It became an overseas department of France in 1946. One of the world’s youngest islands, a mere three million years old. The average lifespan is an impressive 80 years. Half the size of Rhode Island. Its only national park, La Réunion National Park, covers 40% of the island and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, the only French national park to hold such an honour. Its official currency is the Euro. On March 15th and 16th of 1952, an incredible 73 inches of rain fell on the town of Cilaos in just 24 hours, still a world record. And the highest point on the island is named Piton de Neiges, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, whose name translates as ‘Snow Mountain,’ even though snow here is incredibly rare. Today, we’re visiting The Rainbow Isle, Réunion.
Île de la Réunion is an enchanting, stunning and unspoilt island in The French Republic, located in the Indian Ocean, its nearest neighbours Mauritius to the northeast, and Madagascar to the west. It covers an area of 970 square miles, with a population of nearly 845,000 people. The motto of the island is, ‘Floreno quocumque ferar,’ which is Latin for, ‘I will flower everywhere I am planted.’ Aww, that’s so sweet…
The island was named Île Bourbon after the French Royal House of Bourbon, but, when it fell in 1793, the island was given its current name by the elected revolutionary assembly. This new name was given to commemorate the union of the revolutionaries from Marseille with the National Guard in Paris. The island was renamed again 1801 to Île Bonaparte, after Napoleon Bonaparte. Only nine years later, a Royal Navy Squadron invaded the island and changed the name back to Île Bourbon. Five years later, the island was restored to France, but the Bourbons had shown up again by this point, so chose to keep the name. When they fell again during the French Revolution of 1848, the island reverted back to Île de la Réunion and the local tourist board breathed a sigh of relief. One assumes they’re hoping the Bourbons don’t rise up again. “Oh for God’s sake, we just got some new brochures printed!”
This is a rainbow land of a thousand cultures, with people of African, Chinese, European, Indian and Malagasy origin emigrating here for centuries, together forming an eclectic and diverse indigenous populous as the island was originally deserted. This blend of cultures, faiths and nationalities, plus the effortless fusion of life on sea and land, gives this place a varied and rich flavour, one of the most equal, liberal and integrated societies on Earth. Music is enjoyed greatly by the Réunionese, with sega and maloya genres adding tremendous colour and life to this majestic place. The jazz and rock culture is extremely prominent, with dancehall, ragga, reggae, rap and zouk burgeoning genres, too. Sports and leisure activities such as football, handball and surfing, plus moringue, a combat and dance sport, are also popular. Literature, such as short stories and poetry, flourish here, as do festivals such as the film festival on the La Plage des Brisants beach and the Sakifo music festival. Food and drink are also loved, with rum very much the national drink.
This Creole place is often regarded as the sister of Hawaii due to its volcanic nature and the scorching climate. The sides of the volcanoes are densely forested whilst the lowlands are cultivated. The inland is awash with greenery, with huge ferns and rare orchids plentiful. The coral reefs and turquoise lagoons lap the edges of the tropical white and sometimes black sandy beaches, adorned with casuarina and coconut trees where one will, most likely, find a local or two enjoying a picnic in the shade. This breathtaking, extraordinarily beautiful and impressive land lures you in with the strong aromas of cardamom, pineapple and vanilla, a quite unique, invigorating and safe place. The friendliness, joyousness and warmth flowing through the veins of the Réunionese is nothing short of admirable, a gorgeous people in a gorgeous land.
There are sights to indulge in such as the magnolious and spectacular mountain pass known as Col du Taïbit and the Anse des Cascades, an unsullied and secluded spot to sit back, relax, and enjoy the heavenly realm you’ve found yourself in, such is the power of this praiseworthy spot. Truly remarkable and glorious. And then there’s the gorgeous and alien Bassin des Aigrettes, a sumptuous basin of antediluvian origin, a prelapsarian and ageless wonder. One can almost smell the luscious greenery and caress the fine droplets of water cascading down the rock. Empyrean and exquisite in the extreme.
Then there’s Salazie, a caldera that oozes colour and radiates a splendiferous aura, one that is arresting and breathtakingly captivating. The harsh rocks are covered like a sheath, a blanket of gentle greens and colourful plants, a hodgepodge of variety not unlike the island the caldera resides in. A charismatic and illecebrous place indeed.
But my favourite sight of Réunion is the wild and untamed caldera known as Mafate, a fairytale land from ancient times, one sprinkled with an incicurable and enchanting charm. Almost completely inaccessible, this stunning and flawless masterpiece is a glimpse at another world, its flawless form utterly majestic and ethereal. It exudes a beauty like a lullaby from a mother’s lips, soothing one’s very soul with meritorious grace.
Île de la Réunion. The island of warmth, rainbows and snow.
Images (Click on Them to Enlarge)
3) Bassin des Aigrettes
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