The island of Mayotte: Top 20 things to do
This is a French island that few people actually know. Located at about 1400 Km northwest of Reunion Island and 300 Km from the Malagasy territory, many people wonder where Mayotte is on a world map! This small island paradise, as I like to call it, I lived there for almost four years. This small island in the Indian Ocean, located in the Mozambique Channel, between the African continent and the island of Madagascar, has in my eyes everything one could love about a tropical island. I present to you the things to do on the island of Mayotte. If you are preparing your trip, I invite you to read the article “When to go to Mayotte?” Come on, let’s discover one of the least known overseas departments.
The island of Mayotte is a French department (formerly an overseas territory) geographically belonging to the Comoros archipelago (islands of Anjouan, Mohéli and Grande Comores). The total area of this volcanic island is 376 km2. The island has one of the largest lagoons in the world, almost closed, with a reef surrounding almost the entire island. The island is also famous for its multiple mangrove areas and its coral beds (people from Reunion Island often come for that), its sea turtle nests, its baobabs, and its Ylang Ylang culture.
This French territory is composed of two main islands: Grande Terre and Petite Terre. The capital of the island is Mamoudzou. Historically, Mayotte has been French since 1841, the rest of the Comoros was attached as a French protectorate. In 1946, Mayotte was then attached to the Comorian territory, formerly having the status of a French colony, detached from the island of Madagascar. In 1975, the independence of the Comoros was declared after consultation. In 2011, after a referendum, Mayotte became the 101st French department – DOM – (with Guyana, Reunion Island, Guadeloupe and Martinique).
- The two official languages are French and Shimaore (Bantu African language derived from Swahili, mainly spoken in East Africa),
- Many people live on food crops,
- An important crossbreeding is found on the island with mainly a Comorian, Malagasy and African population,
- A tropical climate is present all year round with a dry season and a rainy season (cyclonic period). It remains relatively safe from cyclones compared to Mauritius or Reunion Island,
- From a geological point of view, the island of Mayotte is a hot spot,
I will purposely not talk about the recent situation on the island, that is not the point of this article. The problems of illegal immigration, slums, the living conditions of the population, departmentalization, delinquency, and recurrent general strikes are, however, real issues. For all that, the problems seem to be generally ignored for the moment…
So, no, life is not “all pink and beautiful” on the island of Mayotte, far from it, but it remains engraved in my heart as an extraordinary experience that I had the opportunity to live. The territory is complex, on the border of two worlds, one of which is the Union of the Comoros, just opposite, 70 km north of Mayotte. Even if the situation today is not easy for the island, I wish for all the Mahorais living on the island that the situation will improve in the very near future.
In the meantime, I hope that this article will encourage people to come and discover this island which remains in my eyes a pearl of the Indian Ocean. Even today, I find myself saying “if there weren’t so many insecurity problems on the island, I would spend my life there”! Here are, according to me, the must-see places in Mayotte.
1 - Scuba diving in Mayotte
If I had to answer the question “what to do on the island of Mayotte”, the answer would be obvious. This will probably be the subject of a full article, but diving in Mayotte is in one word GRANDIOSE. I had the opportunity to dive a lot on the island during my first stay. I went through more or less every dive spot on the island and I must admit that even after diving in other parts of the world, Mayotte remains superior to many places. French Polynesia for example is very rich in “big fish”, but the biodiversity remains very poor.
For those looking for a good serious diving club, you can go to my friend Max at Club Hippocampe Plongée, or to Alex at Nautilus Plongée.
On the program: great diversity of corals, tropical fish everywhere, various marine mammals, in short, an exceptional seabed as I have rarely seen.
2 - Discovering the beaches of Mayotte Island
During your visit to Mayotte, discover the beautiful beaches of the island. To name only the most famous: the beaches of Ngouja (south of the island), Sakouli beach, Sohoa beach (west coast) or Boueni beaches, remain places to visit without a doubt during your tour of the island! This is the opportunity to go with your snorkeling gear and discover the beautiful underwater world of the island (corals, crabs, anemones, various fish, etc.). The continental slope of Sakouli beach is particularly beautiful.
3 - Meeting with lemurs
Among the nice things to do on the island of Mayotte, meet the lemurs. These animals, which look like small monkeys, can be found all over the island. The famous N’gouja beach is the easiest spot to observe them. Many tourists and locals feed them bananas, so they are used to them. You can also see them in the center of the island in the forest or simply in the city center walking on the wires… A nice encounter with a very docile animal overall!
4 - Swimming with turtles
Among the must-sees in Mayotte, swimming with turtles remains a must-do. I have never seen a place in the world where you can swim and approach turtles in their natural environment. The beach of N’gouja (the same as the lemurs) is really famous for that. Take your mask and snorkel (avoid the low tide), and go discover this wonderful world! Of course, you will often come across turtles while diving…
5 - Take a boat trip on the lagoon
It is clearly a must on the island of Mayotte. Several providers offer day trips on the lagoon around the island. Everyone has their preferences but I particularly recommend Mayotte Découverte, Planète Bleu or Lagon Aventure. The days are more or less the same and you will generally have the opportunity to go around the island and look for dolphins, manta rays or whales when the season is right. In any case, you will take advantage of this day to sunbathe, discover the superb beaches of the North or South of the island, do some snorkeling, all this accompanied by a good local meal! Depending on the providers and the tides, they will also take you to visit the mangrove!
6 - Climbing Mount Choungui
Well, okay, climbing is a big word because the second highest peak of the island (594m), behind Mount Benara, is accessible from the village of the same name Choungui. Depending on your condition, the hike can take about an hour. The view from the summit is breathtaking, a true 360°. In fact, I wrote a full article on “A hike to Mount Choungui”.
7 - Going around Lake Dziani on Petite Terre
The island of Petite Terre (where the airport is located) is home to a superb natural site, Lake Dziani. This site is a crater lake (maars). Two others, partially collapsed, are visible from the top of the site. The tour of the lake is done without particular difficulty and you will have a breathtaking view of the lagoon and the beaches of Moya. I recommend doing the tour early in the morning, early enough before the sun hits too hard.
8 - A day by kayak on the Bandrelé islet
This is an outing I had the opportunity to do several times when friends or family visited me. All you have to do is rent kayaks on the beach of Sakouli, on the east coast of the island and set off (depending on the tides) for 30 minutes of kayaking in direction of the islet. The ideal is to prepare a picnic and eat on site. There, you will enjoy small beautiful white-sand beaches but above all, one of the most beautiful snorkeling sites on the northeast coast of the islet.
9 - Eating ``brochettis``
And yes, among the essential passages of the island of Mayotte, brochettis remain a must. Personally, I used to go there once or twice a week. The idea is simple, plastic tables and chairs, and on the menu chicken wings (Mabawa), meat and fish sticks, all served with “Chaoula” (manioc, sweet potato, breadfruit) and “poutou” (local chilli pepper). You will find them all around the island, more or less elaborate, more or less frequented by mzungus (as foreigners are called in Mayotte). It remains a very good way to eat local and economical.
10 - Go around the island and admire the views
For all tourists passing through Mayotte, I recommend renting a car for at least one day, and going around the island to admire all the views overlooking the lagoon. The most beautiful places remain in my eyes, the north of the island and the magnificent views of the M’tzamboro islets, from the village of the same name. The south of the island is also beautiful and offers all along the road, superb views of the beautiful colors of the lagoon.
11 - Walk around the city of Mamoudzou and explore the market
And yes, it might sound silly to say, but if you are a little bit curious and enjoy seeing local life, how people live, what’s going on in the “city center”, a walk from the city center to the seaside is quite nice. Everything is very close anyway! Take an hour to discover Mamoudzou market which is quite nice to see. There, you will find everything and anything: fruits, vegetables, clothes, fish, etc… It is also an opportunity to taste the fresh juice of star fruit, soursop and other local fruits.
12 - Discover Petite Terre and Moya's beaches
One of the nice things to do on the island of Mayotte is to explore the island of Petite Terre. Start by barging from Mamoudzou (yes taking the barge, a kind of local ferry between the 2 islands, has become a verb on the island!). There, you can walk, hitch-hike, or rent a bike. Go around the island to appreciate the local life of this little piece of island. End your day trip on the beaches of Moya, in the north of the island.
13 - Spend an evening or an afternoon on Saziley island.
South of the island is the Saziley islet, a perfect islet of white sand as one would almost dream of. Not much to do here except to laze with your feet in the sand. I had the opportunity to go there several times on day trips by boat, even with a friend’s boat or to spend the evening of a New Year’s Day. Be careful however if you decide to bivouac on the islet, the tidal range is high in Mayotte (4m more or less) and the islet can be covered by the sea at high tide. I have friends who have been trapped before!
14 - Spend an afternoon at the Gite du Mont Combani
Accessible from a bumpy road (at the time) on the crossroad leading to the village of Vahibe, the site exudes a peaceful atmosphere in the heart of the Mahoraise forest. You simply feel good there, with the cries of birds and lemurs that resonate. This is the opportunity to relax in this small paradise far from the city and the noise. Take a moment to enjoy a good fresh juice and some homemade cakes. For lovers of nature and peace, you can spend the night or the weekend. Here is their website!
15 - Visit the interior of the island by Quad bike
Among the nice things to do on the island of Mayotte, crossing the island by Quad allows you to have a very good view of the center and the forest of the island. You can rent a quad for a few hours and set off with a guide to discover the trails in the interior of the island. It’s a change from the beach and it’s quite nice to do!
16 - Hiking on the island
Even if the island of Mayotte is clearly more oriented beach and diving than mountain, there are some nice walks to do there. I told you about Mount Choungui above, but you can also climb to the highest peak of the island, Mount Benara, but also go on the “Marches d’Acoua” hike. In recent years, there could often be concerns of insecurity in the area. So, I recommend going with several people, in groups.
17 - Witness a turtle emergence
The Oulanga Na Nyamba association allows you, after registration, to attend this surreal spectacle of the spawning of green turtles. Let yourself be tempted by this superb experience!
18 - Visit the botanical garden of Coconi
Don’t expect a huge botanical garden. It is good to spend an hour strolling in a quiet place with some beautiful trees and shrubs. Nothing exceptional per se, but on your tour of the island, you can stop there for a short break!
19 - Have a bite to eat at the Moana
This restaurant in downtown Mamdouzou is an institution or almost. It is in my opinion, one of the only tables on the island where we are never really disappointed. I advise everyone to go and eat there one evening. Very nice atmosphere and very good food.
20 - Having breakfast at the Sakouli hotel
The last thing I found nice to do on the island of Mayotte is to go and have breakfast at the Sakouli hotel. The setting is beautiful and you will have the opportunity to enjoy the infinity pool with a view on the magnificent lagoon. To spend a few hours, it is really great.
Some practical advice
To get to the island of Mayotte from France, you will need a minimum of 550€. Flights can go up to 1000€ depending on the season. The main airlines are Kenya Airways, XL Airways and Air Austral. There are direct flights from Paris regularly. Find the cheapest flights here. I usually use this flight comparator to look for cheap flights.
For those looking for accommodation on the island of Mayotte, I personally recommend the Jardin Maoré in the south of the island (beautiful setting), the Sakouli hotel (superb with its swimming pool overlooking the lagoon) and La Cannelia (for a nice experience in the middle of nature).
If you are looking for a rental car on the island, I usually compare prices on this site to find the best deals.
That’s it, I’ve come to the end of this article. I hope I gave you the desire to come and discover this beautiful island that will remain in my heart for a long time. Even if the context of the island is not simple, don’t hesitate! You can see that there are quite a lot of things to do on the island of Mayotte, right?
Moreover, if you like islands and the African atmosphere, take a trip to the beautiful island of Ibo in Mozambique.
Have a nice trip in the Indian Ocean!
Hi, I’ m glad I found your informations on Mayotte.Almost nothing useful is on the internet.I lived a very basic life for 13 years in Jamaica in a bamboo house I built myself.I planted fruit trees and vegetables and even established a small local vegan Cafe.Unfortunately I lost it all when a catergory 4 hurricane struck the island.I moved on and “gypsied” all over North/South Anerica.Now I’ m longing to live again on an island prefarably with no mass tourism where I can still find my l”heaven” to start all over once more.My eyes fell on Mayotte,it sounds like it could be the right place for me.I am multilingual,an artist,a gypsy woman , creative energy is my engine to always keep going to create my life in harmony with nature and it’s people.I learned after I lost everything through mother nature,that one can travel the world even with no money at all.It all depends on your own comfort zone……
Thanks you. I sincerely hope you’ll found what you’re looking for. Mayotte is much more calm regarding hurricane than Caribbeans islands (I do live in Guadeloupe now).