I wouldn’t have missed the helicopter trip for anything. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the mountain hiking in Reunion, walking across the barren lava fields to the Piton de la Fournaise volcano, snorkelling on the sandy west coast and tucking into plates of delicious Creole curries, but this was really something else.
I felt a heady mix of excitement and fear as I strapped myself into the front seat alongside the pilot and pulled on the headset. The noise from the rotating blades added to the anticipation and only once the female pilot was happy that we were all safely buckled up, did she manoeuvere the controls and we glided forward over the grass and down the gentle incline.
We then banked to the right and rose slowly upwards over the forest-clad slopes of the Cirque de Mafate… at just under 3,000 metres, this is not an inconsiderable height. Lulled by the rhythmic sounds I felt immersed in a living geography lesson, or even better, in my very own natural history programme.
As we reached the rim of the cirque a huge chasm suddenly opened up below us, thousands of feet deep. My stomach lurched and I felt a moment of terror followed by total exhilaration. I felt I was flying. I could see for miles and was utterly entranced.
From the Cirque de Mafate we passed close to the bare rock of the Piton des Neige, the highest point on the islands at 3071 metres, and on to the Cirque de Salazie. Verdant, almost perpendicular forested slopes were awash with white ribbon waterfalls plunging thousands of feet to the floor of the ancient crater. We hovered in the Iron Hole, a wild canyon with yet more impossibly beautiful waterfalls.
Our return took us over the scenic west coast beaches and then back to the heliport. We’d taken one of the shorter trips- just 25 minutes – but it had felt like an age. Time really did stop still for me and I loved every single minute.
The tour departs from near to Saint-Gilles-les Bains, the cost for adults on the 25 min trip is approximately £170 and for children up to 12 yrs old it is £130, any infants under 2 yrs old are free. I would advise taking the tour early in the morning. Longer and shorter trips are available.
Take a look at this video to get a taste of this thrilling experience, a real highlight of any Reunion holiday.
Category: Travel Tales