When it comes to avid backpackers, certain places are certainly easier to traverse than others. South America, South East Asia and Europe are certainly home to some of the most well trodden travellers paths!
As a continent, Africa remains one of the least accessible for backpackers.
But why is this?
Well, in comparison to the regions mentioned above, travelling through Africa can be expensive, time consuming, frustrating and requires one to become used to living in places with far less developed infrastructure.
This means that as a continent, Africa sees far few travellers, and as a result, when you venture off of the main tourist trails, you really do feel as though you are uncovering secret places that are known to so few.
The Comoros is one such place.
The Comoros islands lay inside the Mozambique channel, nestled between Northern Mozambique and the most northern tip of Madagascar. Made up of the three main islands of Grand Comore, Moheli and Anjouan (not including the contested area of Mayotte) it is the third smallest African nation by area and home to a relatively small population of less than 800,000 Comorian people.
Over half of the entire population of Comoros lives below the poverty line, and the country is one of the lowest ranking countries on Earth according to the Human Development Index. Poor infrastructure, political instability and a lack of education all contribute to the lack of development in the Comoros.
However, despite widespread poverty, the Comoros is one of the safest countries I have ever visited. Walking around on the streets at night is absolutely safe, and it is one of the only few places I have visited where I haven’t felt the need to conceal my valuables. The people of the Comoros are just plain nice and they will make always make an effort say hello, and if need be, they will absolutely help you out.
This became evident to us before we even arrived in the country! We were flying to the main island of Grand Comore from Dar Es Salaam and as soon as we got in line to check in for our flight, the man in front of us turned around and asked us we were going. When we told him that we were headed to Moroni, he seemed genuinely shocked and also delighted! He introduced himself, asked us where we were staying and made sure to give us his phone number – just in case we needed any help.
Another young Comorian man also approached us and asked if we had somebody picking us up from the airport as he had a small car and would be happy to drive us wherever we were going. We did actually have a taxi booked to pick us up, but the gesture was lovely.
We ended up being the only non-Comorian people on the flight, which became evident when we went to board and the woman checking tickets had to triple check that we were going to Moroni and not meant to get on a flight to Nairobi!
Despite the true lack of infrastructure leading to some rather trying travel moments, it was still an amazing adventure, and one that I am incredibly happy to have embarked on.
We spent three days on the largest island of Grand Comore but that definitely wasn’t the highlight of the trip. Where we really wanted to go was the island of Moheli, where we would spend almost seven days enjoying life on an island. I had expected us to do all of the offered activities, but in the end, we decided to make the most of our time there – which meant learning to dive!
I’ll write all about learning to dive in the next blog, but for now, let me show you what it is like to stay at the Laka Lodge in Moheli!
Beach bungalows sit on the very edge of the ocean, providing gorgeous sunset views. Laka Lodge also prides itself on providing continuous electricity – something that nowhere else on Moheli offers. These aren’t 5* lodgings by any stretch of the imagination, but they don’t need to be. The charm of Laka Lodge lies in its rustic yet comfortable bungalows, its delicious seafood, the unparalleled nearby reefs and the hilarious Donald Glover lookalike who tends bar.
The weather was pretty much perfect for us during our week-long stay, which meant that I had plenty of opportunities to take my Droney-Boy out for a fly.
When viewing Moheli from above, you really do start to get an idea of just how expansive the coral reefs are, and it becomes quite clear why this has become a haven for divers.
Comoros is a largely Muslim country, which means that on public beaches women are required to cover up accordingly. However, Laka Lodge has a gorgeous private beach, so you can go swimming in whatever you feel comfortable. The island has a natural point of separation along the beach which can be seen in the photograph below. To the left of the separation is the Laka Lodge private beach and to the right is one of the many local towns.
There are many smaller islands located nearby which can be reached by a short boat ride. You’d honestly never run out of reefs to explore! However, it is worth noting that the UV rating in this area is absolutely extreme, and after just 10 minutes of sun (a quick boat ride back to the lodge) I was completely burnt to a crisp. You need to bring as much sunscreen in the highest factor rating that you possibly can!
Before we made the decision to learn to dive, we went out snorkelling, and it is pretty easy to see why we wanted to spent as much time as possible in the water!
This little coral caught my eye because it looked like it had a face. I thought at first that it was some kind of creature, but nope, just an interestingly shaped coral.
I am not quite sure what type of fish this next one is – any ideas?
Don’t forget to always keep your eyes spotted for the many green sea turtles that call the waters surrounding Moheli home.
How gorgeous is this?
Oh, and in case you needed any more reason to visit Comoros, it is one of very few places you can still see the critically endangered mongoose lemurs. A breeding pair of these gentle tree dwellers have made Laka Lodge their home, and as the sun goes down, they wake up!
This cheeky pair have developed a bit of a taste for bananas, so if you have any on you, you are pretty much guaranteed the opportunity to get quite close.
The redder coat on this little guy indicates that he is the male of the duo…
…and seriously, isn’t he just beautiful?!
Hanging out with the lemurs each night was definitely one of my Comorian highlights; how could it not be with faces like these?
On one of our last nights we were invited to watch a traditional dance performed by local Comorian people from the nearby town. The dancing looked incredibly simple, but it ended up being rather complicated! I found this first hand after being handed a hat, thrown a stick and given a sarong to tie around my waist.
The dancing went on until sunset, but I ended up bailing a little bit early. The sunset looked like it would be truly spectacular, and I couldn’t resist seeing if Droney-Boy would be able to capture a good shot of it.
As it turned out, the drone is quite capable during a sunset!
Our time in Comoros included getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, almost missing a flight for the most stupid possible reason, sitting in airport for a truly unbelievable number of hours and getting painfully sunburnt.
But I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Getting to Grand Comore: This is one of the least well connected airports, you will need to get yourself to either Addis Ababa (Ethiopian Airlines), Nairobi (Kenya Airways) or Dar Es Salaam (Air Tanzania or AB Aviation)
Getting to Moheli: From Moroni (Grand Comore) you have two options. If travelling in a large group it may be cost effective to travel via boat, but as a couple it would have been quite expensive, so we flew with the Comorian airline – AB Aviation – for our domestic flights
Laka Lodge: One night in a beach bungalow starts at €80 for one person or €140 for two including all meals – for more information click here
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 lenses, DJI Mavic Pro Drone and a Sony DSC-RX100-III with Sony underwater housing
Remember: Even a few minutes in the sun can leave you red, raw and filled with regret. Make sure you pack adequate sunscreen!