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 some time 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 smallest international airport 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 difficulties getting myself understood. I’ve been trying to learn French for years, but it’s hard, 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 managed 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 East 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 agency if you are already in Comoros.
When flying in, you have to pay for a visa that 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 minibuses. If you want to go to 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€. Minibuses 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 minibuses and boats leave in the morning.
Because of the remote location, Comoros is a bit more expensive than other East 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 house of a local girl I had never met before. My arrival to Comoros was kind of disaster as I missed my connecting flight there and had to take the next one arriving late at night when everything was closed. Also, my luggage didn’t arrive, and I didn’t have any cash either. You can read the full story here, it was definitely an adventure and worth a read. However, I was lucky to experience the hospitality of Comorian people already on the first day of arrival. Here is a picture of the local girl’s place I got to stay on the first night :
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 initial plan either.
After the first night, I ended up staying at 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 East 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 at Itsandra Hotel which is probably the most expensive hotel on the island. You can also book a room on their website.
Things have changed after a year, and you can now book several hotels online on Booking.com.
These are the best hotel options I found for Moroni:
Luxury hotel featuring a private beach, an outdoor pool, and free wifi.
Also quite an expensive option. This place is a 6-minute walk from the beach.
And for Mohéli:
Moheli Laka Lodge is a beach resort in National Marine Park of Moheli in Nioumachoua. All of the rooms have a private terrace and ocean view, direct access to the beach and a private bathroom.
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 safe to hitchhike. The local people are so warm and friendly, and I haven’t heard anyone getting robbed there. But as always when traveling, a good travel insurance is necessary – especially when you’re traveling to remote places like Comoros. I highly recommend World Nomads travel insurance because it’s great for long-term travelers and you can also buy it when you’re already on the road.
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 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 and my luggage didn’t arrive either. Or when I was going to Mohéli, my new friend Ridjal did EVERYTHING to help me (you can read the story here). 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.
Comoros is a Muslim country, but a rather liberal one I would say. Not all women covered up their hair, but no one wasn’t wearing a mini skirt either. 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 had a normal bikini when I went swimming, and it was fine because usually there was no one around. You can have a beach all to yourself in Comoros! Just in case I also had a swimming T-shirt and shorts with me, but I never felt uncomfortable swimming in 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 Mohéli post here.
Moroni is the capital city of Comoros, but it’s just like a small village if you compare it to other capitals in East 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 public beach before that when coming from Moroni. I was trying to find you a name on Google maps, but there’s no name for the public 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, secluded 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 many times. The owners of Jardin de la Paix go there almost every afternoon and recommended it to me. There aren’t that many locals, though, so if you want a private beach that’s pretty much it. There was usually no one else there. The other beach in Moroni is a bigger public beach, 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 active 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 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 during the 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. If you’re interested in hiking to see other active volcanoes in Africa, check out also my experience climbing Mount Nyiragongo in DR Congo.
See the Beautiful Nature in Mohéli
Getting to Mohéli was so complicated, and the adventure really deserves its own post, so check out my other post here if you want to know how was the trip taking boats Lonely Planet describes as death traps.
There’s more information about Mohéli in that post, but I just want to add this island for the list of things to do in Comoros. The nature in Mohéli is very 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.
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