Mohéli, Comoros

Photo: by alKomor.com (Flickr [1]) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: by alKomor.com (Flickr [1]) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
You claim you want to get away from it all. All you need is a perfect beach, a little hut, and a few meals a day. Or so you say. But you keep returning to resorts that offer so much more. Swim-up bars and beach service make it really easy for you to be pampered and do nothing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just a different trip. So could you really handle a far-flung destination that doesn’t cater to your every whim? It’s time to test it–or you–out in the Comoros Islands.

There’s no easy–or inexpensive–route to the Comoros. If there were, the Indian Ocean archipelago would already have popular resorts. Fly to France, Mozambique, and then Moroni, the capital of the Comoros. The islands–there are four main ones plus many smaller ones–are located between northeastern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar. It’s doesn’t get more far-flung than this.

The Comoros were ruled by the French until 1975. People speak French, Arabic, and Comorian, and many are devout Muslims, showing the loose control the French had over the area. The government is unstable; there have been more than 20 coup d’etats since the country gained its independence. But the people are friendly and welcoming, though a bit surprised you’re there. Particularly on Mohéli, the smallest of the main islands.

Photo: Mohéli Laka Lodge
Photo: Mohéli Laka Lodge

It’s one more flight to reach Mohéli, the island of perfumes. You’ll arrive in Fomboni, and then it’s a two-hour drive to Nioumachoua, a small village in the southwestern part of the island. The village has huge baobab trees, dusty streets, roaming donkeys, and only a few hours of electricity each day. It’s part of the National Marine Park, the first protected area in the country. It’s also where you’ll find the Mohéli Laka Lodge, your home for the week.

Beach, check. The first thing you’ll notice is Nioumachoua Beach, a gorgeous stretch of white sand with views of uninhabited isles in the distance. A little hut, check. The minimal rooms have terraces overlooking the beach and cold-water showers. And a restaurant, check. Everything is fresh and local: shrimp and lobster, mangrove crabs and tropical oysters, manioc and breadfruit. There’s even a bar. The Whale Bar sits on a peninsula and offers panoramic views of the lagoon, the offshore islands, and, of course, a perfect sunset.

Spend your days snorkeling in the lagoon. Besides vibrant coral, you’ll probably see manta rays, reef sharks, and barracudas. Ride a traditional laka (outrigger) to see the mangroves in one direction and the village in the other. Go fishing for seabream and tuna. Hike through the marine park. You’ll hear Blue Vangas and Mohéli Brush Warblers, pass pineapple trees and vanilla plants, and see rare mongoose lemurs and Mount Karthala in the distance. The Grande Comore volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It last erupted in 2006, but the bubbling water proves it could happen again at any time. And visit the Livingstone Bats Reserve–to see giant, fruit-eating bats–and the Giant Sea Turtle Reserve–since it’s the wrong time of year to see them laying eggs right on Nioumachoua Beach.

As you return to the Whale Bar for a Castle beer late in the afternoon, you realize you haven’t spent any time on a sun lounger on the beach. Maybe tomorrow.

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