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Reunion travel guide

It's France, but not as you know it... the island of Réunion, stranded in the Indian Ocean, offers lush volcanoes, Creole cuisine and top diving with a French twist

Technically an overseas département of France, the island of Réunion floats in the warm azure waters of the Indian ocean between Madagascar and Mauritius. But if you’re thinking of Mauritius’s picture-perfect beaches, think again. Réunion’s beaches tend to be narrow and on the south and east coasts of the island, you’ll find only volcanic, black sand. 

What Réunion does have is coral reefs, a lush forest interior, rare birds and plantlife, waterfalls in abundance and one of the world’s most active volcanoes – all of which makes the island great for ecotourism and adventure sports. Réunion is a hiker’s paradise with over 1000km of well-marked trails and horseriders, mountain bikers, surfers and divers are well-catered for too.

Réunion’s mixed cultural makeup also makes it fascinating to visit. Uninhabited before the 17th century, today’s Réunionnais are the descendants of European colonisers, African slaves, Indian labourers and Chinese merchants – all of whose influence can be felt in Réunion’s cuisine and culture.

Wanderlust recommends

  1. Take on Grande Randonée Route 2 – an epic 130km hike across the island, taking in the three Cirques (immense natural basins created by volcanic activity) and strange lava formations around Piton-des-Neiges.
  2. Abseil one of Réunion’s myriad waterfalls – the island’s “canyoning” hotspots include Cirque de Salazie and Cique de Cilaos
  3. Catch a monster marlin far out in the Indian Ocean - Réunion’s deep-sea fishing operators are based in St-Gilles-les-Bains
  4. Go to the local bar for some séga beats – a genre of music unique to the Mascarene Islands of Réunion, Mauritius and the Seychelles
  5. Get a bird’s eye view of the island – go microlighting or book a helicopter ride
  6. Head into the tropical hinterlands on horseback

Wanderlust tips

Réunion’s tourist industry is slowly gearing up for more Anglophones but you’ll find a little bit of French goes a long way. Many locals don’t speak a word of English.

Creole is their mother tongue but they’ll be happy to give directions and discuss the best bars, restaurants and picnic-spots with you en français. They tend also to be more forgiving than the French when it comes to grammar and pronunciation. Knowing phrases like “pied droit là” (right foot here) is absolutely crucial if you plan on going abseiling.

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