The biggest (and most politically bullying) of the three islands, Grande Comore is also dominated by the largest active volcano in the world, Mt Karthala (2360m) – over the last 200 years it has consistently erupted once every 11 years on average. The last eruption spewed lava for a full 14 days in December 2005. It flattened villages, contaminated drinking water and killed at least one child. This came on the heels of the tourism crisis of 2002, when the islands’ switch to a new constitution had foreign state departments warning people to steer clear for a while. Mt Karthala’s eruption only further decimated the island’s already struggling tourism industry. This is a shame, because two years after the explosion Grande Comore has picked up the pieces. And the good news that has come out of the volcano’s latest blast is the spectacular desert landscape it created on the mountain – the hiking is particularly fantastic, and unique, these days.
Aside from being the largest island at 60km by 20km, Grande Comore is also the most economically developed of the three independent islands that make up the Union des Comores. Grande Comore (known as Ngazidja by the Comorians) wields the most political power of the three islands from the seat of its handsome main town, Moroni. The island is fringed by solidified lava and sandy beaches of various hues, where brilliant white meets dark volcanic grey and molten black. What little agricultural land is still available is found in the south, where there are banana, breadfruit, cassava, vanilla, ylang-ylang and coconut plantations. Most of the island’s population and activity is concentrated on the west coast. The sparsely populated and dramatically beautiful east coast remains quiet and traditional, with only a few tiny thatched-hut villages. Couples looking for a simple but romantic holiday away from everyone else will like it here.