After our day in Comoros — the #10-#12 least visited country in the world (depending who you ask) — let’s get even more off the beaten track: Mayotte, a French island in the Indian Ocean off East Africa between Madagascar and Mozambique that ceded to France from the Comoros group of islands in 1843.
In the spirit of anti-colonialism when Comoros voted for independence in the 1970s, Mayotte surprisingly voted instead to remain a French “collective”.
Then in March 2009, the islands sealed the deal by voting 95.2% YES to become France’s 101st ‘department’ effective 2011. Therefore at over 5000 miles, the flight between Paris and Mayotte is the second longest domestic flight in the world, with the first being Paris to Réunion (which I’m flying myself next week!).
Although France has indubitable administrative control of Mayotte and it is considered part of the EU, Comoros claims it as one of the Autonomous Islands of Comoros. Because pride. We get it.
So from Comoros, we were picked up this morning by a pre-arranged taxi at 6am to check in for our 8am AB Aviation Y6 303 Flight at 8am from HAH to DZA airport in Mayotte.
The check-in was as austere as that in Kiribati, with everything happening in one, small, partitioned room.
Their conveyor belts for checked luggage are shorter than treadmills:
And the immigrations counter was right behind us in the very same room after checking in:
And as how it was in Tuvalu, flight tickets are handwritten instead of printed.
Since we had too much food given to us for breakfast by the hotel, we handed them out to fellow passengers turning the waiting room into something even better than a de-facto Priority Pass lounge.
We then boarded promptly at 7:45am, taking off on time at 8:00am.
After 45 minutes in the air, we landed in Anjoaun: one of the 3 autonomous high islands in the Indian Ocean that’s part of the Union of Comoros.
Although our final stop would be Mayotte and we were expecting to stay on the plane, the staff instead made us disembark with our bags and escorted us into literally an empty arrivals room.
After 5 minutes here, we were led into the main check-in area, where we had our tickets re-inspected and our carry-on baggage go through security (no x-rays machines here; staff open and comb through your bags instead).
Afterwards in the waiting area, airport staff asked us one by one to step outside to pick out our checked luggage so they knew which ones to reload back onto the aircraft.
Once back outside, they then scanned us with metal detector wands and reopened our carry-on items before allowing us to reboard the very same airplane we had arrived on.
FYI, men are asked to go first for this process. This confused me — after being asked to skip past a long line of women who were waiting in front of me to go outside and claim my checked luggage, I left my cell phone, bag, and travel pillow behind in the waiting area thinking I was going to be allowed back in…but nope. Shit on face moment.
Luckily the rest of my group of monsooners were able to retrieve those items for me!
After a 45 minute flight from Anjouan, we landed promptly at 9:45am in the Mayotte’s only civilian airport (located on the island of Petit Terre).
You notice the difference between Comoros and Mayotte as soon as you land.
And unlike Comoros’ long visa process, we instead got stamped as if we were literally entering the European Union (after all, Mayotte is a French territory!)
And as you can compare with Comoros’ airport, this is apparently what it looks like when you choose to remain a colony instead of independence:
Alas, the eternal debate between security vs. freedom rages on.
After retrieving our checked luggage, we hailed a taxi for 15 euros and a 5 minute drive to take us to La Fare Beach Restaurant where Sarah, Ines, and Bessie stayed behind to sunbathe while watching over our bags.
Evan, Ann, and I instead continued onwards for another 2 minutes to the docks where we boarded the passenger ferries to take us to Grand Terre island for Mamoudzou, the de-facto capital and largest town in Mayotte.
The ferry departs every half an hour on the :30 and :00. It runs exactly like the Staten Island Ferry.
There is no payment here as they expect you instead to pay the fare (1.25€) on return. So once you arrive into Mamoudzou, just get off and keep moving as if it were a free ride!
Once on Grand Terre, we quickly walked around Mamoudzou, running through the streets of its colorful markets. However, there’s really not much else, let alone unique, for the typical visitor.
Once we were done, we ran back to the docks for a return ferry back to Petit Terre, this time paying the 1.25€/per person fee.
Once back at the docks of Petit Terre, we walked over 12 minutes to meet with the rest of the group waiting for us at La Fare.
We then had one of the best lunches on the trip so far.
Thank you, French cuisine.
At 12:45pm we wrapped up and called in a taxi to take us back to the airport where we boarded the 2:45pm (which was delayed by an hour) Air Madagascar Flight MD150 from DZA to TNR in Madagascar via another quick layover in Comoros. The flight had us change seats in between to accommodate for a full flight.
Next up: Madagascar!
- At time of posting in Mayotte, it was 78.8 °F - Humidity: 81% | Wind Speed: 16km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy