|After a four hour flight from Johannesburg, you arrive on this French island. Reunion, the only European region in the Southern Hemisphere, is similar to mainland France: the currency is the euro and bank cards are accepted here. But as an island in the Indian Ocean, Reunion enjoys a tropical climate and the exotic atmosphere that goes with it.
When you first arrive on Reunion, you won’t be immediately surrounded by tropical nature: the coast is lined with small Creole towns and has a road infrastructure among the most modern in the world. But the mountains in the background are the promise of a unique island experience. A short drive into the interior will quickly show you what Reunion has to offer. The special geography of the island, including the highest peak in the Indian Ocean, creates a multitude of micro-climates and contrasting landscapes: from the dry savanna of the west coast, to the endemic cloud forests carpeting the higher ground of the east coast, to the Avatar-like scenery of the interior.
Such a diversity of landscapes on a small island is hard to believe, that’s why Reunion is not really the place to laze around on the beach all day long. Beach-goers will of course find what they want on the west coast: 30 miles of sandy beaches with a lagoon for snorkelling. But the best way to really enjoy your stay is to intersperse your sunbathing with forays into Reunion’s green heart: a hiking trek to discover the calderas – natural amphitheatres in the centre of the island; a trip through lush forests full of endemic orchids and tree ferns; or a walk on the moon-like landscape of the volcano. Adrenaline-addicts will also be spoilt for choice: canyoning down one of the numerous waterfalls; surfing in the famed waters off St-Leu; or paragliding to enjoy some truly astonishing views of the island.
And after all this effort, you’ll more than deserve some of the delicious local cuisine, based around rice, beans and the traditional carri, made of meat or fish cooked in a tomato and turmeric sauce. At the end of your meal you’ll undoubtedly be treated to a glass of spiced rum, usually home-made by each Creole family, and part of a tradition of hospitality which is widespread among Reunion’s inhabitants. As an undiscovered destination, Reunion is not overflowing with tourists and is still considered off-the-beaten-track yet with the safety and creature comforts that come with being part of Europe. And for those visitors fond of the French way of life, you’ll be delighted to find French wines, cheeses and pastries side by side with local specialities.
To learn more about Reunion, visit www.reunion.fr