Reunion Island Travel Guide
Sitting almost a thousand kilometers from Madagascar, and over two hundred kilometers from Mauritius, Reunion Island is the tropical getaway that we all dream about on a cold winter’s day. It comes with a twist though: while it does have its share of attractive white sand beaches, they have been plagued by a series of shark attacks in recent years, making carefree swimming a difficult task.
Reeling from this public relations disaster, the island’s tourism office has instead decided to focus on the island’s culture and its amazing mountains. Boasting one of the most active volcanoes in the world, as well as a culture that is surprisingly diverse due to immigration from the African continent, India, China, and France over the centuries, there is plenty to promote.
Due to its status as an overseas department of France, there is also no shortage of freshly baked baguettes and quality wine here, making your holiday one that will be among the more interesting that you will take in your life.
Languages: French, Creole, Tamil
What To Do
Step into the daily life of the Creole by paying a visit to Maison Folio. Well known for period furniture and its garden full of blossoming flowers, it is one of the oldest holiday homes in the mountain spa town of Hellbourg.
Constructed out of native hardwood that has resisted termite infestations and numerous cyclones over its history, it is a rare example of a wood frame house that has stood the test of time in a tropical environment.
Reunion Island has long been a home for agricultural plantations that have grown everything from sugar to vanilla. Brush up on the history of the former’s production by exploring Musee Stella Matutina.
Tracing the development of sugarcane from the days of slavery up to the present day, this museum utilizes modern exhibits (including a 4D cinema) to show the cultural and technical aspects of the cultivation of this valuable crop.
If you are feeling confident in your ability to understand spoken French, feel free to check out the Jardin des Parfums et des Epices. Home to over 1,500 species of fragrant plants used either as spices or for perfumes, this garden is a true paradise for those seeking to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
While those who do not understand French will still enjoy the tranquil surroundings of this garden, having the ability to comprehend and speak this language will allow you to enjoy the detailed tour that their guides provide guests every day.
If you are looking to do something just a bit more adventurous, contact a tour agency that will take you on a hiking expedition up the slopes of Piton de la Fournaise. Considered to be one of the most active volcanoes on the face of the planet, its most recent eruption took place a mere six months ago (it last erupted in June 2016; this article was published in December 2016).
As a result, its current level of activity will dictate whether or not you will be able to safely ascend this mountain. If you are given the green light, be sure to bring plenty of warm and waterproof clothing with you, as the weather on this mountain can shift from bright sunshine to fog and cold rain in a matter of minutes.
If you are looking to enjoy dramatic views without engaging in hardcore climbing, visiting Le Maido might be a better fit for you and your traveling companions.
Easily accessible by car, you will be able to capture the beautiful mountain peaks that can be found in the interior of Reunion Island, as well as views of remote villages where locals live out a peaceful existence, and the distant beaches on the west coast.
What to Eat
With a history of Indian settlement that began after the abolition of slavery, dishes such as Carri (curry) quickly became commonplace in restaurants and kitchens around Reunion Island. There are various recipes that incorporate meats such as chicken, goat, as well as various types of local fish and shellfish.
Flavored with a variety of spices including tumeric, cardamom, and cloves, its creation will generate a heavenly smell that will make it incredibly difficult to resist coming in for a bowl.
If you are feeling a little bit more adventurous, be sure to ask whether there is anyone is cooking up a traditional pot of Rougail. A type of curry that usually only features sausage, it can also contain wasp larvae and a considerable amount of insanely hot peppers. If you like to live on the edge, try a bowl of this traditional local dish before departing for home.
Those with a sweet tooth should seek out some Cambarre Gateau during their time on Reunion Island. Created from a root vegetable that gives this cake its purple colour, its appearance can be surprising when this flamboyant dessert is handed to you, but its heavenly taste will have you craving more not long after you have finished your slice.