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Mamoudzou, Mayotte

Mayotte is an overseas department and region of France, consisting of one vaguely seahorse-shaped island (Grand-Terre) a smaller one (Petite-Terre) and a few satellite islets in the Indian Ocean among the Comoros Islands archipelago off Africa’s eastern coast. The island is volcanic in origin, and surrounded by a coral barrier reef enclosing one the world’s largest and deepest lagoons. The rich volcanic soil supports agricultural of crops such as mangos, coconuts, cinnamon, vanilla and ylang ylang, a key ingredient in luxury perfumes. Grand-Terre is corrugated by deep ravines and studded with ancient volcanic plug peaks, making a fascinating landscape. It is home to some exotic fauna including lemurs and flying foxes. There are extensive mangrove forests interspersed with the numerous beaches. The island’s waters host a healthy population of sea turtles and whales pay occasional visits. French is the official language, but most of the local people also speak either a Bantu dialect called Shimaore or a Malagasy one called Kibushi. A visit to Mamoudzou’s large and colorful market is a good way to get acquainted with daily life on Mayotte.