Take a succulent lobster and add a vanilla sauce and you’ve got a criminal offense passionnel in opposition to French delicacies. Different extra classical Gallic flavour mixtures like duck a l’orange had been on the menu at Auberge du Rond-Level, a white tablecloth bistro in Mamoudzou city. However because the signature dish of the 101st division of France, this curious lobster mixture was as eye-catching because the sauce was cloyingly candy.

In mitigation, the division is Mayotte within the Indian Ocean, which has vanilla to burn. Close to Madagascar, the island has native flora scented by clove bushes, ylang-ylang bushes and wild vanilla orchids, which bestowed the sobriquet “Fragrance Islands” upon the 4 islands of the Comoros archipelago (of which Mayotte is one).

Such opulent aromas duly attracted 10th-century Arab spice merchants who introduced Islam and Arabian phrases nonetheless spoken in Mayotte’s Comoran creole. European merchants adopted and France colonised the islands in 1841. However in 1975, Mayotte remained alone in not wanting to interrupt away from France as the opposite three islands fashioned the unbiased Union of Comoros. Maybe reluctant to bid a fond adieu to duck a l’orange, Mayotte voted to grow to be a fully-fledged French division in 2009 and as we speak, not like their impoverished Comoran neighbours, the island is prosperously fashionable.

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From the beginning, I discovered the tropical fusion of Indian Ocean color and French touches attractive. Mayotte’s spine is fashioned from extinct volcanoes, rounded, dare I say, like little chapeau de Napoleon. Bananas, pawpaw, and jackfruit flourish in flavour-filled forests whereas coral reefs embody turquoise lagoons teeming with tropical fish and dolphins.

This pleasing atmosphere was evident a number of days into my week-long go to once I got here to hike Mont Combani, one the island’s extinct volcanoes. I settled in at a resort known as Le Relais Forestier, the place the proprietor Nadine, from Angers in Brittany, additionally taught yoga. Essentially the most pleasing time was breakfast, served on a picket terrace with distant views by means of a thicket of palms in the direction of the Indian Ocean. Not only for Nadine’s do-it-yourself bread and pawpaw jam however halfway by means of this very French breakfast, a small group of lemurs arrived.

Lemurs after breakfast at Le Relais Forestier (Mark Stratton)

They arrive each morning to be fed pawpaw, stated Nadine. Recognized regionally as “maki”, they’re a species of woolly brown lemur that had been launched from Madagascar however no person remembers when. As an émigré herself, Nadine stated life for her and her husband in mainland France had grow to be stale. “We took a trip right here a decade in the past and beloved it. Mayotte has fantastic nature and we by no means wished to return dwelling.”

Mayotte’s greatest mountain hike is definitely additional south in the direction of Bandrele. The island has no public transport, so I travelled round utilizing bush taxis. These are shared taxis you merely hail from the facet of the highway and pay a number of euros per journey.

Mayotte’s Plage Musicale (Mark Stratton)

At Bandrele, it was an identical theme of one other nice B&B run by a French girl, Lise, an exile from Bordeaux, who had fallen in love with the island and married an area known as Yannis. The view from Les Baobabs is, appropriately, a big baobab lit up like a Christmas tree by a climbing purple and white bougainvillea. At nightfall, big flying foxes swept across the yard crashing into the close by palms earlier than nonchalantly suspending themselves the other way up.

That is the bottom for an tour to climb Mont Choungui ​– Mayotte’s second highest volcano. It’s ridiculously steep and for an hour I pulled myself up by uncovered tree roots by means of sweltering rainforest. However the view from the 600m summit, with views spanning Southern Mayotte’s indented coastal inlets, stuffed by veneers of calamine-coloured sandy seashores, made the hassle worthwhile.

The perfect seaside is Place N’Goudja, 10 minutes from Choungui by taxi. The seaside is backed by coconut palms and colossal baobabs with elephant-textured bark. It’s additionally identified for nesting inexperienced turtles though I could not keep the night time to look at them. As a substitute I contented myself swimming, analyzing the tractor-width trails they plough by means of the gentle sand when coming in to put eggs, earlier than retiring for a number of hours to flee the warmth to the seaside’s overpriced restaurant, which admittedly served a scrumptious plate of smoked marlin.

Petite Terre, Mayotte’s sister island (Mark Stratton)

I did encounter inexperienced turtles a number of days later. I’d made my manner again northeast to Mayotte’s little sister island, Petite Terre, the place the nationwide airport is situated on uncommon flat floor. I settled into one more chambre d’hote – Les Couleurs – this one run by Parisians Alexandra and Laurent.

“After we arrived 10 years in the past the islanders had been listening to Celine Dion however now it’s French rap,” stated Alexandra, as we sat ingesting a welcome glass of do-it-yourself pineapple rum.

Marine tour to Outer Reef to see noticed dolphins (Mark Stratton)

The hike to a luminous inexperienced volcanic lake known as Dziani from the property in Labattoir was a beautiful expertise. It led to large cliffs scalloped by horseshoe bays cradling turtle nesting seashores. From these cliffs I noticed the round types of giant inexperienced turtles navigating in the direction of the seashores to put eggs at night time. Mayotte’s nature had been so chic I even forgave them for murdering the shellfish of those seas with their quite candy vanilla sauce.

Journey necessities

Getting there

Native Eye runs a gaggle tour to the Comoros Islands from £1,399 per individual with a three-day add-on to Mayotte from £575.

Air France flies to Mayotte by way of Paris from £1,062 return. The vacation spot can simply be mixed with Madagascar, a brief flight away.

The place to remain

Le Relais Forestier, Les Baobabs and Les Couleurs.