Mayotte consists of two islands—Grande Terre and Petite Terre—and many other uninhabited islands. It is part of an archipelago of four main tropical islands, once known as the Islands of the Moon, in the Indian Ocean off East Africa, between Madagascar and Mozambique. It is more rustic and less visited than the Seychelles, but just as beautiful.
The rich volcanic soil provides fields of cloves and vanilla beans amid swift-running streams cascading down mountainsides to long, turquoise sea beaches with white sand and excellent diving, snorkeling and sailing.
One of Mayotte's greatest charms is its coral reef bordering one of the largest enclosed lagoons in the world. It creates a natural aquarium in which colorful fish live side by side with large sea mammals. Several species of dolphin can be found inside and outside the lagoon, which is also an excellent site for observing sea turtles. Mayotte also offers one of nature's most beautiful sights: humpback whales teaching the rudiments of life to their newborns.
Mayotte has an abundance of endemic fauna and flora. The maki is a type of lemur found only on Mayotte, and the roussette is a type of flying fox that flies around day and night. Baobabs, tulip trees and Takamakas are spread throughout the humid forests. You can also find ylang-ylang and magnificent wild orchids, of which nearly 50 species exist on Mayotte.
For discovering this rich scenery, a hiking trail around 60 mi/100 km long runs around the island, allowing visitors to admire sumptuous views, discover fascinating geological history, immerse themselves in Mahori nature and mix with the inhabitants.
Mazelike Muslim villages with mosques and bustling markets also make up the interior. Mayotte's villages, however, are quite different from those of the other islands. There are few of the walled cities with narrow, winding streets between multistoried stone houses found commonly on the other islands. Instead, villages are primarily composed of wattle-and-daub or tressed coconut-frond huts ranged along wide, open streets. The architecture is more reminiscent of Madagascar than the other islands, a testimony to a historical relationship between the island and Madagascar.
A multifaceted society, Mayotte has inherited a mosaic of cultures: African, Persian, Oriental, Madagascan, European and Arabic. This crossing of several different worlds and civilizations has forged a rich and authentic culture. This means that there are a multitude of annual religious, cultural, folk and sporting events on Mayotte, where a real sense of festivity is cultivated.
An overseas Department of France since March 2011, Mayotte also differs from the three other Comoran islands politically, in that its people are French citizens governed by French law. As a result, it has a large French community of residents and mostly European holidaymakers.
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