5 things every South African should experience on Reunion Island

Reunion Island does not form part of the African continent at all, despite being a mere 4-hour flight from Johannesburg and just east of Madagascar. Picture: Instagram.

Reunion Island does not form part of the African continent at all, despite being a mere 4-hour flight from Johannesburg and just east of Madagascar. Picture: Instagram.

Published Nov 6, 2019


Ryan Enslin shares 5 things every South African should experience on Reunion Island: 

Have breakfast with a local 

My first day on Reunion Island saw us head, literally, for the hills, and the farm Association for the Promotion and Preservation of the Heritage of the Sainte Marguerite Highlands( AVPPHSM) owned by Philippe Morel. 

Morel is also a passionate cook and prepared a traditional Creole breakfast of fried rice and fish sausage that was prepared on an open fire in his modest kitchen. 

Ever the showman, Morel shared his insights into local Creole culture. After breakfast, we walked off the meal with a stroll through the sugarcane fields. Attempting to eat sugarcane straight from the abundance of Mother Nature proved to be a challenge, but I, fortunately, left with all my teeth intact. 

Drive 421 hairpin bends over 32km to Cilaos 

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You’re going to need three hours for this. Think Chapmans Peak Drive, but on a larger scale. 

At the end of this journey, you arrive at the Piton de la Fournaise, the worlds most active volcano, which happened to be erupting during our time on Reunion. 

Be sure to stop off at the La Roche Merveilleuse (aka the wonderful rock) for a spectacular view of Cilaos. You could plan an overnight at the village. 

Visit the Volcano Museum 

Interactive displays and the clever use of lighting result in a wonderful synopsis of the formation of Reunion Island. The 4D cinema with a simulated journey through a lava tunnel was lots of fun. Entrance to the museum is free, although there is a nominal cost for a guided tour.

Make time for nature

You have to make time for nature. Take in her splendour by helicopter for a view of the island. Local charter Helilagon offers an Ultimate Tour option for 279 Euro for a 45-minute flight as it travels over the three calderas of Reunion, Le Trou de der, the acclaimed lagoon and the picturesque West Coast.

Flights leave from the west coast town of St Gilles, so I recommend you do this towards the end of your stay on the Island, perhaps on your way back to the airport in St Denis in the north.

For a view of Reunion from a different perspective, set sail on a sunset cruise on the largest catamaran in the Indian Ocean, built-in Cape Town no less. The Le Maloya sets sail from the Titan Marina in La Possession and is a great way to end off a day spent exploring. Sip on cocktails and enjoy tapas while lounge music coaxes you into a well-deserved, trans-like state of relaxation. Thirdly, enjoy a variety of canyoning activities from various spots spread across the island. 

Lastly, marvel at the effects of lava flows to be found throughout the island. Whether it be the famed Lava Church, the Notre Dame des Laves, found at St Rose on the east coast, which was miraculously spared destruction in 1977 after an eruption of the Piton de la Fournaise, or the fiery Cap Mechant with its splendid black cliffs beaten and shaped by the mighty Indian Ocean, such are sights you will not encounter every day.

Enjoy a beach day on the West Coast 

All South Africans will appreciate the beautiful beaches found along the west coast of the island, famed for the markets, marinas, open-air theatre and bustling nightlife. 

We took time out at the newly established four-star Hotel Residence and Spa Ness by D-Ocean. Nestled in a tropical garden and surrounded by a coconut grove on the La Saline Les Bain lagoon in the town of St Gilles Les Bain, time spent in this tropical paradise allowed for some much-needed downtime after four days of exploration.

Think Atlantic Seaboard meets Durban’s Umhlanga mile, but with a French accent. The west coast of Reunion is where you’ll spend your typical beach getaway, hopefully without the midlife crisis speedboat incident of my initial island visions.

- Reunion Island is visa-free for South Africans. Regional carrier Air Austral operates up to three flights a week direct from Johannesburg.


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