Mayotte (or Mahore) is a French overseas territory off the coast of East Africa and sandwiched between Mozambique and Madagascar. The status of Mayotte’s sovereignty is in dispute. While the island has voted to remain part of France and the French continues to administrate Mayotte, the neighboring Comoros still claim the island as part of its country.
Geographically, Mayotte belongs to the volcanic Comoros archipelago, which consists of four main islands: Mayotte (Mahore), Grande Comore (Ngazidja), Moheli (Mwali), and Anjouan (Nzwani). While Grande Comore, Moheli, and Anjouan voted to secede from France and form the African nation of Comoros, Mayotte was the only main island of the archipelago that voted in 1974 to remain part of France. Mayotte consists of a main island called Grande-Terre (or Mahore), a smaller island known as Petite-Terre (or Pamanzi), and several tiny islets. The landscape of Mayotte is dominated by ancient volcanic peaks and deep ravines.
Mayotte is best known for its excellent beaches, which are surrounded by coral reefs that create some of the largest lagoons in the world. Scuba diving is popular among tourists and the beaches are well-serviced by top-notch diving facilities. Exploring the lagoons by dugout canoe is another popular endeavor. In fact, the unique Pirogue canoe races are staged occasionally in Mayotte’s many lagoons.
One notable dive spot in Mayotte is off the islet of Pamanzi, which is offshore from the main island some three miles. The islet is beautifully forested with rich vegetation.
Another scenic spot in Mayotte is in Sulu, where a waterfall plunges straight into the sea. You might want to try wading and swimming below. Also, be sure to check out the southern beaches where you’ll see numerous sea turtles nesting. If you are around in August and September, the coast offers sights of humpback whales nursing their calves.
Mayotte has some historic sites, which include the old fortifications in Dzaoudzi, an old mosque in Tsingoni, and 19th century sugar refineries in various parts of the island.
The climate in Mayotte is hot and humid. The rainy season runs from November to May, during which monsoons and cyclones are common. The dry season is a lot cooler and runs from May to November.
The Arabs established a sultanate on the island in the early 16th century. Shortly afterwards, Portuguese explorers sighted Mayotte, but chose not to colonize it. In 1832, the island and the Arab sultanate were briefly conquered by a former king of Madagascar. Eventually, the island achieved independence from all forces in 1836. This was short-lived, however. In 1843, Mayotte was colonized by the French.
In 1974, Mayotte voted in a referendum to retain its link with France in a convincing majority. The other islands on the same archipelago, however, broke away from the French to form the nation of Comoros. Today, the Comoros still claim Mayotte, but Mayotte’s residents remain firm in their desire to be part of France.