel but it’s not actually a private beach because I went there so many times. The owners of Jardin de la Paix go there almost every afternoon. There aren’t that many locals, though, so if you want a secluded beach that’s pretty much it. There was usually no one else there. The other beach in Moroni is bigger, and you can also find more locals there.
Just a short ride away from Moroni is a town called Iconi. Here you can see the famous Ikoni Mosque and sea cliffs where women jumped to their deaths in the early 19th century rather than being kidnapped by Malagasy pirates. You can also hike up to a hill to see a volcanic crater. It’s a nice and easy hike. I did this hike with my new friend Ridjal, and we “hired” some local kids to show us the way.
Hike Mount Karthala to See an Active Volcano
This volcano is one of the largest and most dangerous volcanoes in the world. I really wanted to do this hike, but it was rather expensive (100€). What finally made me not to do it, was the fact that it was a rainy season, and hiking would have been so much more challenging (and maybe even unsafe). Also, because of the rainy season, the humidity was pretty much 100%, and I was sweating by just doing nothing, so hiking a mountain wasn’t something I wanted to do. But if you are traveling to Comoros in a dry season, do this! The hike takes pretty much a whole day, you start early in the morning (like 4-5 am early), and you’ll be back when it’s dark. You could also opt for an overnight hike, but that’s even more expensive.
See the Beautiful Nature in Mohéli
Getting to Mohéli was so complicated, and the adventure really deserves an own post, so check out my another post here if you want to know how was the trip taking boats Lonely Planet describes as death traps.
I’ll write more about Mohéli in that post, but I just want to add this island for the things-to-do -list in Comoros. The nature in Mohéli is so beautiful and unique. You can see giant turtles laying their eggs, Livingstone bats (the biggest bat in the world!), baobab trees, whales, dolphins, and the island is full of beautiful beaches.