Are you a traveller who loves adventure? Or do you prefer to go backpacking solo? Or, are you looking for the ideal tropical getaway with your partner? The five-million-year-old Reunion Island is a tropical balm for all. Reunion Island (reunion.fr) offers an infinite variety of natural landscapes and exceptional biodiversity—it is in fact one of the 34 global biodiversity hotspots in the world. One of the most popular attractions on the island is Piton de la Fournaise, among the most active volcanoes in the world. Visitors can actually hike up the volcano. There are also calderas, volcanic craters large enough to house entire towns—the Cirque de Cilaos caldera is one such, and makes for a fascinating visit. The French island is a six-hour flight from Chennai, and every inch of the 2,512 square kilometres of Reunion Island offers adventure, diversity, authentic culture and romance—it is a honeymooner hotspot.
The island’s turquoise waters are protected by a 30 kilometre coral reef, and simply sinking your feet in the white sand while watching the sun go down is a memory to cherish. Photo By: IRT–Stephane Godin DTS
The island includes 1,900 kilometres of inland and coastal trails—some that can be explored on foot, some on a motorbike and some on horseback. Home to waterfalls, lagoons and rivers, Reunion Island is a dream come true for the water sports enthusiast—who can choose to scuba dive on a Sunday, snorkel on a Monday and go river-rafting on a Tuesday. However, you don’t have to jump headfirst into adventurous activites. You can, instead, have your own little picnic by sitting at the edge of a lagoon to soak up the sun and spot multicoloured fishes flitting about their nooks and crannies. The island’s turquoise waters are protected by a 30 kilometre coral reef, and simply sinking your feet in the white sand while watching the sun go down is a memory to cherish. Better still, you could go dolphin and whale watching to spot these gentle creatures in their habitat.
However, it is the Piton de la Fournaise and its sulphurous slopes, which gives Reunion Island its extra edge. The volcano is known to erupt frequently, without posing any threat to the people on the island. Travellers can hike up to the volcano through lunar, crater filled landscapes, and cross other extra-terrestrial sights like Plaine des Sables, a red-and-ochre desert. The lava from the many volcano eruptions has paved an impressive landscape between steep cliffs, emerald rainforests and the deep blue of the Indian Ocean. You can also go to black sand beaches in the southern part of the island—a fascinating contrast from the more popular white sand ones.
Ethnic diversity has had a huge impact on the food on Reunion Island. For instance, about 80 per cent of Creole food is inspired by Indian flavours. Photo By: IRT–Emmanuel Virin
The most thrilling part is that you can actually treat yourself to an aerial view of the Piton de la Fournaise by hopping onto a helicopter and take in the mesmerising sights of the cirques de Salazie, Mafate and Cilaos, the Trou de Fer and the lagoons. Beyond these, visitors can indulge in uniquely exciting events such as enrolling in an underwater drawing workshop, riding a horse in the middle of a savannah on the West Coast, jumping off a helicopter from 3,500 metres above sea-level, attending a concert in a lava tunnel under the volcano or simply enjoying a musical sunset on a cruise!
Ethnic diversity abounds in Reunion Island. The unique Creole culture—a result of ethnic mixing—is a testament to the culture shaped by an amalgamation of Indian, African, European and other cultures. Temples, mosques, churches and pagodas stand in unity on the island, and visitors are invited to take part in the several Tamil, Chinese or Christian festivals that are held through the year. They are also encouraged to visit the beautiful colonial mansions of Saint Denis and the colourful huts in the Creole villages to understand the origin of the Creole culture. Its history, however, is best reflected in one of its local musical genres—Maloya, which has been recognised as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
The Maloya music uses song and dance to express the pain and rebellion of the Malagasy and African slaves, when they had first been forced to work on the island’s sugar plantations. The ethnic diversity has had a huge impact on the food on Reunion Island as well. With each culture ascribing to a particular set of flavours, the different dishes give credits to people of different cultures who first set foot on the island. For instance, eighty per cent of Creole cuisine (which include chicken, duck, pork, goat, mussels, chouchou/chayote, potato and jackfruit dishes), is said to be inspired by Indian cuisine. Years ago, several Indians had arrived here, looking for employment. They carried with them old recipes from their homes. With that, curry became ‘cari’ on the island, and the cabri massale (goat curry) became the most favoured dish among visitors. Similar to the mutton curry made in Tamil Nadu, this cari is usually served with rice, pulao or beans and lentils.
Travellers can hike up to the volcano Piton de la Fournaise through lunar, crater filled landscapes, and cross other extra-terrestrial sights like Plaine des Sables, a red-and-ochre desert. Photo By: IRT Frog 974 Photographies
Known as the ‘French Airline of the Indian Ocean’, Air Austral is the only airline to offer direct flights between India (through Chennai) and Reunion Island. The best way to travel around the Reunion Island is to drive yourself—with cars for hire being easily available. However, for this, drivers are required to have an international or French driver’s license. French rules of driving are implemented here, including driving on the right-hand side of the road. The currency in use across Reunion Island is the Euro. While foreign-card accepting ATMs are present through the length of the island, there is only one currency exchange office at the Roland- Garros airport.
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