Warning-Insecurity in Mayotte (West Indian Ocean)

'Dzaoudzi, Mayotte'
Warning about the Island of Mayotte for cruisers: I am a citizen of France currently sailing with my family from Singapore to France via South Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean and Gibraltar. I am writing to alert the cruising community of dangerous situation on the island of Mayotte. (Mayotte is located at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean, between northern Madagascar and northern Mozambique. The territory is geographically part of the Comoro Islands, but has been politically separate since the 1970s. )

My boat's name is Constante Singapore; we are currently anchored in Dzaoudzi, Mayotte. A French citizen, I thought as well as many others, that coming here was a wise move. My wife and I as well as our two young daughters; Carmen 4 years old and Julie 2 ? years old, thought we were safe in a place administrated by my fellow citizens; the French.

But reality hit us hard. Despite an important and impressive display of police and military forces, the crime rate is extremely high in this region. Three days after our arrival, a French family was observing turtles on a beach in the South of Mayotte called Saziley.

They were savagely attacked by a gang of local men; the father suffers of a broken jaw and five stitches, his daughter age seven got her leg broken; hit by a stone. They kept his two children hostage, and then force him to follow them on their boat to his anchored sailboat. Then they proceeded in stealing everything of value inside. This family is having a hard time recovering.

One month earlier a French citizen living in Mayotte for 22 years and owner of a sailboat in Dzaoudzi got savagely attacked in his house. He brought home his outboard engine - a Yamaha 15 hp, tired of losing them on his boat. They left him in a coma bathing in his own blood after beating him with concrete bricks, and again they stole everything inside the house.

Our boat got visited at night as we were sleeping in the night of the 23rd -24th Sept 2008. They stole our dinghy (a semi-rigid Aquapro), an outboard engine (9.9 hp), a gasoline tank, oars, covers, etc. It was secured on its davits. The wind generator was charging well and therefore noisy; we did not hear anything. We are seriously handicapped and shocked by this lost.

Despite the French military and police presence, which gives an illusion of security, crime is amazingly high and violence creeps behind every robbery. Sailors that woke up and tried to defend themselves got their arms lacerated by knives; the thieves got away with again, one more dinghy and outboard.

Every night houses and boats get broken into with serious personal injuries when they attempt to defend their materials. In most cases, the stolen material is never recovered. And the thieves run free.

Mayotte is not a safe place. It has become a dangerous destination which must be avoided. Should you still need to stop in Mayotte, be sure to chain and lock everything. In addition, watches will be required at night. In 2 months of presence in Mayotte we have never seen a French patrol boat surveying the anchorage despite the robberies. They are safely moored in their private marina - a 150 meters from us.

by Franck Ibanez

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