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Mayotte, though very much a part of the Comoros, separated itself from its brothers by maintaining ties with France following independence in the 1960s. The association with France has seen the island prosper to a greater extent than the rest of the Comoros and recent changes in legislature have seen the island woven even tighter into the French fabric.
That is the politics. To the politically-unaware observer, however, Mayotte would rightly appear just another island in the Comoros Archipelago. Grand Terre, the main island, is surrounded by a coral reef that boasts excellent snorkeling and diving potential. It is this waterfront attraction that makes Mayotte, like the rest of the Comoros, a fantastic but underrated destination.
In 1500 the Maore or Mawuti sultanate was established on the island. In 1503, Mayotte was observed by Portuguese explorers, but not colonized. In 1832, it was conquered by Andriantsoly, former king of Iboina on Madagascar; in 1833 conquered by the neighbouring sultanate of Mwali; on 19 November 1835 again conquered by the Ndzuwani Sultanate but in 1836 regained its independence under a last local Sultan.
Mayotte was ceded to France along with the other Comoros in 1843. It was the only island in the archipelago that voted in referendums in 1974 and 1976 to retain its link with France and forgo independence (with 63.8% and 99.4% of votes respectively). The Comoros continue to claim the island, and a draft 1976 United Nations Security Council resolution supported by 11 of the 15 members of the Council would have recognized Comororian sovereignty over Mayotte, but France vetoed the resolution. The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a series of resolutions on the issues, whose tenor can be gauged from their title: "Question of the Comorian Island of Mayotte" up to 1995. Since 1995, the subject of Mayotte has not been discussed by the General Assembly.
A referendum on becoming an overseas department of France in 2011 was held on 29 March 2009. The outcome was a 95.5 per cent vote in favour of changing the island's status from a French "overseas community" to become France's 101st département. It will then get the same healthcare and welfare system as France but will also pay more taxes. The non official traditional Islamic law that is still applied in some aspects of the day to day life of some people will be progressively abolished and be completely replaced by the already existing uniform French civil code.
Mayotte is an island of volcanic origin in the northernmost Mozambique Channel, about one-half of the way from northern Madagascar to northern Mozambique. Mayotte has an area of 374 square kilometres, and a coastline of length 185.2 km. The terrain of the islands is undulating, with deep ravines and ancient volcanic peaks. The lowest point is the Indian Ocean, and the highest is Benara, at 660 metres above sea level. The main island, Grande-Terre (or Maore) is 39 kilometres long and 22 kilometres wide. Because of the volcanic rock, the soil is relatively rich in some areas. A coral reef encircling much of the island ensures protection for ships and a habitat for fish. Dzaoudzi was the capital of Mayotte until 1977. It is situated on Petite-Terre (or Pamanzi), which at 10 square kilometres is the largest of several islets adjacent to Maore.
Two main islands make up Mayotte.
Several small islets are located around each island.
Go hiking to the top of Mont Choungui and enjoy the fantastic views of the island and the surrouding ocean. When the weather is clear you will be able to see other islands of the Comoros as well.
Mayotte might not be the world's most famous spot to go diving, but there are some spectactular spots to enjoy the reefs, corals and numerous colourful species of fish here. Of course, just relaxing and snorkelling is equally as pleasant.
For such a small place, the island and its waters have a diverse habitat. Sea turtles on the southern beaches, calving humpback whales in August and September and lemurs and makis in some more remote parts of Mayotte.
A beautiful stretch of white sand and turquoise waters, Moya Beach used to be the place where three old craters were. Nowadays, one is a sulphuric lake and the two others are immurged in the sea to form Moya Beach itself.
There are various festivals in Mayotte, which are celebrated with great fanfare and enthusiasm. Some of the important festivals that are celebrated here include New Years Day (1 January), Christmas (25 December), Easter Monday, Abolition Day (27th April ) among others.
Mayotte has a warm and humid cliimate, with some relief of the heath by breezes from the Indian Ocean. Temperatures generally are around 30 °C during the day, and still above 20 °C at night. November to April is slightly warmer, May to October a bit cooler. Rain is present during all months, but is more and heavier from November to May. August to October is the driest period and temperatures are fine as well, making this the best time to travel to Mayotte. Hurricanes are possible from December to February, so it is best to avoid this time.
Dzaoudzi Pamandzi International Airport (DZA) receives all international flights. Comores Aviation flies to Moroni, Corsairfly to Paris and Kenya Airways to Nairobi. Air Austral flies to and from Paris, Madagascar (Nosy Be), Reunion and Moroni in the Comoros.
Other than cargo ships and yacht, there are no official passenger services to and from Mayotte.
Car rental is available on Mayotte but relatively expensive. Most roads are tarred but some are potholed. Traffic drives on the right and you need an international driving permit.
Renting a bike is also possible.
Taxi-brousses are the way to get around Mayotte. They are cheap and abundant and a great way to meet locals.
Ferries ply the waters between Petite-Terre (where the airport is located) and Grande-Terre.
See also Money Matters
As an overseas collectivity of France, Mayotte has adopted the Euro (ISO code: EUR, symbol: €) as its official currency. One Euro is divided into 100 cents, which is sometimes referred to as eurocents, especially when distinguishing them with the US cents.
Euro banknotes come in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, €500. The highest three denominations are rarely used in everyday transactions. All Euro banknotes have a common design for each denomination on both sides throughout the Eurozone.
The Euro coins are 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, €1 and €2. Some countries in the Eurozone have law which requires cash transactions to be rounded to the nearest 5 cents. All Euro coins have a common design on the denomination (value) side, while the opposite side may have a different image from one country to another. Although the image side may be different, all Euro coins remain legal tender throughout the Eurozone.
Voluntary service: Volontariat Civil à l'Aide Technique (VCAT) Conditions: you must be French or from another EU-member state or a country belonging to the European Economic Area. You must be over 18 and under 28 years old (inclusive). You must not have had your civic rights revoked by a court or have been convicted of certain offences.
French is the official language and is spoken by roughly 35% of the population. More commonly-spoken are Mahorian (a dialect of Swahili) and Malagasy.
The local cuisine of Mayotte is a blend of Indian, African and Arabic and, of course, French. A meal wouldn’t be complete without spices like cardamom, coriander, cloves, nutmegs and cinnamon that are added to daily menus of meat and rice eaten by the local populace. A lot of seafood is cooked the French way. The cheap local produce of vegetables makes Mayotte something of a gourmet heaven.
There’s a large selection of restaurants ranging from luxurious to local on the island. At the upper end of the spectrum, most of them are attached to hotels. Many say that the cuisine served in the local ones are unmatchable in ambience and taste.
There are now only 9 hotels in Mayotte, two upscale. In contrast, the B & Bs and guest houses is growing fast and some are good or very good level.
See also Travel Health
Proof that you had a yellow fever vaccination is required upon entering Mayotte when you have been in a yellow fever country within 7 days of entering.
It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Mayotte. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also both hepatitis A as well as typhoid would be recommended.
If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.
Like most African countries south of the Sahara, Malaria is prevalent in the country. Don't underestimate this tropical disease and take precautions. Buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Dengue sometimes occurs as well.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also Travel Safety
Crime levels are low, but you should take sensible precautions against pick-pocketing and mugging. Avoid walking alone at night on beaches or in town centres.
As a result of its colonial history and the ongoing political debate regarding the separate status of Mayotte, there are regular reports of demonstrations and there is anti-French sentiment throughout Comoros. Remain vigilant, maintain a low profile while moving around and avoid any crowds or political gatherings. Monitor local media to keep up to date with local developments. Avoid taking pictures of official buildings.
Cyclones can occur during the rainy season.
See also International Telephone Calls
The country calling code to Mayotte is 262
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