Moroni, Comoros

Photo: David Stanley (D-Stanley on Flickr) https://www.flickr.com/people/davidstanleytravel/ [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: David Stanley (D-Stanley on Flickr) https://www.flickr.com/people/davidstanleytravel/ [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Mauritius. Pemba. The Seychelles. The Quirimbas. Each of these African islands in the western Indian Ocean sounds more perfect than the last. So what’s next? Which island—or islands—will capture travelers imaginations and send them on a seemingly endless journey across the world? Keep an eye on the Comoros.

The Comoros, in between Mozambique and Madagascar, are enchantingly nicknamed the Perfume Isles. Each time the wind blows, you catch a whiff of ylang ylang, vanilla, or nutmeg in the air. Coconut palms, mango trees, and beautiful orchids line the coast. Livingstone’s fruit bats, lemurs, and huge butterflies dance between the trees. Plus one of the largest active volcanoes in the world towers over Grande Comore, the largest of the Comoros.

It’s impossible to miss Mount Karthala, that massive shield volcano, when you arrive in Moroni. The capital city’s name means “in the heart of the fire,” and given its location at the foot of the volcano, it feels like an appropriate one. Whitewashed buildings line the waterfront. The medina is a maze of tight alleys, ancient Swahili buildings, and coral-walled mosques. Women wear colorful wraps as they glide through Dubai Market. Men in white robes sip coffee in between prayer times. While wooden boats are moored along black volcanic rocks in the port.

You’ll be back to explore the city, but first, you want to see it from above. Mount Karthala is currently dormant. The volcano erupts every 11 years, approximately. Since the last eruption occurred in 2005, the rumbling could begin at any time. Fortunately, today looks calm and clear, except for the mist circling the base. Walk through it, passing banana and clove plantations. The mosquitos just won’t leave you alone. Continue up the slippery trail, as the plantations give way to the rainforest. Wild berries line the trail and native birds, like the Comoro cuckoo roller and the Grand Comoro bulbul, act as guides along the way. Moss-covered trees and large ferns eventually give way to black soil.

The last leg of the trail is barren and lunar-like. Huge rocks look like they were thrown out of the crater. Smoke hisses to warn you that dormant is a relative word. And the view—of the volcano walls with the blue water and small islands in the distance—is intoxicating. You definitely need to keep an eye on the Comoros, but for more reasons than you ever expected.

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