Catherine recommends you:
Reunion; Part 1 - Relaxing
#Reunion is THE most stunning #island I have ever visited! Here are my #culture highlights and secret addresses to help you to discover this amazing island! A great place to #relax by the sea or discover its unique #wildlife and #fish, and enjoy some amazing #foodanddrink!
I set out to write a quick summary of my holiday to Reunion Island... but before I knew it I had covered 4 pages and was far from finished. So I have tried to split my highlights into three:
Part 2; Hike up an errupting volcano and the surrounding area
Part 3; Adventure; climbing, parapente, mountains, waterfalls and motorbiking
Quick Background Info
Reunion Island, is a French department in the Indian Ocean (next too Madagascar). It covers 2 512km2 and has a population of around 843 000. It is known predominantly for its volcanos and sharks. But don’t let that put you off! You can swim SAFELY and snorkel IF you respect the designated swimming areas …. Where it is too shallow for sharks, it is amazing for snorkelling (St Leu)!
Reunion is a mix of French, African, Indian and Chinese cultures, though personally I found it a lot more French (they even go on strike in paradise, though less than in the metropole) than African as I had anticipated. The inhabitants speak mostly French or Creole.
The fun of visiting somewhere new is to discover new things. I really enjoyed ambling through the markets to stop at the different food stalls to ask “what is that, and how do you eat it?” Much to the locals amusement too!
NB: This is wild jungle terrain. Avocados in Europe can fit into your hand, here they are enormous!
Top Tip; On the markets, look out for 'the man with the barrel' who sells the most delicious home-made coconut sorbet.
Traditional Dishes to try Include:
Rougail Saucisses; a spicy traditional dish (Creole sausages, ginger, onion, chili, and tomatoes served with rice)
Cari; a non-spicy dish with turmeric (then whichever base is desired, fish, prawns, pork, chicken …)
Some of the more famous products, which I tried and have brought back with me include:
Tumeric; One of the most famous products of the island is turmeric (Curcuma in French), which is becoming know as one of the ‘super foods’ so make sure you visit the ‘Maison du Curcuma,’ located in St Joseph. This adorable little museum tells you of the history of tumeric where you can taste the different types available. Curcumin is rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals; apparently a few grams a day can help to keep away anemia, neuritis, memory disorder, and offers protection against cancers, infectious diseases, high blood pressure and strokes). If you are not a curry fan, it can be eaten in a yoghurt too.
Rum; Before visiting the island I was not a huge rum fan….that soon changed! There are so many different types! Lychee, coffee, vanilla, coconut.... and after a scrumptious meal at le Cheval Blanc we were serves a geranium rhum which as delicious! Who would have thought!
Bissap; I also discovered ‘bissap’ (Hibiscus sabdariffa) which I brought back with me, rich in antioxydants it is a great detox tea! I also tried orchid tea too amongst others.
Restaurants - St Leu:
Typical Creole cuisine; Personally I recommend their amazing octopus dish; the best I have ever had. & their delicious geranium rum... I have brought back a packet to try and make my own though I am a little skeptical...
Au Bout La Bas
Family-run, charming, delicious French cuisine with an exotic twist!
39 Rue du Lagon, 97436 Réunion / Phone:+262 262 55 98 72
Il était une fois
Truly scrumptious! Very fine French Cuisine in a gorgeous setting. Whilst I was there, there was a power cut in the village, but they still managed to serve a gastronomic meal via torch and candle-light.
1 Ruelle Rivière, 97436 Réunion / Phone:+33 6 92 68 96 19
Museum- Le Jardin Botanique; Take your camera to capture the massive plants, flowers and birds.
Apparently there are around 160 different types of plants here, in a park covering 12 hectares, which includes the history of cotton; which used to be a principal source of income in the Reunion.
The spiders are very impressive here too!
Mosquitos; For those whom mosquitoes dine upon, come armed (I was thrilled to be the only tourist who was not bitten once!).
Wildlife; I had mistakenly expected to see more ‘African’ wildlife, which is not the case, but the variety and size of the fish which you can see just from snorkelling on St Leu beach did amaze me instead! It is also an amazing place for diving should you wish.
Birds; Look out for the White-Tailed Tropicbird as they swoop around the valley of St Leu. (I don't know what this little chap is though).
Museum- Turtles; if you want to discover more about the turtles and what is being done to protect them, a visit to the Turtle museum is recommended.
Banyan Trees; The island also has the most amazing, massive gnarled banyan trees which are symbolic; a tree of immortality.
Museum- Marine Life; The Reunion Aquarium is worth a visit as it has a vast collection of fish and is an amazing museum which teaches you about the species, their natural habitats, the different types of coral available, and more.
My Favourite Village – Hellbourg
On the edge of the Cirque de Salazie; Hellbourg is simply gorgeous! Gorgeous examples of the Creole architecture can be found here on the splendid colourful houses dotted in the nature. A quiet enchanting village to relax in as you explore, lost in time and in the wilderness.
A quiet enchanting village to relax in as you explore, lost in time and in the wilderness
Perfect for snorkelling! I stayed here which was a great base for my adventures and my paragliding trip in particular!
St-Denis is the island’s capital and largest city, therefore worth a visit to stroll through town, do some shopping and take in the Creole architecture.
If you fancy a less active trip then there are a few museums here, more shops (including a covered market for your souvenirs (currency= Euro).
NB: Though fresh fruit is amazing and very cheap, I was surprised to often find that I would be paying metropole ‘artisan’ prices for things like jewellery, which were a lot more expensive than expected).
This is a small animated fishing town and is a true melting pot of cultures! Here I was lucky enough to stumble upon an Indian procession by the beach. It also has the most charming graveyard (Le Cimetière Marin) full of frangipans.
Beaches and Waterfalls
Among my favourite places on the island are:
Anse des Cascades; (Piton-Sainte-Rose route). A hidden gem; a gorgeous forest by the sea with amazing waterfalls trickling through. Take a book and a picnic.
Cap Méchant; here you will see the stunning contrast of the steep black volcanic cliffs as they cut into the ocean. Dramatic and breath-taking. This is the wild and stunning south of the island, a must-see stop on your way to the volcano.
I would go for a job here as your hear the waves crash and the wind blow and look out for the lady who comes to warn you that the Devil is coming (is she still there?)!
Manapany-les-Bains; Come for lunch, then go for a swim in the pool created by nature.
Sit with a coconut cocktail on the beach as you soak up sun ready for the most stunning sunsets.
As I was staying with friends, in St Leu, I did not stay in a hotel, but it was a great base for my adventures and their beach is quiet and perfect for snorkelling!
Day Hike to Mafate (Cayenne Islet)
Canyoning in Mauritania
Though if you want to treat yourself, my colleagues recommended the Hermitage and Palm Hotel for a luxury break and told me that even if I was staying with friends, I should go for at least one night... next time!
Palm Hotel And Spa
Day Hike to Mafate (Cayenne Islet)
Canyoning in Mauritania
Reunion has a tropical climate. Average coastal temperatures range from between 21-27 degrees C I went in May which was perfect for someone with an English Rose complexion (Roastbeef- as called by the French)!
Sun-cream, hiking shoes, bikini, and mosquito repellent are a must!