Travel Specialist Trips: Laura visits Réunion Island
After taking the world’s longest domestic flight from Paris to Roland Garros, Reunion (11hours) we arrived in paradise. The island looked like something out of Jurassic Park! Most people envisage the Indian Ocean islands to be along the lines of overwater bungalows and lazy days by the beach, sometimes known as “flop and fly” holidays. Reunion offers so much more than that!
I was surprised to see the island was more populated than I had expected, around 800,000 people live here. Reunion has the highest GDP capita in the Indian Ocean and the infrastructure is very well developed and makes self-drive holidays incredibly easy.
At 63km long and 45km wide, we soon discovered there is more to the island than lush green hills, such as the lunar landscapes of the volcanoes and the white sand beaches of the west coast. There are over 200 microclimates on the island, making for a diverse set of ecosystems and native.
We travelled to La Reunion at the start of their summer season in October. During this time it experiences temperatures of around 28 degrees on the coast but it's often cooler in the mountains. The weather is cool and dry from May to November but hot and rainy from November to April. The island is full of waterfalls and these are at their most spectacular at the end of the rainy season in April. A massive draw to the island is whale watching, from July to October the sea is positively teeming with Humpback whales.
The island is probably most well-known for its volcanoes and calderas. The Piton Des Neiges is a dormant volcano but is the highest one on the island at 3070m. The Piton de la Fournaise is an active volcano, which erupts on average four times per year! It last erupted in September 2018 and we could see the smoke billowing from one of its craters.
Swimming in the sea is only recommended in certain areas where there is protection from sharks by the reef in the form of a lagoon. This is found on the west coast of the island. Therefore, the majority of the “beach resorts” are here. Such as Palm Hotel and the Lux St Gilles. This does not mean that the other areas of the island are not worth visiting, though, and my favourite hotel was the Diana Dea on the east coast.
Restaurants are plentiful and they all try to emulate the high standards of French cuisine. The food is influenced by French, African, Indian and Chinese cultures, I didn’t have one bad meal! Of course, all the meals come with plenty of Run Arrange, the drink of Reunion. A lot of runs are produced there so it would be rude not to sample it! They also had some phenomenal South African and French wines.
From aqua hiking in the waterfalls to whale watching on the coast, helicopter tours over the calderas, hiking the cirques, visiting an active volcano, diving on the coral reefs, there is so much to do here! The highlight of my trip was a helicopter ride over the cirques, the views were breathtaking, I have so many photos but they do not do this beautiful island justice! At the end of the helicopter flight we flew over the coast and were lucky enough to see a humpback whale swimming with her calf, my mind was blown and I was in tears! Definitely a once in a lifetime experience.
I cannot recommend this island enough, I am already making plans to return there with my family. There is something for everyone and it is somewhere that needs to be visited to be appreciated.