Still far too little known, Mayotte is the little treasure of sea-bed enthusiasts.
The island has not one, but two coral reefs, forming a calm and warm lagoon all year round. A peculiarity that has of course not escaped the whales, whale sharks, turtles, dugong, manta rays and dolphins that come here to bask in complete safety. If the island in the lagoon as it is called is a wonder beneath the surface, it is also very rich on land. From N gouja, in the south of the Grande-Terre, Madagascar is only 300 km away. We find baobabs and lemurs whose curiosity overcomes shyness, to our great delight. Belonging to the Comoros archipelago until 2009, the island has kept its traditions and festivities. Muslim and matriarchal, the Mahoran society is cosmopolitan: in the streets we speak French, shimaore, shibushi and sometimes Malagasy. Women are everywhere, draped in beautiful colourful salouvas decorated with flowers and jewellery. Here laughter is omnipresent and generosity takes on a whole new meaning in the evening, when men and women gather around the mama pike who prepare chicken, manioc and breadfruit on their charcoal barbecues. This tourist guide invites you to discover the two inhabited islands, Petite-Terre and Grande-Terre, as well as the main islets that surround them.
Surrounded by a double barrier reef more than 150 kilometres long and bordered by a fringing reef, Mayotte has one of the largest enclosed lagoons in the world. Interspersed in places by a few passes allowing access from outside, it is a real life-size aquarium that is offered to us. Sheltered from the currents of the Indian Ocean, located in the Mozambique Channel, Petite-Terre and Grande-Terre, the only two inhabited islands of Mayotte, face each other and enjoy a water temperature never below 25°C.
Mayotte with its bush surprises with its green and lush tropical rainforest. It abounds with mango trees, banana plantations, coconut palms, breadfruit trees and giant bamboos. In its center, ylang-ylang plantations, whose mysterious flower fragrances embalm the island in the morning hours. Its forests of cinnamon trees, vanilla, lemongrass and other spices or scented plants astonish the metropolitan who only knew them on the stalls of supermarkets before discovering them in Mayotte. A drier vegetation towards the south reveals the majestic baobabs, some of which are over a hundred years old, which like to grow along the beaches or on hills with gentle slopes. To perfect the whole, and to the delight of everyone, the maki, the lemur of Mayotte, has the habit of moving, always in small clans, at certain hours of the morning or late afternoon. It is therefore quite easy to see some as soon as there are big trees. The lemurus fulvus mayottensis cohabit with the fruit bat, a large bat that can reach a wingspan of almost a meter. Rest assured, it is vegetarian and non-aggressive, except with the makis, with whom it fights over the fruits of the trees.
Both African and Malagasy, Mayotte offers a change of scenery in complete safety: zebus grazing on the roadside, conviviality of the reunion around a skewer in the evening, noisy and communicative laughter of the bouénis, children racing behind a tire that runs down the road, fishermen sliding on the surface of the lagoon... These moments of daily life are pearls that make the experience unique and enchanting.
The Mahorais are at first sight rather shy and reserved, so one should not hesitate to show them interest, because kindness and generosity are always there. Thus, you are never left alone with a flat tire at the side of the road, for example, someone will always come to give a hand. This is called musada or mutual aid, which is one of the foundations of Islam and the island. The welcome reserved by the expats , these Mzungus who have been living on the island for a few days or a few years, is also particularly warm. A solidarity is created from the plane and is prolonged at each meeting, the journey and discovery are shared in Mayotte.
Being French gives Mayotte several advantages in terms of tourism. The visitor thus has the impression of visiting a foreign country while staying in France. Going to the other side of the world and more than 9,000 kilometres from the metropolis while staying in one's own country is a privilege that very few nations know... First of all, from a practical point of view: no need for a passport or visa, the currency is the euro and can be withdrawn at the ATM, the post office and France Telecom operate there as they do in metropolitan France, just like SFR and Orange, the overseas operators.
Metropolitans, Europeans or Reunion Islanders (because many of them visit the island) immediately find their bearings when they disembark and feel secure there, thanks to modern medicine, first-class police, reliable transport, electricity and telephone services that work as they do at home. This is not the case in the other countries of the region, which have a much lower standard of living, such as the independent Comoros, which suffer the greatest destitution.