A visit to Piton de la Fournaise – will make you feel like you’re on Mars and can be explored on foot, trike or Segway. For a bird’s eye view of the island, hop aboard a helicopter and fly next to soaring summits, through deep ravines and over the crater of the volcano. On the east coast opt for a jungle river trek that sees you jumping from boulders to rock pools. With 40% of its land declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, Reunion Island is ready to be explored.
FOOD & DRINK – As its name suggests, Reunion Island is a melting pot of cultures and with this comes many different tastes and flavours. The Saint-Paul Market (open Fridays and Saturdays) on the west coast is an excellent place to taste exotic fruits, samosas, dumplings, sweet potato cakes and cari. Comparable to an Indian curry, cari comprises of seasonal vegetables, lots of spices and meats, such as smoked sausage or cod fish. Another must-do activity on Reunion Island is a visit to a vanilla plantation.
Alongside Madagascar, Reunion is one of the world’s leading producers of vanilla and most plantations are found on the east coast. On a guided tour of these plant at ions, you can learn how these delicate plants are cultivated and taste vanilla-infused syrups. As for the island’s national drink, look no further than rum! Home-brewed blends are infused with everything from cinnamon to pineapple and are firm accompaniments to picnics, family gatherings and restaurant meals. At La Saga du Rhum (the rum museum) in the south you can learn about the history of rum on the island and taste a medley of delicious blends.
MUSIC – Reunion Island is the home of Maloya, a musical genre registered on UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It’s widely celebrated, played and performed by the people of Reunion Island and every year at the Sakifo Music Festival visitors come from afar to see the best Maloya artists put on a dazzling three-day show on the beach. Finding its roots among the African and Malagasy slaves who were brought to the island in the 19th Century, Maloya music expresses feelings of homesickness and poverty.
It used to be played during religious ceremonies to invoke the ancestors and lyrics were often politically-driven, which led to the genre being banned by the French government up until the eighties. Today Maloya is fully embraced by musicians who blend traditional instruments such as the rouler (barrel drum) and bobre (musical bow) with guitars and djembe drums. A number of hotels, restaurants and cafes on the island play host to Maloya performers who entrance audiences with riveting rhythms and seductive dance.
Tranquility – Reunion may be known for its generous adventure offering, but it scores equally well when it comes to relaxation. On the west coast are numerous beachfront hotels where you can forget life’s woes. The friendly staff members at the LUX Resort & Hotel will welcome you with scented towels and cocktails on arrival From here you can enjoy the hotel’s champagne bars, turquoise pools, beach and lagoon. Another beautiful hideaway is the Palm Hotel & Spa where guests can stay in private bungalows overlooking the Indian Ocean. Self-catering apartments and bed and breakfasts are also readily available to those travelling on a budget. Spend your days sunbathing, feasting on fresh seafood and keeping an eye out for humpback whales.
EUROPE ON YOUR DOORSTEP – It is said that Reunion Island is for those who like the French lifestyle, but dislike French politics. As soon as you touch down at the Roland Garros Airport, you’ll forget that you’re a mere four hours from Johannesburg. Reunion is like a slice of Europe served in the heart of the Indian Ocean. European cars are driven on the right-hand side of the road, French and Creole are the spoken languages and 19th Century Creole mansions line the streets of the capital. With the highest GDP among the Indian Ocean Islands, Reunion offers the same medical, educational and infrastructural standards as Fra nee. A walkthrough Saint Denis takes you past chic French boutiques, pastry shops and trendy locals. This is island living with a French twist.