Small paradise in the Indian Ocean
Reunion Island is a gem just a few hours' flight from the mainland. A mix of colours and scents, the one that is nicknamed "the intense island" is a marvel for all five senses. The eyes never tire of admiring the waves of the coral reef crashing on the colourful sand of the beaches of l'Ermitage, Saint-Pierre, Grande-Anse or Boucan-Canot, while the lively rhythm of the Sega and the intensity of Maloya, the ancient song of the slaves, lull your ears. Reunion Island's tourist guide takes you along the coast where the markets open daily to offer the traveller's taste buds the chance to taste the countless exotic fruits and vegetables that a trip will not be enough to discover: guava, pitaya, chouchou, longani or even the letchi that Reunion Islanders enjoy every summer. The sun warms up and the skin revels in the freshness of the waterfalls of Salazie, Langevin or Saint-Benoît. Finally, along the coasts, the heady scent of frangipani trees titillates the nostrils and captivates the heart. From beaches to mountain peaks, Reunion Island is steeped in dramatic scenery, with the highest peak, the Piton des Neiges, rising to an altitude of 3,070 m, undoubtedly the best place to watch the sunrise over the sea in the east or its setting in the west. From there, above the sea of clouds, the summit of the Piton de la Fournaise points out, whose eruptions are a delight for the luckiest travellers.
29°C in the air, as much in the water, exuberant vegetation on all sides: a veritable Garden of Eden, it would come as no surprise that Reunion Island and its tropical climate were the paradise of the first explorers. However, the island s current landscape has been shaped mainly by man, who planted the vast majority of the fruit found on the market stalls. Coconut trees and filaos undulating under the trade winds, orchards bursting with mangoes and lychees, cascades of jacaranda and frangipani trees embalming the atmosphere and colouring the green carpets of the valleys... It is a real explosion of colours and scents that takes place at every moment. But if the fine sand of the western beaches and their seabed of multicoloured fish and coral make it an ideal seaside destination, the intense island cannot be satisfied with this simple tropical setting. Apart from the snow and glaciers (although...), these southern regions indeed gather almost all the landscapes and climates that nature has been able to create. It is in the interior, in the secret of its lands, that Reunion Island reveals itself in all its splendour : with its rugged mountains, the highest in the Indian Ocean, its primary forests, its endemic fauna and flora without any dangerous species, its pebble rivers, its deep ravines, its lunar plains...
Reunion Island is best enjoyed on foot. It s by crawling back in time, that we go back in time, that we rub shoulders with traditions and that we discover an art of living in constant relation with nature. Three circuses, Salazie, Cilaos and Mafate, are enclosed in the heart of the island. With their waterfalls nestled in rugged relief, their lush ramparts, their mountain villages and their miles of hiking trails, they have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites since August 2010. Many hamlets (called islets) can only be reached on foot. In the centre of the cirques, the Piton des Neiges, the highest peak in the Indian Ocean, offers a breathtaking view. Around it, savannah, marshes, cliffs, peaks and fields stretch as far as the eye can see, while on the edge of the Piton de la Fournaise, immense sandy and desert areas take over. The volcano, one of the most active in the world, delivers its breathtaking fireworks, an incandescent eruption from the bowels of the earth about once a year. Crisscrossed by trails of varying length and difficulty, the whole island is a magnificent playground for Sunday walkers and professional trekkers alike. More than 1,000 km of NFB-maintained trails stretch under your feet: it would be a shame not to take advantage of them. Cyclonic phenomena have resumed and the year 2018 was marked by strong episodes of wind and rain. Before setting out on your hike, remember to visit the NFB website to find out about trail conditions: www.onf.fr/la-reunion.
Deserted until 1649, the final settlement of the island will only begin in 1665 with the arrival of the first governor Etienne Regnault. Reunion Island thus forged its identity on the migratory flows that punctuated its history. Here live Cafres (descendants of African slaves), Malbars, Tamils and Zarabes (originally from India), Gros Blancs (descendants of white settlers) and Petits Blancs (or Yabs, descendants of the many whites ruined by the vagaries of history), Zoreilles (from metropolitan France), Chinese, Mauritians, Comorians, Mahorais and Malagasy. Born in the pain of slavery, united today by creolity, the Reunionese society, fraternal and warm, is an example of tolerance for the whole world. More mixed than mixed, at once Creole, secular and religious, the population is not subject to the domination of any ethnic group, whether numerically, culturally or politically. Far from being uprooted, the Reunionese cajole their common identity while remaining faithful to the traditions specific to each community. Here, differences rarely cause differences. Feeling above all Reunionese, the island s inhabitants make up a plural and harmonious society.
Countless Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist temples, Christian churches and mosques are scattered around the island, perpetuating the rites of each. Thus, in Saint-Denis or Saint-Pierre, in the town centre, it is not uncommon to hear the muezzin, church bells and Malbar drums collide! Don t miss the superb traditional houses (Creole huts) of the great plantations of yesteryear, the historic monuments inherited from the Compagnie des Indes or the rum distilleries. Enjoy a varied gastronomy and an authentically Creole local culture, which happily mixes curry (the reference dish), rougail, gratin chouchous, jujube tart, and even local cheeses and wines! Indian, European, Chinese, Malagasy and American culinary inspirations are also found in the music and dance. Join in a kabar (these great convivial parties), dance the sega or maloya. Reunion s cultural life, in addition to being traditionally rich and dynamic, is largely subsidised by the department, the region and the State. This guarantees quality museums, well-maintained historical monuments, the promotion of quality gastronomy and varied shows.
Extreme sports find here a fertile ground. Reunion Island, an intense island! On the coast as well as in the high mountains, in the waves as well as on the cliffs, thrill-seekers will not be disappointed. If there are thrill sports that you ve been wanting to try for ages, now is the time to do it. Whether you travel on foot, horseback, mountain bike, 4 x 4 or quad, it will take you more than a lifetime to discover the thousands of kilometres of trails in Reunion Island. The Grand Raid or the Diagonale des fous which takes place every year brings thousands of runners from the four corners of the globe for an exceptional crossing of the island. More than 170 km of mountain trail, over 10,000 m of difference in altitude, passing through the interior of the three cirques. The first arrivals do it in almost 24 hours. The trail of Cilaos and other competitions gather huge crowds every year. The island of great spectacle is also what it is called. From the beat of the blades to the top of the mountains , canyoning and rafting are all activities that plunge you into a preserved nature. Many tours are organized by professionals referenced in our guide. In the air, paragliding and paramotor take you on an unforgettable trip. Small jump at 800 m altitude or 1,600 m for the bravest. Departures are most often from the west coast, the bay of Saint-Leu to be more precise. There are many structures like the one in Jimmy (www.parapentedesziles.com). On the water, between whale or dolphin outings, parasailing, jet-skiing, but also underwater with diving, or even underground exploring the lavatubes, everything is possible. Let the adventure begin!