First bit of the trip to Comoros Islands was rather uneventful it was just a standard KLM flight from Amsterdam to Paris. I like KLM and wasnt dissapointed this time either. Departure on time and crew very polite and professional as usual.
At Paris CFG things changed. I was lucky enough to have a business class ticket Paris – Nairobi, so decided to drop in at the Air France BC lounge – should be good right ? – WRONG – Not a lot of people inside so plenty of room (great so far). I wanted to grab a bite to eat and maybe a glass of wine so looked for the food / drinks area. For the food – almost nothing there except some cheese. Some kind of non descript food which appeared to have been there for hours (very little left) – so i had to settle for some of the leftover cheese – it was delicious has to be said, but i think i just about finished it off – pretty much nothing left.
Now for a glass of wine and spotted about 10-12 bottles so headed straight for them – sure enough it was wine bottles, however every single one of them was empty ! Of course no AF staff in sight so had to settle for a glass of juice. Not a big deal for me, but REALLY !! I have been through CDG before and it has never been a pleasant experiencde – avoid if at all possible.
Next up the AF flight Paris – Nairobi on BC. Boarding was smooth as you would expect with BC boarding the dreamliner first. It has a “fishbone” configuration in BC which is supposed to be brilliant – indeed – the cool thing is that everybdoy has aisle access. Im not sure im that big a fan though – somehow it felt cramped (even though this is nonsense)
It took a while before the champagne was served – I would have expected it more or less instantly.
Entertainment system as such is fairly good although the noise cancelling headphones were not the best i have ever used. Choice of entertainment not that spectacular either – I ended up selecting Big Bang Theory which i have watched several times before.
The food served though was excellent – not to say it was outstanding. Exception was the breakfast which was a bit of a dissapointment.
Nairobi Airport is never a pleasure for anybody – luckily i didnt have too much time to kill there before boarding the next flight – Kenya Airways Nairobi to Moroni. Although its a much smaller plane (Embraer 190) its a pretty nice plane with a decent amount of leg space as well. We were about 40 minutes delayed but caught up a bit on the way so we landed just 15 minutes or so delayed.
On a list of the least visited countries, Comoros is no 8 (2017) and it was clearly evident upon arrival. Of the 100 passengers or so, only 4-5 needed a visa (meaning we were not local) and gosh did they take their time – for the 4-5 of us, it took about 1 hour to get our visa – every body else were through fairly quickly. Imagine a plane full of tourists !! Oh dear.
My pickup from the hotel was there as soon as i had the visa, and he then escorted me to customs control !! Once there, i would have been happy to open my luggage but they just wanted a copy of my passport. When i told the guy he was more than welcome to make copy he just said that he did not have a copy machine – luckily I had a copy printed with me so could hand that to him, efter which i was free to go.
So a little advice – to enter Comoros you need to : Have a written (and printed) confirmation from your hotel and have a printed copy of your passport
The visa fee is EUR 30 or USD 50 so clearly – have EUR 30 ready in cash – they do not take credit cards.
I had arranged with the hotel in advance to pick me up, which indeed they did. I had picked Golden Tulip and as far as i know, its the only option you have if you want something at least half decent. You can read my review as posted on tripadvisor here. They are a bit economical when it comes to telling the truth about themselves. 4 star – not in a million years, they marketed themselves as a “hotel spa” for about a year or so without actually having a spa, they say they have “beach front bungalows” – well sort of – 4 of them do have a view of the beach, but they are behind another 4 and you have to cross a road to get to them so……… Breakfast is horrible and whats on offer from their bar menu – well they dont actually have most of it. Still – there is not really any alternative.
Grand Comoros is filthy big time – there is rubbish all over the place – I could not even be bothered to venture into Moroni itself having heard what a disgusting experience it had been from other guests. It took literally seconds from departing the airport until the rubbish was clearly visible everywhere, just dumped on the side of the road.
Next stop Moheli. To get there, there are 2 options – ferry or plane.
Ferry ehm not really – its a big dingy. Your luggage is put in the front with a tarpaulin on top, and the passengers – around 20 or so – sits in the back – there is no cover and the crossing is supposed to take around 2 hours. Even though i have never been seasick, 2 hours (at least) being beaten up by potentitially very choppy waters did not sound appealing to me – especially when i heard that the cost for the “ferry” ride is pretty much the same as option 2 – which is by plane. Since i went by plane, I dont know for sure the costs of the “ferry” but i paid approx 100 EURO for a return ticket by plane.
AB Aviation are apparently pretty reliable except they tend to leave early if possible. My flight was at 1 pm but we left at 12.40. Checking in at Moreni is a bit chaotic – there are no signs anywhere so you just have to walk up to the checkin desk and see if they will check you in. Its a tiny airport but there are flights to other destinations as well. Around the domestic terminal you will not find any shops or even vendors so bring your own water/snacks. Carry ons are not allowed onboard – only small handluggage so reluctantly i had to check in my luggage – also be aware that lighters are not allowed onboard and will be confiscated if found by security, so if you are a smoker, put your lighter in your checkin luggage.
The plane turned out to be fairly comfortable – it looked well maintained inside and out and even has a cabin crew of 1 ! Once airbourne she even had time to serve a bottle of water and a few biscuits even though the flight is only 20 minutes or so.
Upon arrival at Mwali i was pulled aside by what looked like a police officer – once again i now had to fill in an immigrations card – just like the one i had done when arriving to Comoros in the first place. More bureaucracy but it didnt really matter as getting the luggage unloaded turned out to take longer than the actual flight – you have to produce your luggage receipt or you will not be able to leave the luggage area.
I had booked a stay at Laka Lodge and also asked them to provide pickup, so I had a driver waiting for me, just as promised. From the airport to the lodge its about 45 km all the way along the coast of the island. There is no road straight across so no other choice than going round the island. The first 5-10 km or so are rather depressing in that – just like Grand Comoros – there is rubbish everywhere. Its a nice enough drive on a not too shitty road – and luckily, getting further away from Fomboni which is the “capitol”city and also where the airport is, there was less and less rubbish. The drive to the lodge took almost 2 hours – fairly decent road most of the way, but going up and down – left and right all the time so not really possible to get there any faster. The last kilometer or so goes through the neighbouring village and its not exactly a pretty sight – only positive thing is that it appears much cleaner than pretty much everything else.
There is nothing even remotely touristy about the village – forget about restaurants, bars, giftshops and street vendors – there is absolutely nothing of the sorts here.
The lodge is not big – it consists of 1 villa and a number of small bungalows – all just meters from the beach. The reception / bar / restaurant is just behind and is the place to go if you need wifi – which turned out to be reasonably good – but does not reach the bungalows. There are a bunch of activities to sign up for like snorkelling trips, hikes, visit to turtle nest sites, go see the big bats and much other stuff, but it seems like the majority of guests comes for the diving which supposedly is world class and rivals the best in the world. Other than the activities arranged by the lodge there is nothing to do except lying on the beach. The village next door doesnt have anything to offer. The sunsets are stunning and not to be missed (which is pretty much impossible if you are on the beach). My review can be seen here
The food on offer is all local – very basic and simple but delicious. Fresh fish, coffee, juice etc (the real stuff, not tinned crap). There is no menu as such, you get whatever they prepare on the day but they will be happy to see to any specials needs you may have. For me, the food was absolutely great. Staff are all extremely friendly and will go out of their way to assist in any way they can. If ever you find yourself with a ticket to the country, this is the place to go – Its isolated, a bit hard to get to but once you make it, you will be rewarded – this place is what Bali, Mauritius, Seychelles etc must have been like 50 years ago before they were overrun by tourists. On Moheli, i heard that less than 1000 tourists arrive – per year !! Just as comparision, annual number of tourists to Amsterdam divided by 365 = roughly 50.000 !!! So the yearly number of tourists to Moheli is roughly what Amsterdam gets every 20 minutes, 24/7, all year round.
The bungalows at the lodge are very basic, but they are clean, have bathroom with shower (plenty of hot water), a fan (no aircon), have a small balcony in front and are overlooking the beach – it is just sooooo cool to be here and all you can hear are the waves. No shortage of electricity either so you can have all of your gadgets charged around the clock. I was actually not that sad having to leave as it was getting just a little boring not having anywhere to go other than the lodge bar but i would absolutely recommend this place as a fantastic “Robinson Crusoe” experience.
The Comoros as such is highly undeveloped – infrastructure is poor – no public transport – you cannot rent a car – no tour operators as such – but worst of all is all the garbage just dumped on the streets and on what could be stunning beaches. As i took off in the plane from Moheli to Grand Comoros, i looked down and even from up high, the trash on the otherwise empty beaches was clearly visible. Such a shame – Bali, Mauritius etc had all the tourists to destroy their islands, but here, the comorians are doing it all by themselves – cant blame this on tourists – because there arent any.
If this country wants to compete with the likes of Mauritius they need to start immediately cleaning (literally) up their act – maybe they should introduce “umugunda” – like they have in Rwanda – otherwise they will just be drowning in their own garbage, and tourists, certainly, will stay away.
The airport is located approx 20 minutes north of Moroni – dont bother going there before you absolutely have to – the night of my flight there was nothing at all open – there appeared to be some kind of shop for soft drinks and after security something which might become a bar of some kind – there are 2 souvenir shops and also a duty free shop – i have no idea about what is for sale as nothing was open. There is no wifi available either so the waiting lounge is for – ehm waiting.
More information about Comoros can be found here
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