Located in a strategic position at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel, the archipelago of the Comoros Islands consists of four islands: Ngazidja (Grande Comore), Mwali (Moheli), Nzwani (Anjouan), and Mahore (Mayotte). The islands arose from the seabed of the Western Indian Ocean as the result of volcanic activity.
The Union of Comoros islands once played a major role in the world economy and that of the Indian ocean. For centuries, they were a major stopover along the mercantile routes from the East towards Africa and to the West. The capital city Moroni is on Ngazidja (Grande Comore) island.
In the waters ard the deep blue sea ound the islands, lives the famous Coelacanth. It is a unique fish once thought by western scientists to have been extinct for millions of years. But in the second half of the last century, an ichthyologist learned that Comorian fishermen regularly caught coelacanths in the deep waters surrounding the islands of Ngazidja (Grande Comore) and Nzwani (Anjouan). Several specimens have since been preserved and can be seen today in museums around the world.
There is an abundance of life in the sea around the Comoros. One can find everything from giant whales, sharks, big manta rays, sailfish, sunfish to lobsters, crabs and tiny shrimp. Deep water close to the islands, coral reefs, miles of sandy beaches, plus fresh water streams and shoreline springs provide multiple habitats for the marine life.
The islands became a French colony following the Berlin conference of 1886-7 and remained under French political control until 1975 when three of the islands: Ngazidja (Grande Comore), Mwali (Moheli), and Nzwani (Anjouan), declared independence from France. They are now forming the Union Of Comoros with each of the three islands given considerable autonomy. The fourth major island of the archipelago, Maore (Mayotte), continued to be administered by France although Maore belongs within the sphere of the independent nation of the Comoros which has been recognized by the United Nations' General Assembly.
The Comoros Islands are an archipelago of four islands and several islets located in the western Indian Ocean about ten to twelve degrees south of the Equator and less than 200 miles off the East African coast. They lie approximately halfway between the island of Madagascar and northern Mozambique at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel. The archipelago is the result of volcanic action along a fissure in the seabed running west-northwest to east-southeast. The total area of the four islands is 785 square miles (2,034 square kilometers).
Of the four major islands (Ngazidja, Mwali, Nzwani, and Mahore), Ngazidja is the largest and the youngest island in the archipelago. It is the most westerly of the islands, lying 188 miles from Mozambique. The island has an active volcano that rises to a height of 7,746 feet (2,361 meters) above sea level. Mwali, 28 miles south-southeast of Ngazidja, is the smallest of the islands with a central mountain range that rises 2,556 feet (790 meters) above sea level. Nzwani lies about twenty-five miles easterly of Mwali, has a central peak that rises 5,072 feet (1,575 meters) above sea level. It also has several swift running streams that cascade down to long, sandy beaches. Forty-four miles to the southeast of Nzwani is Mayotte (Maore), the oldest of the islands. It is almost surrounded by a barrier reef and is fairly flat with slow meandering streams and mangrove swamps.