Getting there & away
It's possible to travel to and from Madagascar and the Comoros by boat, but for most destinations you will need plenty of time and determination. Travel is likely to be on cargo ships – unless you find a ride on a yacht as a crew member – so sleeping and eating conditions, combined with sometimes turbulent seas, can make for a rough trip. Bring sea-sickness tablets with you.
Mombasa (Kenya) and the island of Zanzibar (Tanzania) are the main places to look for cargo boats to Madagascar or the Comoros. It’s also sometimes possible to find passage on a yacht heading from South Africa, Réunion or Mauritius – or maybe even from France to Nosy Be or Mayotte.
International and domestic flights come into Ivato airport, just north of Antananarivo. The airports in Mahajanga and Toamasina both handle flights from Réunion, Mauritius and the Comoros. International flights come into Moroni airport on Grande Comore, and Dzaoudzi on Mayotte.
Air Madagascar, Air France and Corsair, all operating flights from France, fly directly to Madagascar. There are now a few flights per week from Milan to Nosy Be or Île Sainte Marie in addition to flights from Munich or Rome to Antananarivo. There are no direct flights from outside the East African and Indian Ocean region to the Comoros. To fly to the Comoros from anywhere else, your best bet is to fly to Réunion, Mauritius, Antananarivo, Nairobi or Dar es Salaam and get an onward flight from there.
In the Comoros, two airlines are currently operating – Comores Aviation and Comores Air Service. They both fly between the three islands of the Union des Comores. Comores Aviation also flies to Mayotte, while Comores Air Service has flights to Mombasa, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar in East Africa.
Airlines flying to and from Comoros include:
Air Austral/Air Mauritius (ARIO; 22 359 90; www.airaustral.com; Rue des 77 Parlementaires Français, Antananarivo)
Air Madagascar (22 222 22; www.airmadagascar.com; 31 Ave de l’Indépendance, Antananarivo)
Air Tanzania (TC; 73 54 26; www.airtanzania.com) Hub: Dar es Salaam.
Air Tanzania has a weekly flight from Moroni on Grande Comore to Dar es Salaam (about €500 return). Air Mozambique flies weekly between Mayotte and Pemba in northern Mozambique (about €270 return), with connections to Maputo. Comores Air Service has flights to Mombasa in Kenya (about €600 return) and Zanzibar in Tanzania (about €450 return). African Express Airlines, a branch of South African air, flies weekly from Mayotte to Nairobi (about €600 return).
Bear in mind that Comores Air Service flights won’t show up on travel-agency booking systems in the rest of the world, so if you want to use these flights, you’ll have to book them yourself on the spot when you arrive in Mombasa (00254 41 404265) or Zanzibar (00255 54 2230029). It’s definitely best to allow a few days’ leeway if you’re travelling to the Comoros via this route.
Air Madagascar flies between Singapore and Antananarivo, with connections in Singapore to other Asian countries. Otherwise the best way to reach Madagascar or the Comoros from Asia is via Mauritius or Johannesburg. Air Mauritius has flights several times a week from Singapore and Hong Kong to Mauritius, and South African Airlines flies regularly to Johannesburg from both cities.
There are no direct flights from Australia to Madagascar or the Comoros. The best routes are generally via Mauritius or Johannesburg. Air Mauritius has weekly flights connecting both Melbourne and Perth with Mauritius from about A$3000. From Mauritius there are regular connections on Air Austral to Antananarivo, Mayotte and Moroni on Grande Comore.
Alternatively, Qantas and SAA both have flights connecting Sydney with Johannesburg starting from A$2200 in the low season. From Johannesburg, you can connect with an Air Madagascar or Interair flight to Antananarivo. Try these agencies:
The main European hub for flights to and from Madagascar or the Comoros is Paris. Air Madagascar and Air France fly three to four times a week between Paris and Antananarivo. Prices from Paris on both airlines usually start from about €1400. There are also some good deals available with the scheduled airline Corsair, although prices are broadly similar on all three airlines.
It’s also possible to fly from many European capitals to Johannesburg, Nairobi, St-Denis (Réunion) or Port Louis (Mauritius), and from one of these cities to Antananarivo. The best connections are usually via Réunion or Mauritius, which are linked by Air Austral flights to Antananarivo (from €330), as well as by several flights weekly to other places in Madagascar and to the Comoros. To the Comoros, you can take a flight from Europe to Mombasa in Kenya or Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and connect to Moroni (Grande Comore) from there. Contact one of the following agents to get you started:
Air Fare (020 620 5121; www.airfair.nl in Dutch) A well-respected Dutch travel agency.
Trailfinders (020-7938 3939; www.trailfinders.com) Excellent, reliable UK travel agency with huge experience.
The cheapest way to fly from North America to Madagascar or the Comoros is generally via Paris. It may work out cheaper to get two separate tickets – one from North America to Europe, and then a second ticket from Europe to Madagascar. During the high season, however, it’s often ends up being the same price, and much less of a hassle to book just one ticket. Expect to pay around US$3000 return.
Another option is to fly from Atlanta or New York to Johannesburg, with a connection to Antananarivo – although at the time of research this option ended up being more expensive than flying through Europe. In the USA, the main travel agency specialising in Madagascar is Cortez Travel & Expeditions. It has information on good-value airfares and can book Air Madagascar flights. The following companies might also be able to help:
Orbitz (www.orbitz.com) A good source of online fares.