Craters, Canyons and Creole, Réunion Island, April 2019

My last stop on my Indian Ocean voyage has been Réunion Island- a little corner of France (an overseas French Department) next to Africa. Although the island is rimmed by beaches and coral reefs, at its heart it is volcanic. There is still an active volcano on the south of the island but it’s interior is made up of 3 massive ancient calderas that soar more than 3000m high. The crater walls rear up vertically covered in dense vegetation. The caldera rims create towering verdant ramparts that cradle small Creole villages at their bases. 

The three caldera regions called the ‘Cirques’ of Cilaos, Mafate and Salazie lay claim to incredible hiking trails and deep carved ravines offer canyoning opportunities. 

So this past week I’ve packed away the mask & fins and donned my hiking boots for some magnificent trekking in the calderas of Cilaos and Mafate. I spent a few days in the village of Cilaos nestled at around 1200m altitude below a 360 degree crater rim. The mornings sparkle with green jagged peaks contrasting against a deep blue sky. By early afternoon clouds roll over the rim, spilling down its sides and the mountain gods can become decidedly cranky (about 2pm is their favourite time to douse you with rain if you’re hiking..). 

While in Cilaos I also joined a canyoning trip. Some natural faults in the basalt rock have permitted water to gradually carve out steep ravines and permanent waterfalls. Over 7 separate rappels we descended 200 m of canyon – the longest single abseil was 55m to drop into a basin. An exhilarating experience!

Réunion Island also has a quiet, colourful side and wears its Creole traditions proudly. There are cheerfully painted Creole houses in streets shaded by mango and tamarind trees, fences trailing with colourful bougainvillea and spindly palm trees that pierce the blue skies. Houses are reminiscent of the tropics back home built from wooden slats with large covered window awnings to keep out the sun and verandas to circulate the air.

It’s not the usual French culture that I know but a tropical,  laid back Creole version of it (but still with all the perks of buttery croissants, crunchy baguettes, French wine and cheese).

A la prochaine!

Réunion Island

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