11 religious buildings worth discovering on the island of Réunion, France

Let’s meet: Réunion!

Until February 2015, I had no idea that Réunion Island even existed. When planning a trip to Madagascar, we had a few days to spare, two of which we decided to dedicate to getting to know this island of mystery. Hearing such an exotic and unknown name, I immediately dove into the Internet.

My astonishment had no limits. Landscape, nature, beach, settlements…

It would seem that nowadays there is not a single “white spot” on the map, which would not be told by travelers. The islands of the Indian Ocean, real or virtual, it seemed to me, all of them. And suddenly a completely unfamiliar, but photographed very interesting island. Wow! In this confusion, we went to get acquainted with Reunion.

Information about the island on the Internet is very scarce. Found only three Russian-speaking travelers, sharing their impressions of Reunion. Natalia (Natali__happy) was one of them. Natasha has lived in Reunion for several years now, so I asked her for more information about the island. And there were a lot of questions. Natalya helped us to book a helicopter tour and found for us Vladimir, who lives on the island, who showed us the most interesting sights of Reunion. We are very grateful to Natasha for her support and help.

We spent a full two days exploring Reunion. On the first day we visited the Salazi Volcanic Circus.

On the second day we planned a helicopter tour

and a sightseeing tour around the island

with a tour of an active volcano.

The story of Reunion is reblogged from site to site. I can say that it doesn’t differ much from the information we heard from the local guide on the island. Everything is very brief and succinct. The first mention of the island was found by the Arabs in the tenth century. In these sources, the island is listed under the name Dina Margabin, which means Western Island. In 1500 the island was discovered by Europeans when sailors from Portuguese ships came ashore. In 1642, the island was proclaimed a possession of France and was soon renamed Bourbon in honor of the Bourbon dynasty of kings. At the same time, the island underwent an agricultural boom and large numbers of slaves were brought in from Madagascar and mainland Africa to work on the coffee plantations to supply the labor force. However, it was not until 1848 that the island finally acquired the name Réunion.

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To visit the island you must have a French (Schengen) visa. At the French embassy we were given a scratched sheet of A4 paper with some kind of a plate and a stamp, where our data was written, without any marks in our passports. To our surprise it said, “Guys, it’s okay. Don’t worry.” Well, how do you say “don’t worry”….Of course, we were on our way to Reunion with a grain of skepticism. What if they would not let us in? Well, the main goal of our trip was Madagascar, and then there were two more days in Mauritius. So we kept in mind a plan B – to fly from Madagascar to Mauritius through Reunion. When the customs service at Reunion airport asked us to wait outside until all of the passengers who flew with us had passed, we were tense. But the passport control representative who came up to us allayed our fears by telling us not to worry, that it was a normal procedure, etc., etc.

Even at the booking stage, the host travel agency of the island very brazenly tried to impose their expensive transfer services on us. Their reasoning, I confess, put us off. “Without a paid transfer in hand, and in both directions, you will not be allowed to the island, “- they said. We have a lot of experience traveling, but this was the first time we encountered such a requirement. And most importantly, it was hard to check. Here I once again used the help of Natasha, asking her to find out how much of this information is true. Of course it turned out to be complete nonsense. And it was absolutely understandable the indignation of Natalya that such nuances discredit the tourism business of the island.

And so, exhausted by expectations, we finally stepped on the land of Reunion. The first impressions on the way from the airport to the hotel: “Here it is, civilization. After ten days spent in Madagascar, the difference in living standards was so substantial, that other than to call Reunion Europe in another way it was impossible.

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More than 50 percent of the island’s population, according to Wikipedia, are of Creole mixed descent. The French, however, as well as Indians constitute 20-25%. And a very small percentage of the islanders are of other nationalities.

Located in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar, Réunion Island is the westernmost of the Mascarene Islands, which also include Mauritius and Rodrigues. Réunion, like its brothers, is of pronounced volcanic origin. And so pronounced, in fact, that the active volcano Piton de la Fournes never ceases to delight travelers and, I think, make Reunionists a little nervous with its periodic eruptions. There are two volcanoes on the island. The extinct volcano Piton de Nege is part of the mountain range of the same name and is about 8 million years old. It is the highest point on the island – 3069 m above sea level.

The height of the active volcano Piton de la Fournez – 2 631 m. and its age – more than 530 thousand years. The caldera of the volcano with a diameter of about 8 km is named Dolomier.

During our visit, it was cloudy, but we still managed to experience the caldera’s scale. And this is the small caldera of the volcano.

The eastern slope of the caldera has a break and goes straight to the shore of the ocean.

The most notable recent eruptions were in 2008, 2009 and 2010, when the liquid lava, coming out as a fountain from the cracks, streams rushed into the ocean. The lava flows crossed the road that winds along the coast, paralyzing and complicating transport on the island. And the local authorities had to rebuild the highway each time, knocking down layers of frozen lava flow.

Vladimir, who was our guide on one of our two days, told us that the violent eruptions of Piton de la Furnez are very spectacular, especially at night, when the volcano pours orange and yellow lava into the ocean, throwing fountains of sparks in the process. We, unfortunately, were caught in between two minor eruptions, which certainly made us a little sad. We really wanted to see a volcanic eruption in action.

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And these are blocks of lava, thrown out of the crater at a very decent distance, at least 500 meters.

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