Features, Travel

Reunion Island– The Indian Ocean’s Undiscovered Treasure

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By: Elodie Chane-Ky   An Exotic Island with heavenly landscapes, Réunion Island is a sort of melting pot of different cultures. French Correspondent Elodie Chane-Ky takes us on a journey to the place that everybody calls “L’Ile Intense”. Reunion Island is a French overseas department situated in the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and Mauritius Island. This tropical island, which is about 2512 km², currently has 800,000 inhabitants. The spoken languages are French and “Créole Réunionnais”. The temperatures fluctuate between approximately 20°C and 30°C the whole year on the coasts, and between 10°C and 25°C in the mountains. The West coast is a dry and warm zone where you can find beaches with black or white sand. The East and the center of the island are more humid and include an endemic forest that hosts unique fauna and flora. Forty percent of the island is registered as UNESCO World Heritage sites because of its “Piton, cirques et remparts” which gives La Réunion all of its exceptional landscapes. Discovered in 1500 by Don Pedro Mascarenhas, a Portuguese navigator, the island officially became a French colony in 1642. Over the course of its history the island has hosted many immigrants, including Indians, Arabs, Africans, Asians and Europeans. The population is mixed and shares a unique culture based on their diverse story. The “creoles” are “metises,” an ethnic mix of many races.  To see an Indian temple, a mosque and a Chinese temple on the same street is not unheard of on Reunion Island. There is not a definite district for each ethnic group; people live together with respect and tolerance. A mosaic – that is the word that you can use to describe the Reunionese. Every typical cultural item is result of this mix. Music: Le maloya that takes origins of the slaves singing, it is a very catchy and rhythmic sad song where you can recognize the African and Indian origins. Since 2009, this type of music has been an Immaterial UNESCO World Heritage Item. The Séga is more rhythmic and it attracts one to dance with your partner and is more cheerful. Cuisine: The Reunionese cuisine had sustained the influence of Indian, Malagasy, Chinese and European roots. It is more or less a kind of “cuisine fusion”. Very spicy and tasty, the typical “carry” is cooked on a wood fire and is served with rice, a sort of spicy bean purée and a fresh tomatoes salsa. You can also find some specialties that became unique; people adapted their cuisine to the tastes of the inhabitants and the local “food.” Fresh vegetables and exotic fruits can, of course, be tasted the whole year. Like its population, it is a result from a mix of cultures and we can define it as an exotic and original cuisine. Reunion Island is famous for:
  • The “Bourbon Pointu” coffee. It is a fine and delicate coffee with a unique and marked aroma, which won the rare distinction of “premium coffee” delivered by the Specialty Coffee Association. It is, nowadays, one of the most expensive coffees in the world.
  • The “Vanille Bourbon”. A delicately scented vanilla is cultivated in Reunion since a slave called Edmond Albius discovered the principle of this orchid pollination.
  • The sugar, produced from local sugar canes, is the first exportation in Reunion and is economically essential.
  • The “Piton de la Fournaise” Volcano. Interestingly one of the most active volcanoes in the world, which perpetually erupts on the island; sometimes, the lava flows to the sea and expands the island over a few meters squared. It gives to Reunion Island a unique landscape; there is a zone in the South East that is only made by solidified volcanic lava. It is a sort of black desert which reaches the mountains and the ocean and where, for the most recent eruptions, you can still see the fumaroles.
  What to do in Reunion Island? Aquatic Leisure. White or black sand, turquoise water of the lagoon, sunny and warm weather every day - it is the perfect place to rest and relax for your holidays. If you want to explore the deep blue sea, swim with tropical and colored fish, discover the submarine world, dive or take a simple boat trip not far from the Reunionese coasts - this is all possible. And for the fishing-addicted, there is a "pêche au gros" activity that permits you to bring your own marlin or swordfish. Mountains. With its high summits, its endemic and dense forest, its moon-like landscape due to the volcano, you can discover some exceptional and sharply different landscapes just by going for a ride. You can take your time admiring them by riding horses, walking and taking pictures from a spot that offers you a wonderful view of the mountains and the ocean at the same time. For the sports and thrill-lovers, it is accessible by biking or by jeep. You can also meet some friendly people who live in typical "cases creoles", made with wood, with gardens full of scented and colored flowers and exotic fruit trees. The most Rustic Reunion is shown to you in Mafate, a small village accessible only by walking. It is one of the 3 circuses of the island with Salazie and Cilaos. These circuses are a sort of circular valley that surround the extinct volcano and higher summit of Reunion, Le Piton des Neiges. Sports. Reunion Island is perfect for the thrill seekers. With its steep reliefs, it can offer a lot of choice to reach your need of adrenaline. If you are a fan of surfing, you can surf year-round in the different spots of the Island, which contains one of the surf championship spots in Saint-Leu. Discover the Island from above by doing some skydiving and paragliding; this is a good way to have a global vision of Reunion in a calming manner. Taking a helicopter tour can show you some awesome places inaccessible by walking, such as volcano craters or waterfalls. Discover the natural reliefs by canyoning. Rafting and rock climbing are also possible options.   A genuine melting pot of cultures linked by the same homeland, and all of it concentrated in a 2500 m² piece of heaven in the Indian Ocean - welcome to Réunion Island, l’Ile Intense!

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