Getting there & around
Patience is the key to getting around Grande Comore particularly along the east coast. It can take hours for buses to show up, if they do, and breakdowns are frequent. Boats can be absolute death-traps, with no safety regulations enforced (if any even exist) and no life jackets. They are rickety affairs that look like their weathered wood has been patched up one too many times. Seas in the Comoros can get very rough, and boats between the three islands will not travel if the water is too rough. The independent islands don’t much like French-owned Mayotte, believing it should belong to them, and boat travel between it and the other Comoros is pretty much nonexistent. Airlines, however, care more about profit than politics, so it is easy to fly.
Grande Comore is currently served by the following international airlines:
Air Austral (73 31 44; www.air-austral.com in French; Quartier Oasis, Moroni) Flies several times a week between Moroni, Mayotte, Mauritius and Réunion. Connections in Mayotte for flights to Madagascar.
Air Madagascar (73 55 40; www.airmadagascar.mg; Quartier Oasis, Moroni) Used to fly between Moroni and Mahajanga on the west coast of Madagascar, with connections to Antananarivo. At the time of research this service was suspended, but it may well be worth checking to see if it’s resumed.
As well as the international flights listed above, Grande Comore is served by two internal airlines, Comores Aviation and Comores Air Service, which fly their small planes almost daily to the islands of Anjouan and Mohéli. Comores Aviation also provides services to Mayotte.
Comores Aviation (73 34 00; email@example.com; Blvd de la Corniche, Moroni) and Comores Air Service (73 33 66; firstname.lastname@example.org; Blvd El Marrouf, Moroni) provide a reasonably efficient and easy way to fly between the islands. A hop from Moroni to Mohéli costs around CF20, 000, and flights go three times a week. To Mayotte the fare is CF44, 500 (also three flights per week). Comores Air Service does a circular ticket taking in all three islands for CF72, 000. Both airlines can also fly you to Mahajanga (CF109, 000) in Madagascar once a week.
Hiring a car on Grande Comore can only be arranged in Moroni. Prices are reasonably standard – €40 per day, plus petrol. Most cars come with a driver for the same price, which is a good thing since the roads are steep and winding and signposts nonexistent.
Boats regularly ply between Grande Comore and the other islands in the archipelago, although finding one to Mayotte (not in the good graces of the other three islands that claim it as their own) can be difficult. Anjouan is probably the easiest destination to get to. If you’ve got a bit longer to wait you could find a boat to go further afield without too much difficulty – the usual destinations are Zanzibar, Mombasa in Kenya, or Mahajanga in Madagascar. To find a boat, head for the port in Moroni where various makeshift offices along the seafront display the latest comings and goings on blackboards outside.
Please note that the safety and quality of boats vary widely and some vessels are so shaky they are downright scary. Life jackets on any boat are a rare thing, and if the seas are too rough your driver will turn around. Try to see the vessel before you buy your ticket as some are true death-traps. One of the best ferries is Alliance des Îles to Anjouan (CF11, 500, five hours). To Mohéli boats are smaller and less frequent, as the port is often ignored by bigger ships (CF9150, four to six hours).