Reunion is a lush green tropical island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. So why should you head to this relatively untouched paradise? Why choose this island for your next adventure?
Well here are a few reasons why:
1. It's close! Reunion Island is easily accessible from South Africa. There are direct flights on Air Austral from Johannesburg to Reunion, and the flight is only four hours.
2. The island is very safe. Reunion is a French department, and enjoys the same health and safety standards as France.
3. Cultural diversity. The population is made up of many cultures from Africa, Madagascar, Asia and Europe. These different cultures can be seen in the architecture, festivals, dances and expressed in the diverse cuisine options.
4. Very unique! Very hospitable - a nation that enjoys promoting their island and never forgetting to party!
5. Strong gastronomic personality and many cuisines to chose from. Famous markets, vanilla, spices, litchis, mangoes and coconuts lend themselves to many diverse flavours.
6. Marine biodiversity. More than 550 species of fish and 150 species of hard corals. A fantastic place to whale watch as whales give birth to their calves close to shore.
7. Sun all year round. This is a tropical island with sandy beaches, warm transparent blue waters, fabulous sea beds and dolphins all year round.
8. UNESCO world heritage site. 42% of this country's territory has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are breath-taking landscapes with volcanic lunar land forms, lush green cirques and the highest peaks in the Indian Ocean.
9. Sports and activities galore! Extreme sports, canyoning, climbing, paragliding, snorkeling, forest trails, glass bottom boats, hiking; almost any form of outdoor sport or activity takes place here.
10. And it's visa free for South Africans.
FACTS AND FIGURES
It is advisable to use mosquito repellent, lotions and sprays. Passengers arriving from endemic countries must be vaccinated against yellow fever and cholera. There is no malaria in Reunion.
The island of Reunion is two hours ahead of South Africa.
A French or International Driver’s Licence is required. Driving on the island is easy with all roads in good condition. Driving is on the right and the French Highway Code applies.
Currency, Banks and Credit Cards:
As Reunion is a department of France and an EU region, the currency used is the Euro. Credit cards accepted on the island are Carte Bleue, Visa, MasterCard, Diners, Eurocard and American Express.
Bank business hours are generally from 08h00 to 16h00, Monday to Friday. Holders of foreign bank cards (MasterCard, Visa, Eurocheques, and Cirrus) are able to withdraw Euros at ATMs.
Water and Electricity:
Water is safe to drink all over the island. Mineral water is available in all restaurants, bars, snack-bars, grocery stores and supermarkets.
Voltage: 220 volts
Climate and Seasons:
The island enjoys a tropical climate tempered by the proximity of the Indian Ocean. The coastal temperature varies between 18 and 32º C. Each region has its own micro-climate and it is sunny all year round.
From November to April (30ºC average). This is the hot and humid season. Light clothing is recommended, especially at the seaside. At higher altitudes the temperature varies between 15 and 24ºC.
From May to October (20ºC average) is the cool season. At higher altitudes and on the mountains the temperature may fall to 4ºC and rarely exceeds 25ºC. Above 1 800m there is frequent frost, especially at night during July and August.
What to wear:
Mostly light summer clothing is suitable but it is recommended that you pack some warm clothes as on the high ground it may be cold in the evening.
Flights and Airports:
Air Austral operates two direct flights a week from Johannesburg on Thursdays and Sundays.
The Roland Garros Airport (RUN) is 10km from Saint-Denis, 51km from Saint-Gilles and 41km from Hell Bourg. Several scheduled airlines have links from Roland Garros to metropolitan France and regional Indian Ocean destinations.
A regular shuttle bus service runs between the airport and Saint-Denis bus terminal. A 24-hour taxi service is available for travellers in front of the airport.
Bus: Car Jaune (yellow buses) criss-cross the entire island.
All taxis in Reunion are equipped with odometers. Fares per kilometre vary between €0.93 (R13.74) and €2.79 (R41.22) (taxes included) but this excludes the pick-up fare, the baggage supplement or the supplement for pick up at the airport.
A trip between Roland Garros Airport and Saint Gilles is between €75 (R848) and €85 (R960) during the day and between €95 (R1 074) and €120 (R1 356) at night.
A French or International Driver’s Licence is required. All the large international rental firms as well as some local ones offer reliable vehicles and proper rental contracts. Rates may be per day with a mileage supplement or on an unlimited mileage scheme.
Some companies have promotional offers (weekend, publicity vehicle, etc). The price of fuel is laid down by the Prefecture and, contrary to metropolitan France, prices are the same at all petrol stations.
ABOUT THE ISLAND
One of the main towns is Saint-Denis.
In Rue de Paris, some of the buildings have been turned into museums and the Jardin de l’Etat (State Garden) is a haven of tranquillity with footpaths lined with exotically scented trees. One can visit the Creole cooking workshop in Sainte-Suzanne and learn how to cook a cari over a wood fire after having shopped at the market for the spices and ingredients needed for the dish.
The owners of the Maison Chassagne, a sugar estate, welcome visitors to relive aspects of life of that era or the drying process of vanilla can be discovered at the Vanilleraie of the Domaine du Grand Hazier.
On the coast between Saint-Denis to Sainte-Suzanne there are footpaths and picnic areas. In the hills at the Maniquet waterfall, in the Grand Brûlé forest or on a walk to Piton Fougères, there are stunning views from Cap Bernard to the Sainte-Suzanne River.
Golf In La Montagne and go horse-riding in the Colorado leisure park. Athletes and thrill-seekers can take the Via Ferrata across the rocky cliff-face of the Niagara waterfall in Sainte-Suzanne and also try out canyoning.
The Sainte Marie Aeronautic Club offers helicopter or microlight flights to view the Pitons, Cirques and Ramparts. Saint-Denis has restaurants with cuisine from all over the world on offer, and for those who like late nights, the Bowling Club and Casino are good choices.
In Sainte-Marie one can run along rocky foothills and through cool greenery, leading to breath-taking viewpoints and enchanting panoramas. Piton Plaine des Fougères: A a round-trip hike with dazzling views of la Roche Écrite, the Rivière des Pluies and the Cirque of Salazie.
Visit the Niagara Cascade: Year round, the plentiful waters of the East feed the Niagara Cascade, the pond of Sainte-Suzanne and the river of the same name in Sainte-Suzanne:
Numerous hotels and restaurants line the white or black sand beaches. A Natural Marine Reserve stretches across 3,500 hectares and at Ermitage beach visitors can snorkel and take an underwater tour of the lagoon.
At Saint-Gilles there are several scuba dive companies and the aquarium is home to an extraordinary diversity of Réunion’s undersea world. Whales can be spotted here from the coast or followed at a safe distance in boats.
Boating enthusiasts can take a boat or catamaran trip to see dolphins and for those keen on big-game fishing, there are boat trips from Saint-Gilles or Saint-Leu. Water sports enthusiasts can enjoy sailing, canoeing, wave-skiing and kite-surfing.
Saint-Leu where the Conservatoire Botanique National de Mascarin: The botanical heritage of the Indian Ocean is preserved in this sanctuary. The Colimaçons estate is also a beautiful example of Creole architecture and is important in local history.
Saint-Pierre, the capital of the south of the island, has a marina that caters for water sports fans and beautiful beaches lined with restaurants. The town centre’s architectural gems include buildings from the East India Trading Company, traditional Creole houses, and religious sites.
In Saint-Joseph, the Labyrinth en Champ Thé takes visitors through the process of making tea, from the bush to the cup. The ‘Mare Longue’ forest, recently classified as a UNESCO world heritage site, is home to a beautiful array of endemic trees.
The Museum of Decorative Arts of the Indian Ocean is situated on a former coffee plantation that was later modified to grow sugar. ‘Saga Du Rhum’ at the Isautier Rum distillery in Saint-Pierre offers a perspective into the techniques and the history of the industry. Etang-Salé is a great spot for swimming and surfing, a round of golf, or a visit to the crocodile park.
The east is a paradise for canoeing, kayaking, rafting, canoe-rafting, kayak jumping and canyoning. There are extensive fields of sugar cane. It’s possible to visit the ‘Bois Rouge’ sugar factory during the harvest period and the distilleries all year round.
The Cirques are created by the erosion and the collapse of the Piton des Neiges’s walls and the volcano.
Cilaos, classified as a natural heritage site, lies in the shadow of the ‘Piton des Neiges’, the island’s highest summit at 3 071m. The town is a mountain resort with many sports on offer and is the starting point for over 80km of footpaths. Cilaos is also a spa town. The spa is the only one on the island, and has been open since the 19th century.
A tricky climb takes visitors across solidified lava to the crater’s summit, which offers a panorama of the whole island. A drive along the Route des Laves is not to be missed – lava flow after lava flow, wide streams that have poured down the mountainside and into the sea. Signposts indicate the different eruptions of the Piton de la Fournaise.
Photo credits: 1, 2-5, 6-11