A collectivité territoriale (overseas territory) of France, Mayotte differs from the other Comorian islands politically in that its people are French citizens governed by French law. As a result, French citizens don’t need visas to holiday here, and the island is crammed with holidaymakers on packages from all over France. It also has a large expat and diplomatic community in its capital city.

Despite large infusions of money aimed at bringing the island’s economy and infrastructure into parity with the Métropole (as mainland France is known), Mayotte remains economically poor, with a clear gulf between the local population and the French expatriates.

Under French administration, Mayotte has for the most part enjoyed relative peace and stability, although the other three Comorian islands feel the Mahorais (as the people of Mayotte are called) sold out, and they uncharitably refer to them as ‘the spoilt children of the republic’. To the casual visitor, both the Mahorais and Mayotte’s French expats seem considerably less friendly than the inhabitants of the other three islands.

map mayotte



Facts about Mayotte

Status: Territorial Collectivity

Prefect: Jean-Paul Kihl (2004)

Total area: 145 sq mi (376 sq km)

Population (2008 est.): 216,306 (growth rate: 3.4%); birth rate: 39.7/1000; infant mortality rate: 57.8/1000; life expectancy: 62.5; density per sq mi: 578

Capital (2003 est.): Dzaoudzi 15,100

Largest city: Mamoudzou, 45,700

Languages: Mahorian (a Swahili dialect), French (official language) spoken by 35% of the population

Religions: Islam 97%, Christian (mostly Roman Catholic).

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2003 est.): $466.8 million; per capita $2,600. Unemployment: 38% (1999). Agriculture: vanilla, ylang-ylang (perfume essence), coffee, copra. Labor force: 48,800 (2000). Industries: newly created lobster and shrimp industry, construction. Exports: $3.44 million (f.o.b., 1997): ylang-ylang (perfume essence), vanilla, copra, coconuts, coffee, cinnamon. Imports: $141.3 million (f.o.b., 1997): food, machinery and equipment, transportation equipment, metals, chemicals.

Major trading partners: France, Comoros, Réunion, Africa, Southeast Asia (2004).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 10,000 (2001); mobile cellular: 21,700 (2002). Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 5, shortwave 0 (2001). Television broadcast stations: 3 (2001). Internet hosts: n.a. Internet users: n.a.

Transportation: Railways: 0 km. Highways: total: 93 km; paved: 72 km; unpaved: 21 km. Ports and harbors: Dzaoudzi. Airports: 1 (2004 est.).

International disputes: claimed by Comoros.


The History

Mayotte was invaded in the 19th century by the Sakalava from the island of Madagascar. The island came under the rule of a Malagasy chief, Andriansouli, and in 1843 he ceded Dzaoudzi to the French, who were looking for a naval base in the western Indian Ocean.

The island was then dominated by Creole planters from Reunion, whose descendants continue to exert some political influence. Mayotte and the other three islands of the Comoros were made a colony of France in 1912, and Dzaoudzi remained the capital of the archipelago until it was replaced by Moroni in 1962. By this time, the separatist Mouvement Populaire Mahorais was pressing for full incorporation with France, and they won a narrow victory in the referendum of 1974.


When the other islands declared independence in 1975, France retained control of Mayotte, which has become an important base for French influence in the region. The status of the island has remained undecided, since France refuses to designate Mayotte as one of the departements, or administrative districts, of France and has postponed many times any referendum on the territory's future. The United Nations and the Organization of African Unity, however, have recognized Mayotte as part of the country of Comoros.


Climate and When to Go

The dry season (June to October) is cooler and less humid and is the best time to visit. The monsoon rains occur from November to May and there is a tendency for cyclones to occur during this season.

Located on the Indian Ocean, Mayotte falls prey to the monsoon cyclones and territorial rains between November and April. Temperatures vary from about 18 º C in the dry season to about 30 ° C during the rainy season. The climate is tropical, hot, and humid from May to October.


What to do?!

The Saziley nature reserve


The islets of Choazils and M’tzamboro

Mount Choungui


The Combani reservoir and its fields of ylang-ylang.

A piece of the earth between Africa and Madagascar, Mayotte has an abundance of endemic fauna and an original flora.
Baobabs, tulip trees from Gabon and Takamakas are spread throughout the humid and dry forests. You can also find ylang-ylang and magnificent wild orchids, of which nearly 50 species exist on Mayotte, including the vanilla plant. The wild fauna, diverse and permanent, is quite surprising: the maki, a type of lemur found only on Mayotte and the roussette (flying fox, see below), a large bat which flies around both day and night.


To discover this rich wildlife, a hiking trail around a hundred kilometres long runs round the island, allowing tourists to admire sumptuous views, discover a fascinating geological history, immerse themselves in the Mahori nature and mix with the welcoming inhabitants…

One of Mayotte's greatest charms is its coral reef bordering one of the largest enclosed lagoons in the world. The double barrier phenomenon is a curiosity of the Mayotte lagoon. Sheltered from the ocean's fury, the lagoon is a haven of peace for the great variety of flora and fauna.



A real natural aquarium in which colourful fish live side by side with large sea mammals, the underwater life offers exuberant views.
If it's emotions you are looking for, Mayotte also offers one of nature's most beautiful sights: the humpback whales teaching the rudiments of life to their new-borns.
Several species of dolphin can be found inside and outside the lagoon. Some of them will allow you to observe their aquatic ballet, and other groups will share their music with you. Mayotte is also an excellent site for observing the sea turtles. Swimming with them or watching them laying their eggs are among the more moving moments in the discovery of the lagoon island…


Traditional Events

January 01 New Year Day
February 15 Mouloud (Birth of the Prophet)
April 25 Easter Monday or Dyngus Day
April 27 Abolition of Slavery
May 01 Workers or Labour Day
May 08 Victory Day
June 02 Ascension of Jesus
June 13 Whit Monday or Pentecost Monday
June 29 Lailat al-Miraj or Isra and Miraj (Ascension of the Prophet)
July 14 National Day


August 15 Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
August 31 Eid ul-Fitr or Id-Ul-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
November 01 All Saints or Hallows Day
November 06 Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
November 11 Armistice Day
December 25 Christmas Day



Mahorian cuisine is simple but tasty. A typical dish, which absolutely has to be given a try is trovi ya nadzi; it is a meat or fish stew, cooked in coconut milk with chunks of plantain and manioc. Plantain and manioc (see below) are also fried, served with chicken, goat or zebu.


Smoked fish is worth a try (shark, swordfish, grouper), as well as the shellfish (lobster, prawns, crab). For dessert, you can taste oubou (sweet manioc flour gruel) or dunk into the tropical fruit, such as mangos, litchis, soursop, sugar apples and guava.


Try this succulent recipe!


Mayotte Pilaou



500 g chicken pieces
500 g rice
3 onions, finely minced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
60 g butter
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
Salt and black pepper to taste








Mash the spices with the garlic in a pestle and mortar. Melt the butter in a pan and fry the chicken until golden then remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the rice and onions to the pan and stir until all the rice grains are coated. Add all the ingredients (including spice paste and chicken),

Cover with boiling water and allow to simmer until the rice is cooked (about 25 minutes), topping-up the water as necessary.

Serve with a side salad of vinegared shredded carrots, onion and papaya.

More recipes at:


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Catherine Castelain
Date Last Modified: 4/3/15
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