September 29, 2014

My Reunion Island MascaRun experience

From the 7-14th September, 24 South African travel consultants and media representatives flew to Reunion Island to take part in the first ever MascaRun South Africa. I was one of the lucky few to take on the challenge and even got to bring home a MascaRun trophy, being part of the winning team!

Organised by the Reunion Island Tourist Board, with their partners Air Austral and LUX* Island Resorts, the MascaRun was a chance for those of us in the travel trade to discover what Reunion’s all about. The MascaRun involved 4 days of various challenges. From cocktail mixing competitions and essential oil, jam and rum tastings to treasure hunts and races on trikes, Segways, transparent kayaks as well as 6 metre high river jumps and Maloya dance-offs, it was an awesome challenge for the body, mind and even the soul.




Before my visit, I had read as much as I could about this little French island on the Reunion Island Blog and social media. The photos looked great and I thought I knew what to expect. Was I wrong! Reunion Island blew my every (high) expectation out of the water.  Like the Reunion Tourism Board tagline, it really is so much more than I could ever have imagined.

Looking at photos or videos online can give you a good idea of what things look like. But not much could have prepared me for how I would feel when standing in front of the Piton de la Fournaise volcano, surrounded by nothing but a lunar, deep chocolate-to-black desert of dunes. If that isn’t cool enough, you are literally walking above the clouds. At 3071 metres high, the volcano floats above the sea of clouds formed at 1900 metres below.




I couldn't have predicted how I would feel as my stomach dropped for a second (at the same time as my jaw) as our helicopter skimmed over the top of a mountain top and plunged into another world. A “rainforest meets Lord of the Rings” landscape of forest, mountains, waterfalls and green valleys, otherwise known as Cirque de Salazie.




The delight of spotting humpback whales as our coach drove along the excellent “very French” highways right next to the ocean, the island’s version of Cape Town’s Chapman’s Peak. The sore legs, and the resulting high, after finally reaching our lunch spot high up in the Mafate cirque after a 3+ hour hike. And then not having to hike back down, but getting a lift by helicopter!




Enjoying the quiet sounds of nature while floating down the calm river, interspersed only by the screams and cheers of us MascaRunners jumping off cliffs. Having a good laugh and hip shaking as we all attempted to out-Maloya dance the other teams. Licking my lips after tasting Reunion Island’s fast food special; the delicious bouchon gratinĂ© - a huge baguette topped with pork dumplings and melted cheese. Smiling at the bright colours, textures and relaxed faces of locals and tourists while browsing the market in Saint-Paul.





Swimming in the warm, clear, completely calm waters of the lagoon. Wiggling my toes in the sand watching the sun set with a traditional “dodo” beer in hand. Breathing the fresh mountain air in the “Swiss Alps” – the spa town of Cilaos high up in the mountains of Cirque de Cilaos. Sampling sweet potato cake lovingly made by a local family while gazing out over their lentil fields and the deep valleys below. I loved everything about Reunion. So. Much. More.





And after all that, the shock and then joy as my team (named Mafate but nicknamed Team Chocolat after our Cadbury coloured t-shirts) was announced the winner! Team-mates Johnathan Hollard, Tamarin Seymour and myself get to go back next year to compete in the Mega MascaRun with travel industry members from around the world!

As much as I discovered already, the island has so much more that I cannot wait to experience. Au revoir ile de la Reunion… until next year!

Looking for more reasons to visit Reunion Island?




SURE TRAVEL BLOG CONTRIBUTOR
It all began when a 16-year-old Jenna got on a plane for the first time and headed to Germany for 2 weeks on a school exchange. Returning well and truly bitten by the travel bug, after finishing school she hopped on a plane and headed off to London. Since then, she has eaten her way through Eastern Europe, dozed in a hammock on a tiny island dotted in Lake Malawi, tracked Wild Dogs through the hills of Zululand, and explored the major sights of her first love – Europe.

2 comments:

Awesome and inspiring blog Jenna. It was always on my bucket list, but this little country has moved to the top now. Really want to go. Sounds like you had the most amazing experience!

Thanks Abigail. So glad to hear Reunion has now moved to the top of your list. You will love it! #gotoReunion

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