? It is an island in the Indian Ocean located east of Madagascar and almost 200 km southwest of Mauritius. Reunion Island is the overseas territory of France and is governed in the same manner it governs Mayotte through the Overseas Department.
How to travel to Reunion Island?
Being an offbeat travel destination, Reunion island does not have a prolific airlines system, and one must take a circuitous route before they can land at the Roland Garros International Airport. It is served by Air Austral, which is the regional airlines, and a few airlines have started flights from mainland France to the island too. However, if you are travelling between the island groups, then the best way is to take a ride on a ferry, which is comfortable to travel in. It is also pertinent to remember that travelling to offbeat destinations is expensive, and so is travelling to the Reunion Islands. Hence, if you are planning to travel to the French territory, it is advisable to research and plan your itinerary. However, travel to Reunion Island will be a memorable one since the azure of the sky, meeting the vast horizon of the ocean, refuses to leave you for the rest of your life. But before you set sail, here are 10 things I wish I knew before going to Reunion:
1. Best time to visit Reunion
The best time to visit Reunion Island territory is between May and November. The weather is generally dry and cool. However, it starts to get hot and rainy from November, and the cycle lasts until April. Reunion is known for its torrential rainfall, and it is advisable to avoid the monsoon. The rainfalls vary in their intensity while moving from the East to the West. The former is far wetter than the latter. However, all is forgiven during the dry and cool months. Reunion Island turns into a celestial piece of land, and it is also the period when the island witnesses the maximum influx of tourists.
2. Reunion Island Beaches
You may not be a beach person, and the ocean may not be your favourite haunt, but spend at least a day at the beach. Reunion is replete with numerous tropical beaches, most of which are unique. The local government has taken the pain to create a tourist-friendly environment with easy to use arrangements across all the oceanfront destinations. There are barbecues, private facilities and parking spaces, and generally, the beaches are clean. The Hermitage Beach is the most well preserved of the lagoons. It is also the best location for scuba diving and snorkelling. It is also one of the most picturesque beaches in all of Reunion, lined with Casuarina trees. These are the favourite spots for a picnic, which happen in plenty. The locals are fond of their beaches, and one can watch them while away their evenings there, after a long day at work. Plage des Brisants is the other popular beach which is famous for its surfing waves. Also known as a surfer’s paradise, Plage des Brisants is home to quite a few athletic activities too. However, the fame of the beach does not end with surfing. There is an annual film festival that is held and is thronged by many. So if you are a movie buff, look out for the announcements. There is a long trail of restaurants that dot the Boucan Canot Beach. These restaurants serve anywhere from French delicacies to sumptuous local meals. The seafood at Reunion Island is one of the best in the world and should not be missed for anything else. The Grande Anse Beach is another tourist favourite, coconut lined and famous for its white and soft sand. It is located in the south of the island. The beach has designated areas for picnickers and also has a rock built swimming pool for swimmers. Reunion Island Beaches are some of the best that I have encountered. Missing them out would be simply tragic.
3. Dolphin and Whale Watching
The island is a beehive of marine life. Dolphins and whales creep up to the shore to greet visitors, and one can also get an opportunity to free dive and swim among them without much ado. These are fantastic animals, and they seem to enjoy the company of humans. Tour operators have special packages for the same. However, care should be taken regarding safety measures. Get into the water only if you are comfortable and know a bit of swimming. Also, one can negotiate a good deal for the diving packages.
Reunion Island is not just the ocean and the beaches. It is the hiking trails too. Three circuits are famous for their hiking routes: Mafate, Cilaos and Salazie. Of these three, Mafate is the most challenging one since it is completely inaccessible by road. Hikers flock to these trails year-round since the immersive experience they gain here is unmatched by most hiking trails around the world. Along the way, you will be encountering numerous local villages. There are hiking tour companies that give you guided tours, either by foot or via a helicopter ride. For those who crave mountain biking, you can go ahead and rent gear from the numerous rental companies dotting the tourist landscape.
5. Saint-Paul Market
Saint Paul Market is a festival by its spirit. It runs from Friday morning to Saturday morning for a full 24 hours and sells some of the most exotic fruits and vegetables you can lay your hands on. But, food is not the only thing that is sold here. The market is also famous for the art and the souvenirs and every week newer additions to the ware are witnessed. Saint Paul Market has to be on the list when you travel to Reunion Island. It is also one of the topmost places to visit in Reunion Island.
6. The Lagoons
The Reunion Island is not just blessed with beautiful beaches but scintillating lagoons too. I mentioned Hermitage Beach, which is the best-preserved of all the ones. There are more on the west and south coast, between St. Paul and St. Pierre. The placid water adds to the charm, and swimmers can splash around in the tropical waters of the ocean around.
If you are done with your beach and sunbathing and wish to bask in some more culture, then St. Gilles is the place to be. This town is situated on the western side of the island and known for its eclectic mix of art and cultural shows. The streets are lined with numerous bars and nightclubs, each exuding an individualistic charm. The ample variety of music played is maddening too. Jazz, rock and even dance electronic are some of the genres that blast through their doors. If you are more into traditional and local music, then St. Gilles will not disappoint you at all. There are numerous music clubs which play the local music with elan. A night out at St. Gilles will be remembered forever while the soulful music will keep ringing in the ear for a long time to come.
8. Water Sports
Reunion Island is blessed with some of the finest beaches and lagoons. And when you have such wonders of the world, water sports can't be left behind. Snorkelling, scuba diving, surfing is some of the few activities which make up the list. If you wish to watch the ocean from the sky, then paragliding or parasailing will be on your schedule. This is one island where you can easily mix relaxation with some adrenaline-pumping sporting action. The staid and slow paddleboarding is offered. There is a large list of water sports you can choose from depending on how comfortable you are. The water sports companies are careful with their guests, and there are strict security guidelines that are followed.
9. One night at the museum
A journey to Reunion Island is incomplete without a visit to the two famous museums, the Natural History Museum and the Musee de Villele. The former has a great collection of flora and fauna and tells you a lot about the natural history of the island. The Musee de Villele is a cultural museum that tells you about the anthropological journey of the island. Both the islands are a hotspot for learning, and those who seek knowledge wouldn’t want to miss out on the opportunity of visiting these places.
10. Waterfall picnic at Langevin or Trois Bassins
Langevin is one of the best-kept secrets of the island. Visitors revel in its lush and cool water, splashing around all day. This waterfall is situated in the south of the island. One can also rent a canoe and head to Trois Bassins, which is located on the western coast. These are ultimate picnic spots and, for the worldly backpacker, a slice from heaven. Now that you know where is Reunion Island and how to get there, start making a plan and packing your bags. You cannot afford to miss out on this blessed land. The Indian Ocean and the setting sun beckons the soul, after all.