A pricey corner of the Indian Ocean that's better known in France than in every other corner of the world put together (it's still a French colony, having chosen to turn down freedom, and boy does it show), Mayotte is a trendy package tour destination, particularly amongst rich Parisians. It's also home to spectacular diving, snorkeling, sailing and the graceful movements of splashing turtles. Then there are postcard-worthy white sands, luxury resorts, and warm, turquoise waters overlooked by lush palm trees.
It all sounds divine, and it is, providing you have a budget that stretches like an elephant’s underwear. Mayotte is one of the Comoros Islands, and by far the priciest option amongst the four of them. Often more expensive than France, the hotels and restaurants alone might break a modest bank, an ownership-related problem which has led the other islands to label the locals ‘sell outs’ (they voted against independence), and jokingly refer to them as ‘the spoilt children of the republic’. Surprisingly, you’ll be paying through the nose in Euros. Both locals and the considerable French expat population are widely considered to be notably less friendly than the occupants of the rest of the Comoros.
If you have got money to burn, though, you’ll quickly forget all that. The world’s largest lagoon guards Mayotte’s shores, and makes an exquisite diving experience. Time your visit well, and you can watch sea turtles cruising the reefs and roosting on the southernmost beaches, or splash amongst humpback whales and their newly born calves.
Back on shore, scrambling to the heights of Mont Choungui gives a dazzling island panorama; you can even sneak a banana from the plantations on the way through. If you’re looking for a pampering you’ve come to the right place, too, with spas and swimming pools to keep you at leisure (though the sea’s so clear here, swimming in a pool seems a waste), as well as beachfront restaurants serving classy French cuisine fused with freshly caught fish.
It’s certainly not a backpacker destination (try the other Comoros Islands for that), but Mayotte’s volcanic peaks and memorable shores might just prove irresistible despite their hefty price tag. The ever-fading African cultural links and sophisticated gastronomy add deeper memories to an undeniable taste of tropical paradise.