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The Comoros: Visiting Anjouan Island in September 2014

By SV Smoke — last modified Jul 18, 2017 06:39 PM

Published: 2014-09-06 23:00:00
Countries: Comoros , Maldives , Mayotte , Seychelles , BIOT (Chagos)

7 September, 2014
From Rose Carlyle, SV Smoke

We visited Anjouan Island in the Comoros last week. We thought other cruisers might be interested in an update as we seem to be the first yacht to have visited in a while.

Anjouan Island is only 50 miles from Mayotte. Anjouan would also be a good landfall from the Seychelles, Chagos or the Maldives.

We gather that very few yachts have visited the Comoros since the unrest of 2011. At present there is no unrest and we found it a safe and friendly place.

General Comments
We loved our time in the Comoros. It was different from everywhere else we have sailed because of the lack of other tourists. The island is majestically steep and mountainous. Look out for the amazing crater in the sea on the east coast as you approach from Mayotte.

Anjouan is real Africa with nothing touristy about it. You can find necessities here but few luxuries. Anjouan will suit those who like to go off the beaten track and engage with locals rather than other tourists, and will particularly suit cruisers with children. We felt very welcomed here.

Clearance
Call the Mutsamudu Port Authority as you approach. You will be expected to tie up against the old tugboat for clearance immediately even if you arrive at night, and will be expected to pay "overtime" if you arrive at night or on Sunday. Expect to be boarded and searched. We hid laptops and mobile phones before being searched.  Officials speak French and basic English. You will then be expected to go to the immigration office, a very short walk away, where visas will be issued for €30 per person. Lock your boat or leave one person on board.

You will also be expected to pay negotiable "fees" (bribes?) to the harbour master and the police. We paid €50 and €20 respectively, for five people arriving at night.

The current port captain who speaks good English is corrupt and just wants money. He needs to be handled firmly! With the agent's help we managed to bypass him and pay at another office.

At some point hopefully the agent will arrive. His name is Maketse and he has dreadlocks and a folder of references from previous cruisers dating back to 1991. You can trust him, and he is really helpful. He will vigorously and effectively negotiate the fees down on your behalf.

The expectation of fees which are not set down in writing anywhere is unfortunate as it discourages cruisers from visiting and is the only instance of dishonesty or unfriendliness we encountered. We found the best approach is to be very firm and determined, without losing your temper. The agent makes it all much easier.

There was another man called Accram who offered to be an agent. He spoke good English but offered no references and we did not use him so we cannot comment on his abilities.

We set up an email address for the agent at maketse.yusuf@gmail.com, but we're not sure if he will be able to use it.

Update July 2017: The best way to contact Maketse is by phone: 002693324340. He does not use the email address set up for him.

Guard
The agent will also arrange a guard for your boat so you can go ashore. You shut up the boat and leave food and water for the guard. We found the guard trustworthy. His name was Karl Dance. At least, that's how it sounded. Reasonable pay seems to be €5 per day.

Security
We recommend anchoring out once formalities are complete to avoid rats boarding and possibly theft. The weather was extremely calm at Mutsamudu but even the gentlest swell made the anchorage slightly rolly at times, but nothing too bad.

People warned us against letting anyone on board who was not an official (or the agent or his guard) and to put away any loose items from the deck, especially outboards and scuba tanks. We did let children who paddled out to visit us play on the deck with our kids. They will visit as often, and for as long, as you let them, and might ask for food or water, but are perfectly well behaved and will leave when you ask them to. The children were one of the highlights of our visit and despite the warnings, nothing was stolen.

We were warned against pickpockets, but there seems to be no violent crime. You have to admire the fact that most people want to warn you about the pickpockets. This is a friendly place and I get the feeling most Comorians would be ashamed if anyone stole from you while you were visiting here.

The agent told us to close our boat at night, so we did, but never saw any evidence that anyone came to the boat at night.

Currency
The exchange rate is 490 Comoran francs for one euro. Not sure if you can get euros once you arrive, but everyone takes Comoran francs even if they quote you in euros. The ATM took our New Zealand visa card. Best to take some euros but it's not essential.

Provisions
Good fresh produce, reasonably priced although with no price tags you don't know whether you are getting local prices. We didn't look for much other than fresh produce. Eggs were good quality, €7 for a tray of thirty. There is a fish market and live poultry, and canned goods such as milk powder, and staples such as flour and sugar,  but we don't know how wide the range is. There must be meat somewhere but I doubt there are dairy products. This is a poor country. No supermarkets. Bottled water is one euro for 1.5 litres and often sold frozen.

Eating out
There are a couple of cafés which serve simple but good food. One pizza place seemed aimed at westerners and was of course empty. We didn't eat there. The street food was cheap and good. There are baguettes everywhere.

Internet
You can buy 100 megabytes of wifi for €2.50 from Comores Telecom. There is also 3G for the same price which we didn't try. Wifi is a reasonable speed and accessible from the anchorage but is very intermittent. There is an internet café in the town with good speeds but electricity outages are common.

Tours
We took around 8 hours to be driven around the island, stopping at Domoni and Moya and a few scenic spots. We paid the driver €40. The roads were bad but not dangerous. The island has beautiful scenery and you can stop at craft workshops, waterfalls, the ylang-ylang and clove plantations, the presidential tomb and palace at Domoni and the nice beach at Moya.

There are no facilities for tourists, no other tourists, and rubbish everywhere of course.

Other anchorages
It looked possible to anchor in various places along the northwest coast of Anjouan. The other coasts had crashing surf on rocky beaches and did not have any possible anchorages in the southeast monsoon. In the northwest monsoon you are unlikely to visit the Comoros as it is the hurricane season.

Related content
Mutsamudu
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Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Jul 18, 2017 06:39 PM

July 2017: Update from SV Totem
Update for Comoros pages, as some boats are looking at going that way soon:

I recently helped a friend connect with the agent in Comoros. It seems that Maketse doesn’t use the email address that a cruiser set up for him a few years ago. The best way to contact him is by phone, 002693324340. Maketse’s English is fine, but his French is better.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Sep 17, 2015 01:23 PM

2015: More recent information has been received to update The Comoros information on noonsite, in particular contact details for the agent Maketse: Phone: 002693324340 or E-mail: maketse.yssouf@gmail.com
Maketse stresses that it is helpful to have advance contact to smooth the arrival process.

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