L'ÎLE DE LA RÉUNION
The miniature "Hawaii" of the Indian Ocean north-east of Madagascar
> 1 month in Reunión, a territory of France <
There are not many easily accessible islands in the cold waters between the Southern continents and Antarctica. However, there’s one small volcanic island lying southeast of Madagascar and Africa’s tip. One small island, which few people have ever heard of, unless one grew up in France, bumped into the island by accident in Google Earth, or think that name-dropping geographically isolated islands is great fun. We tend to be part of the last group of people, but actually, we got interested in Indian Ocean travel opportunities early on and while expanding our interest this island quickly stood out as a very special place: La Réunion in French tongue, Reunion Island in English, in all cases pronounced “Ree-yon”.
Among the many isles and islands in the Indian Ocean, Reunion Island is really different. It’s not a typical white-sand beach island with swaying palms and a flat landscape or with soft rolling hills; it’s a wildly mountainous, black-beach island with craggy, high peaks, small white villages build Mediterranean-style, and a big active volcano with a Moon-like desert. And then there’s the so-called cirques: Large mountain valleys enclosed by impossibly steep peaks and penetrated with darkish-green deep gorges and hundreds of waterfalls. They are actually the remaining calderas of once collapsed volcanoes. The only way to visit the cirques are by a few winding roads or by trekking on foot.
It’s a French possession, like Martinique in the Caribbean and New Caledonia in the Pacific, to name a two others. And France must have made some efforts to keep this special place unknown outside their own borders, given that few we’ve met seem to have heard about it. A wise tactic as Reunion is not too touristy. As we arrived, we did, as every other French visitor seemed to do: Rented a car and drove around the island, from coast to coast and from valley to valley, and enjoyed the thrilling nature and great Creole cuisine. Sunbathing would be a long way down the to-do-list: It’s one of the rainiest places in the southern hemisphere, but that should be appreciated as the aorta which keeps the otherworldly green valleys and many waterfalls nourished all year round.