I recently had the chance to explore a gorgeous and diverse island called Reunion that is situated in the Indian ocean just 175 kilometres southwest of Mauritius. Mostly when you think of an island the image that comes to mind is relaxing on the beach or next to the pool at your hotel but what I found out about Reunion is that it’s so much more than that. This little rum soaked island stole my heart and I can’t wait for my visit! There are so many things I enjoyed on my 7 day trip and I will be showing it to you bit by bit in different posts, but for now I wanted to highlight my top five reasons I think you, and everyone should hop on a plane and see what Reunion has to offer.
Food is always high on my list and arriving quite late on a Sunday evening it was one of the first things I experienced in Reunion. The firm succulent fish wrapped in banana leaf and flavoured with coconut milk and vanilla I had that night set the tone for the whole trip and I can safely say all my meals stayed consistently delicious. I would suggest trying out a lot of the local Creole cuisine ( although be ready to gain some weight! ) as it is filling and oh so good! One of our favourites was “Rougail saucisse” which is a pork sausage dish with tomato, onion and spices. They have a lot of these curry type dishes with different variations like pork, chicken and fish and they serve it with rice, a kind of lentil sauce that was so good and some chilli. I feel like the chilli almost needs its own post as it was absolutely insane and almost every time we had a different type, like cucumber chilli or citrus chilli. We loved it so much we brought some home and now we eat it with everything! I actually have a theory for the reason people in Reunion are so active and its because if you had to eat their delicious food everyday and not hike mountains and run along the gorgeous beaches, the island would probably sink under the sheer weight of everyone! They also have a love for amazing French pastries and strong black coffee for breakfast ( no complaints from me ) as well as a seemingly endless supply of baguettes. You definitely won’t go hungry in Reunion that is for sure!
The Rum & Beer
It might seem weird to list alcohol as a reason to visit a place but I feel like the island seems to run on rum and Bourbon aka Dodo beer as its affectionately called on the island. The have their local rum called Charette and almost every place we went had a different flavour or Arrange as they called it. This is just basically plain rum that they infuse with different things like pineapple, vanilla, orchid leaves from a special plant grown on the island and basically anything else you want to experiment with! The rum is strong and good and you definitely won’t find it served with coke! The beer was a favourite with our whole group and I was so surprised at how good it was as well as how many different types of Dodo they had. Its not expensive either, especially if you buy it in stores and its the perfect thing to drink after a hot day of hiking as we found out later in our trip!
I loved seeing all the colourful signs declaring “La Dodo le la” which means “The Dodo is here” and it soon became my way to describe the beer wherever we went.
I wish we could have seen all the beaches on Reunion as they are all so different but I guess thats just another reason to go back right? We spent most of our time on the beautiful beach of Saint Gilles where there is a lagoon that makes it perfect for swimming and other water activities. We also visited Boucan Canot beach with its black volcanic rocks and cute little beachfront bars. They day we visited Boucan Canot beach the conditions weren’t good for swimming but that didn’t deter the locals from standing at the edge of the water and having the big waves pummel them to the ground. I don’t know if that a Reunionese thing or not but it was pretty entertaining to watch! I would have loved to go to some of the black sand beaches that I spotted from above as I have been to one in Costa Rica before and its quite magical. It was the best waking up early every morning and seeing the sun rise over the gorgeous lagoon and its something I wouldn’t mind doing every day!
Piton de la Fournaise or Peak of the Furnace is one of the most active volcanos in the world and I still literally get goosebumps when I think about how it felt to see it erupting while flying over it. There is something so utterly exciting and adventurous about going to an island with an erupting volcano although there is no need to be afraid of it as its one of the safest ones in the world as well and the lava is mostly confined to the uninhabited caldera. I definitely feel that seeing lava shooting into the sky from a crater that looks like it is located on the moon is one of those pinch me now, bucket list moments people spend lifetimes searching for. If you need only one reason to visit it’s to tell people you saw an epic volcano!
If you want to spend a month hiking some of the most amazing, diverse landscapes then pack your bags now and head to Reunion. You don’t have to go for a month though but I would have loved to hike for longer than the three days we spent in Cirques of Reunion. If you don’t know what a cirque is don’t worry I had no clue either. Way way way back Piton de la Fournaise wasn’t the main boss volcano on Reunion, this title went to the Volcano that gave birth to Reunion, Piton des Neiges. This volcano is long extinct but it left behind a treasure trove of delights for people to explore. There are three cirques, Mafate, Salazie and Cilaos and each one is different from the next. Mafate is the only cirque that you can not reach by car and that meant that to get from Salazie to Cilaos we had to trek through Mafate, sleeping over at Gites in the tiny villages. It was a crazy experience and something I thought I would never be able to do ( did I mention I had to carry my backpack with everything I needed for the three days as well? ) but one I now want to do over and over again. Its so incredibly humbling to walk for hours seeing the landscape change from green and lush to red and rocky and know that you are just a tiny speck in this massive crater.
If I had to go through every single reason I love this island my post will be way to long but hopefully I have given you a little taste of what you might experience if you decide to visit. Another bonus is that Reunion is only a four hour flight from Johannesburg and South African citizens don’t even require a visa to visit ( anyone up for a long weekend in Reunion? ) so it really is a perfect getaway for us living here on the tip of Africa.