One of my biggest questions when packing up my life to move to Moheli, Comoros to work as a Scuba Diving Instructor at Laka Lodge. Was
“Is There Wifi?”
I have already written about Laka Lodge and all their amenities there, which you can check out here, but what about the rest of the country? What does travelling here entail? Is it really the end of the world in a jungle? Or can you stream Netflix? What food is there? How can you get around?
So lets start with the number one question most modern, digital natives have every day. Is there WIFI?
The Comoros is comprised of an archipelago of three islands. Grande Comore, the capital islands and the largest in size. Moheli, the smallest and often considered the heart of the Comoros with astonishing rainforest and National Park and Anjouan, the bustling port island with colourful people and a population similar to Grand Comere.
Moroni, the capital of the Comoros is found on Grand Comore, and is the location of the international Airport of Hahaya, Prince Sayid Ibrahim.
Prince Sayid Ibrahim Airport in Moroni
Several airlines fly here, including Air Ethiopia, Kenya Airways and Madagascar air along with the local smaller airlines of AB Aviation and Int’air Ile. Just from the last month that I have been here, they’re schedules, plans and even companies have been ever changing. Somake sure to contact individual airlines to see if they are running and to book your ticket. If you are flying to another island, you will most likely have to stay in Moroni overnight in which case you have the opportunity to explore the town. Read about my journey here.
Warning : for the local inter Comoros flights, do not book your flights too far in advance. This is due to short term changes which might leave you losing your money. Instead, buy the flights around a week in advance. This should give you sufficient time to secure a seat, however have a greater opportunity probability that the flights will fly. The way Comoros works however, there is always a possibility that an entire flight would be chartered for the President or another important member of parliament, so all tourists and ticket buyers would have to wait for another day.
Moroni itself is a bustling hubbub of markets, small shops, fishermen, mosques, schools and people gathering on the streets to chat and exchange news every afternoon and evening. There are several restaurant choices and hotels, ranging in price from 30 euros a night to a heftier 170 euros a night. In another post, I will go into the hotels a little more. Booking.com do have several of the hotels, however again
Warning : make sure to book the hotel on the correct island.
MUST HAVE 30 EUROS CASH WHEN ARRIVING AT THE AIRPORT. This is to ensure you will get your visa. While there is an ATM available, more often than not, it does not work and I beleive it is situated after customs.. Making it quite useless for individuals who have yet to make it into the country.
Otherwise, the local currency is the Comorian Franc, which roughly equates to around 500 to 1 Euro. Euros are generally well accepted, especially in hotels and restaurants, however you change (just like at the airport) will be given back to you in local currency. I do highly recommend taking cash into the country as many ATMs refuse to give out money. (Tried in various amounts with very much the same result)
Some places, such as hotels, will allow you to pay with VISA (no place I have yet found accepts other forms of credit or debit cards : such as mastercard etc). Check with your hosts.
Can you get a 3g simcard?
Several of the hotels do have wifi, which works adequately, although European style internet connection is only feasible through purchasing a TELMA 3g simcard package. Again, just in the past month it has gone from costing 20 euros for 5Gb, 20 euros for 10Gb and currently it is at 20 euros for 15Gb. If you do want to invest into a phone card, make sure to bring your passport or some form of ID to the TELMA shop. Any taxi driver in town will know exactly where to take you.
What Food is Available?
The wide variety of restaurants in Moroni serve local and international dishes. Do not hesitate to try the local fare, with drovi (their fried plantains), breadfruit (a mix of bread and potato) and exquisite freshly seasoned foods with spices from the rainforests the true winners. I have only been to a few restaurants however the lack of diversity of the local agriculture does not stop them from creating varied and filling dishes.
Is there potable water?
Unfortunately, the water is not potable out of the tap and I would highly recommend investing in a filtered water bottle to be able to minimise your impact of plastic waste while travelling here. It is true, when looking around you might think that one extra bottle will not make a difference, however multiply at least 4X 1 liter bottles for each tourist for each day in the country and it quickly amounts to a truck load of garbage.
What can you buy?
The next frequently asked questions is about the shopping. Majority of the locals do their shopping in open air markets, with loud and cheerful bartering floating over the piles of bananas, ginger, turmeric, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, spices, papayas and other seasonal fruit. Avocados, mangoes, passion fruits all grow here with other fruits harder to find. I highly encourage to get down to the market place and pick up some fresh, locally grown fruit and practise your French and miming techniques to get your desired snack.
If you are however looking for peanut butter, soya sauce or similar. Some of these more ‘specific’ items are impossible to find even in the ‘supermarkets’. There is a large array of canned foods, soaps, detergents, hygiene products, candies, cookies and similar, however the range is not enormous.
Is there Alcohol?
Despite the month of Ramadan when no alcohol is to be found anywhere on the three islands (apart from several hotels including Laka Lodge), you will have access to a small range of alcohol in shops. If you are a wine enthusiast, I unfortunately have bad news, some the beautiful French blends from 2009 have been kept improperly causing the cork to disintegrate. Hard alcohol or a local beer is the way forward!
Transport on Grand Comores
The best (and only way) of getting around Grand Comore is by taxi. Walking on the roads can be a scary affair, since cars zoom by as if they were in a rally. Investing in a good driver with a good car can help you in a piece of mind. Costs are reasonable with 15 Euro transfers from the airport to the city, and 100 Euro tours of the entire island.
Moroni has 24h electricity (most of the time), powered by diesel generators.
There is much of it, plenty around and heart breaking to see.
The most beautiful beaches on Grand Comore are on the Northern side of the island, and many guides are able to take you there. I will do a separate post about adventures to be had on each of the islands.
The smallest of the islands, a Jurassic park looking paradise, the green of the rainforest rises from the crystal clear blue waters all around. Many reefs surrounding the island, with the smallest population of the Comoros having not destroyed the environment. The national Marine Park in Moheli was declared in 2001, and since then no net fishing has taken place on the southern side of the island. Due to Mohelis isolation and small population, any amenities that exist on Grand Comore are even smaller here.
Moheli Domestic Airport
The airport has very basic bathrooms and a small shop where you can purchase bottled water, soft drink and a few snacks. Make sure to arrive on time before your check in, but also be prepared to wait around in the airport lounge. Bring yourself a good book to read.
Is there Wifi?
The two main hotels on the island Laka Lodge (Southern Side) and Les Abous (Northern side) have WIFI which is good enough to deal with emails, occasional Youtube videos and frequent googling. Otherwise, having purchased a TELMA sim card from Moroni is the way forward. (It is possible to recharge here),
Is there potable water?
Just like in Moroni, there is no potable water on the island, however Laka Lodge does have a filter which guests can use to eliminate plastic use. Laka Lodge also has hot water showers powered by solar energy.
Is There Electricity?
The island of Moheli is slightly less electricity capable than the capital island, with Fomboni ( the islands capital) has 24h electricity, however the other smaller villages depend on generators which only run over night to ensure there is light and fans in the heat.
What Food is Available?
Unfortunately, the choices of restaurants on this island is significantly smaller. Some families can invite you into their home to cook you local foods, but in terms of organised restaurants all need at least a days notice to ensure they have enough produce. Visitors to Moheli are scarce and far between, so not only will you be exploring a largely unexplored area, you will also be receiving the freshest food created just for you.
Due to the isolation of these islands, difficulty to keep food and communication, it is of upmost importance to let your hosts know at least a day in advance of your travel plans. This ensures there is food waiting for you, a good taxi to transport you and accomodation to house you. If you visit the Comoros, you are travelling to the end of the world and then some. An unforgettable, amazing experience. One of the last locations in the world where you can feel like an explorer and adventurer.
This is the part where Moheli is truly a standout, between visiting the Turtle Nesting Grounds in Itsamia, Scuba Diving the Marine National Park, seeing the Livingstone Bats, explore the uninhabited beaches, cultural exploration, and rainforest walks. During the months of July to November, humpback whales come here.
Let me know if you have any other questions, hope to answer them!