Are you an inquisitive traveller? Would you like to explore a destination where few tourists travel? Then the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean, just off the south-east coast of Africa, should be on your bucket list.
This country of a million people only received 2,000 visitors last year. But travel company Explore want to change that. They’ve been enabling travel to pioneering destinations for over thirty years and Chris Ellis says they’re looking for people to join them on their first tour of this archipelago of five islands in order to help shape their future itinerary.
“Part of the excitement is that we don’t know what’s there. We have a partner on the islands so we are confident about the framework and logistics of the trip but our clients will actively get involved in deciding the finer points, before we finalise the trip for our programme next year.”
Chris says the Comoros Islands might be next to Mauritius, but they speak Swahili and have a more Arabic feel. “It’s quite strictly Islamic so there’s some stunning architecture, with medinas and mosques. It’s also very traditional and the islands are volcanic.”
Activities include hiking up the 7,800 foot Mount Karthala, an active volcano and one of the most active in the world. You also have the huge underwater Moheli Marine Park. It’s well known for its sea turtles and you’re almost guaranteed to see them.
Chris says there’s another island called Anjouan, which has beautiful crater lakes and completely untouched, verdant rainforests, home to the largest bats in the world. Livingston bats have a wingspan of 1.5m. “There are plenty of opportunities for walking, snorkelling and immersing yourself in the local culture and finding out what is there,” says Chris. “Beaches are not so much a feature because they have dark, volcanic sands.”
You’ll need to be prepared for visiting a developing nation. “Some of the roads will be a tiring prospect and although we use good vehicles, and we’re confident of the safety, there will be an aspect of adventure. We don’t know how long road journeys will take because local conditions change, but the important thing is that that islanders are friendly and are embracing tourism. They’re very proud people.”
Chris says visitors won’t experience hustling or hassle to the extent of other developing destinations. “They don’t look at people as walking ATMs as they do in some places. Because we are so rare, they’ll want to come up to us and talk to us and learn a bit about why we are visiting. It’s really quite unique,” says Chris.
“It’s a dry nation so there’s no alcohol. It’s also a traditional country, so customers need to dress appropriately and respectfully, warns Chris. “There’s no need for a headscarf for women but covering knees and shoulders would be expected.”
The trip will depart on 23rd April 2017 and is a one-off departure. You can find out more at explorebeyond.com.
Listen to my chat with Chris Ellis here: