Travel Destinations / Reunion
An island of true contrasts, the French department of Reunion is unknown to many of the world's travelers. That's unfortunate! This unique island in the middle of the Indian Ocean is simply one of the most intriguing spots on earth. Not as well-known as nearby Mauritius or the not-so-far-away British Seychelles, little Reunion seems but a speck in the vast ocean, dwarfed by Madagascar, located 500 miles to the west. The French know the island well but only the very well-traveled have ever stepped foot on Reunion's varied and enticing terrain.
With an active volcano on its south coast, 17 miles of warm, welcoming beaches in the west, and lots of mountains and forests in between, Reunion Island offers vacation opportunities ranging from relaxing to truly insane. If you're looking for a place to "chill out", you'll find it here. But if you're the kind of vacationer who prefers an adrenaline rush over a sunburn, the possibilities are endless. From hiking Reunion's
unique "cirques" or canyoning the island's many waterfalls to scuba diving or surfing in the clear waters that surround this tiny 30-mile-wide island, adventure activities abound for vacationers hoping to do something a little daring while on their Reunion holiday.
Ethnic groups - Creole, French, African, Malagasy, Chinese, Pakistani, Indian. It is the people of Réunion who add a living soul to the 'intense isle'. It is a true melting pot and a 'rainbow nation' far exceeding that of South Africa. After spending some time communing with nature in the mountains or amongst the coral, take time to experience a culture that has its own unique identity as well as a myriad of identies within. This is not France, not Africa, it is Réunion and is essentially Creole - more like a meeting point at the outer reaches of the galaxy. Have your doors of perception cleansed and realise the world anew…
Reunion has people of many different ethnic origins, descendents of the early settlers who came from places as diverse as China, India, Arabia, Comoros and Madagascar Islands, the African mainland and Europe. The French plantation owners brought the Africans and the Malagasy to the island as slaves, their descendents living on the island are known as "Cafre" (something which for an anglophone is hard to accept and is felt often to be defamatory). The descendants of more recent arrivals from Europe, mostly of French origin are known as "Zoreil" (who may become "Z'oreole" if well intergrated) while the "Malbar" are Tamil from Madras and the Coromandel Coast in India who were brought to the island as indentured labour after the abolition of slavery. Muslims of Indian origin came from
Gujarat and Bombay in the last part of the 19 th century and came to be called "Zarabe" , although very few of them are Arab. The Chinese first arrived after 1860 to be followed by more of their countrymen during the early decades of the 20th century to set up stops, grocery stores and stores and of course, many restaurants. In Reunion today, multi-ethnic families are quite common and such families make up a third of the population. The "petit-blanc" who live in the heights are known as the "Yab"
Over the years French cultural influences have had such an overwhelming impact on the people of different races that live on the island that behaviour patterns and social norms conform to the French. Despite that, in homes and within particular ethnic groups, traditional ways and practices are kept alive and passed from generation to generation. Certain rituals and ceremonies like 'fire walking' persist and syntheses with other cultures. While the different races on Réunion live in harmony and have intermarried, they continue to retain many aspects of their original cultures.
Réunionese culture is a blend (métissage) of European, African, Indian, Chinese and insular traditions.The most widely spoken language, Réunion Creole, derives from French. However, an official orthography has yet to be agreed upon.Local food and music blend influences from Africa, India, China and Europe, resulting in a unique, diverse culture.
The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism with Hinduism, Islam, Chinese folk religion and Buddhism also represented, among others.
Reunion is lucky enough to have an excellent shopping center located right outside of the area in Celebration. Market Street is a shopping promenade in the Reunion area best known got its specialty stores, great restaurants and unique shops. It is located right on the lake, and also has a weekly farmer’s market held there where patrons can find some of the freshest produce in all of Central Florida. Osceola Square Mall and Winter Haven Mall are two other great malls in the Reunion area.
As in France, the unit of currency is the euro (€), which is divided into 100 cents. Euro coins come in denominations of one, two, five, 10, 20 and 50 cents and one and two euros. Banknotes are issued in denominations of five, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros.
Réunion’s major towns and many of the little ones in between are linked by bus. The island’s bus service is knows as Car Jaune and has distinctive yellow buses. The main gare routière (bus station) is on Blvd Lancastel on the St-Denis seafront. Buses on most routes run between about 6am and 7pm, with a limited number of services on Sunday.
Réunion has two international airports. The vast majority of flights come into Roland Garros International Airport about 10km east of St-Denis. Coming from Mauritius, you have the option of landing at Pierrefonds Airport in the south of the island near St-Pierre.
With most attractions located in the hills, we strongly recommend hiring a vehicle. No other form of transport lets you explore the island’s secret backwaters as a set of motorised wheels. There are some gorgeous runs, cruising along the island’s dramatic roads; heading into the mountains via the Cirques roads is a magnificent experience. The superbly engineered roads snake through hairpin bends, up steep slopes and along sheer drops, surrounded all the while by glorious – and distracting – scenery.
Good news: location de voitures (car hire) is extremely popular in Réunion, and rates are very reasonable. Most companies stipulate that the driver must be at least 21 (sometimes 23) years of age, have held a driving licence for at least a year, and have a passport or some other form of identification. EU citizens can drive on their national driving licence; from elsewhere, you’ll need an international driving licence.
The traffic, the haste of most motorists and the steep and precarious nature of the mountain roads means that those considering cycling as a form of transport in Réunion should be prepared for some hair-raising and potentially dangerous situations
There are several hospitals and out-patient clinics. The French national health scheme is in force and there is a reciprocal health agreement with the UK (see France section). Facilities are limited and full health insurance is advised.Food and drink: Water is safe to drink. Wash fruit and vegetables before eating.
* A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travellers over one year of age arriving from an infected area.
Should your nationality not be listed above, kindly contact our dedicated consultants for assistance.
Reunion experiences only two distinct seasons: the hot, rainy summer from December to April and the cool, dry winter from late April to October. The east coast is considerably wetter than the west, but wettest of all are the mountains above the east coast – around Takamaka, Plaine-des-Palmistesand the northern and eastern slopes of the volcano. As with Mauritius, the cyclone season is roughly December to March.
Temperatures on the coast average 22°C during winter and 27°C in summer. In the mountains, they drop to 11°C and 18°C respectively. Clouds generally cover the peaks and high plains from mid-morning. The drier winter months are the most favourable for hiking.
The peak tourist seasons are during the French school holidays from late June to early September. From October through to the New Year holidays is also reasonably busy, but after this everything eases down during cyclone-prone February and March. The weather
normally changes for the better in April, which isn’t a bad time to a visit.