Reunion: An eruption of unusual landscapes
In the middle of the Indian Ocean lies the Island of Reunion, like a modern day Atlantis, just waiting to be discovered.
A striking first impression even before you hit its tiny runway, this island has an underlying energy that becomes palpable the more you walk, hike or canyon along its creased curves and igneous-rimmed caldera.
Reunion is quite possibly unlike anything you have ever encountered before and there are many ways to find your way around this place.
This adventure paragon appears to be an old-soul, reborn. A new world in many ways, being the by-product of one of the most active volcanoes in the world, yet magically adding to itself at rumbling will, as if it is the life-giving mouth of the mythological Gaia herself dishing up the ancient foundations of the earth.
In an uncanny manner, it succeeds in representing a microcosm of the earth through its ever-changing landscapes and micro-climates.
In Reunion that age-old travel staple of layering up applies tenfold. Being a small island at 2 512km2 it is easy to forget that it rises thousands of kilometres into the air – where the weather changes from pockets of humidity, to pelting rain before a biting chill embraces a Martian heat – with the landscapes synchronised to the schizophrenic climate.
But what a sight, what an adventure! Here are my favourite six landscapes and the accompanying experiences from the #gotoreunion blogger trip - share your Reunion island pics by emailing email@example.com or tagging us on Instagram and you could get published too.
1. Take a giant leap at Piton de Fournaise
The younger counterpart to Piton de Neiges, at 350-thousand-years-old, dishes up unbelievable, alien mars-lookalike vistas and a final look-out point over the protective rim of Fournaise on the eastern side of Reunion.
While De Nieges has not been active for the last 20 000 years it is still the highest land point within the Indian Ocean at 3017m above sea level. Heading towards the very active Fournaise (+2300m above sea level) through Reunion’s World Heritage National park is a bendy road trip but certainly the best on the ground introduction to the island’s diverse topography.
Another world in the palm of your hand at Pas des Sables et Plaine des Sables. (Selene Brophy, Traveller24)
When on Mars, you need to take a selfie. (Selene Brophy, Traveller24)
To arrange a tour or have the following activities tailored to your stay contact Nicolas Barniche of www.toursreunion.com
Telephone: +262 692 810 313
2. Discover the 'lost' civilization of Cirque de Mafate
When a volcano collapses it creates what is known as a caldera. Enter the enchanting village of Cirque de Mafate, crannied in the collapsed volcano shield of the Piton des Neiges.
Well, you don’t just enter since the inhabitants of Mafate are the most removed on the island. You see before you can enjoy one of the best local lunches on the island you need to work up an appetite with a moderately intense 5km hike (cough). The views are astonishingly distracting though and worth it.
Once there, you get a first-hand introduction to the village people. First settled in the 19th century by the island's maroon slaves, its 50 existing residents might have a sheltered existence but they’re not totally far removed from modern life.
To circumvent the need to hike supplies up and down they’ve been quite entrepreneurial and started a helicopter service of their own – which makes for an easy return journey. Queue more astonishing views - Reunion by helicopter or microlight is a must.
Reunion’s famous black beach is every bit as extraordinary as you can imagine. Being used to the pearly beaches of Camps Bay and Blouberg, seeing the soft ash-black sand scrunch up between your toes is delightfully foreign.
The water is warm and inviting – but being part of a whirlwind itinerary to experience as much of the island, regrettably we didn’t have time to take a dip. Definitely plan a beach picnic here during your visit.
Mesmerising Black Beach. (Selene Brophy, Traveller24)
Chica fun with Voali's Priscila Reis, Mzansigirl's Meruschka Govender, Getaway's Kati Auld and Tails of a mermaid Natalie Roos. (Keith Jenkins)
4. Island style sunset along LÉrmitage Coco beach
Being an island you’d think its beaches would not necessarily be considered unusual. But the uniqueness of Reunion’s beaches lie in the breaking barriers of its coral reefs. These create a spectacular haven for snorkelling, stand-up paddling or general beach frolicking silliness.
La Saline is gorgeous and lined by some of the best beach houses on the island, Saint Gilles is a proper waterfront dazzler, while Coco Beach is a day and night explosion of island fun – it plays host to a New Year extravaganza second to none according to island locals, where camping and partying it out for a few days is the order of the season.
Idyllic island life at Coco Beach. (Selene Brophy, Traveller24)
The sheltering reef, seen here at La Saline les bains. (Selene Brophy, Traveller24)
5. Take a deep plunge into adventure along Bassin la mer and Bassin la Paix, Saint Benoit
Reunion’s first attempt at smashing predictability, especially for the fainthearted. Like the island itself, it tosses you over a surprised waterfall which awakens a dormant sense of adventure that gives you the dom-krag to tackle the conscious act of pushing yourself off a 6m high cliff.
Adrenalin still coursing through your veins, you can progress to an 11m high verge. The choice to opt out is always there as the skilled team of runadventures.com lead you on a wildly impressive aquatic trek across what sometimes feels like a Jurassic island, but truth be told as a ‘new world’ Reunion has very little indigenous wildlife and no predators to speak of.
If you do anything out of the ordinary on the island – do this!
Get in touch with Mickaël Morin and Aurélien Lafitte of runaventures.com
6. Find your energy flow in a Lava Tunnel at Grand Brulé, Sainte Rose
As if the Mars-like edge of Piton de la Fournaise is not unusual enough, this is probably the most unpredictable experience on the island.
Going down into the dormant lava tubes, formed in the 2004 eruption, is surreal and a bit more intense than your average caving experience.
There are the expected stalactites you’d see in the likes of the Cango Caves only this time they’re made of a luminescent charcoal-coloured igneous rocks and the intensity of a Gollum-esque darkness when all headlights are switched off, leaves a lasting impression.
Word to those not so comfortable with small, enclosed spaces - our caving experience lasted just over 40 minutes but can be adjusted accordingly.
Heading into the unknown, Keith Jenkins of Velvet Escape. (Selene Brophy, Traveller24)
Yes, you will make it out alive. Kati Auld getting the 'guillotine'. (Selene Brophy, Traveller24)
What you need to know to #GoToReunion - South Africans no longer need a visa.
To see more of what local South African and international bloggers thought of their adventures in Reunion gohere.
Gohere to find where to stay and what else you can do in Reunion.
Or email Reunion Tourism directly firstname.lastname@example.org and follow them on Facebook - ReunionTourisme.