Called the ‘pearl of the Comoros’ by its residents, Anjouan is no doubt the most scenic of the Comoros and fulfils any lifelong fantasies of playing Robinson Crusoe on a deserted tropical island. Known by the locals as Ndzouani or Nzwani, this is also the Comorian island that most closely resembles the image most people conjure up when daydreaming of kissing a lover in an exotic far-flung destination. The air here really is heavy with the scent of cloves and ylang-ylang, and the magic landscape includes crumbling old Arab plantations, endless rows of palms, and trees whose branches are heavy with a load of ripening yellow bananas.
Through this mosaic of green moves the rural population: the women swaying under their loads of firewood or stacks of cassava; the men, machetes in hand, setting off in the cool of the morning to cut new palm thatch for their roofs. Up in the highlands, the air is blissfully cool and mists often descend over the trees of the rainforest, dripping moisture on to the giant, swooping bats who call the trees home.
The Anjounais are fiercely proud of their identity, declaring independence from the rest of the Comoros in 1996. They have been reluctantly coaxed back into the Union – it helps when your president is the top chief in the Comoros – but relations remain uneasy with the other islands.