On a journey for wild landscapes in the calderas of Mafate, Reunion Island

Mayotte and Reunion. Exotica with French charm

Mayotte and Reunion

Mayotte and Reunion Exotic with French charm

DATES ON REQUEST

Mayotte

Day 1. Arrival in Mayotte from Russia or Anjouan Island. Transfer from the airport and hotel accommodation for 2 nights.

Lemurs in Mayotte

Mayotte is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean between northern Mozambique and northern Madagascar, consisting of the main island of Mayotte or Maure, measuring 39 km to 22 km, the island of Pamanzi and a number of tiny islets. Geographically it belongs to the Comoro Islands. Population – about 250 000, are Comorians and Maoré (the descendants of the Arabs, mingled with the Malagasy and Negroes). The French in Mayotte – 10 000 people. Fertile volcanic soils and a coral reef surrounding greater Mayotte help the locals not to be poor.

Around 1500, Arabs in the Comoros founded the sultanate of Maore or Mauti, later interpreted by the French as Mayotte. The island has survived the rule of various sultans over the centuries. In 1841 the Sultan of Mayotte sold the island to France and Mayotte became a French protectorate earlier than the rest of the Comoros (in 1886-92). In 1975, the Comoros gained independence, and the people of Mayotte voted against it by a majority vote. In 2009, Mayotte became the 101st department of France. Comoros retains claims to the island of Mayotte (Maoré), considering it an integral part and one of the 4 autonomous islands of the Union of the Comoros.

French is the official language of Mayotte. Despite this, French is spoken by only a third of the population. Native languages of Mayotte: Simaore is a dialect of Comorian related to Swahili. Kibushi is a dialect of the language of Madagascar. Arabic, in which the Koran is taught in schools, as the main religion of the island is Islam. Mayotte as well as the Comoros is an incredible example of democracy for both African and Muslim countries – complete freedom of speech and a real multiparty system, intricately combined with the power of “cadis” – Muslim elders and judges. Maott’s culture is very multifaceted, for example 26% of the adult population (mostly women) regularly enter trance states and communicate with spirits.

Mayotte

Day 2. Tour of the island of Mayotte. New Solica Mamuzu, the first capital of Dzaoudzi, the old market, plantations of ylang-ylang and carnations. Drive to the eastern beaches of the island with the famous old baobab. Pristine forests, the Sulu waterfall which falls directly into the sea, the Kokoni botanical garden, in the center of the island and Lake Karihani with water lilies;

Baobab

The Arab influence in Mayotte is almost imperceptible. Earthen or wooden dwellings with traditional canopies and “bangas” roofs overlaid with the pinnate leaves of coconut palms. Lush coconut palms, multi-meter tropical vines and tree ferns, bananas, citrus fruits, mangoes and coffee trees, and even giant baobabs grow in Mayotte. The people of Mayotte are engaged in sea fishing and agriculture. The islanders harvest copra, export aromatic spices (vanilla, cinnamon) and the fragrant essential oil of ylang-ylang, whose six-petalled flowers are depicted on the coat of arms of Mayotte.

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Many beautiful beaches and good conditions for diving. Mayotte is surrounded by a typical tropical coral reef. It consists of a large outer barrier reef covering one of the largest and deepest lagoons in the world, followed by a fringing reef interrupted by many mangroves. The waters are protected by the National Marine Park, and many places are nature reserves. There are no less than 250 different species of coral and 760 species of tropical fish! Large liners do not enter Mayotte as they are obstructed by reefs. There are 8 species of turtles in Mayotte, but 2 species are more common: green and scaly. In your spare time, you can swim with turtles or colorful tropical fish, and even meet dolphins and watch humpback whales that come here to mate. Mayotte’s double coral reef, which encompasses one of the largest lagoons in the world, calls for serene swimming.

Dzaoudzi was the capital of all the colonial Comoros, and was the capital of Mayotte until 1977, when the capital was moved to Mamoudzou on the main island of Grande Terre. Dzaoudzi is located on a rocky ledge, which in the past was a separate island, but today it is connected to the island of Pamanzi and the rest of the commune by a boulevard of crabs, a road built on an artificial causeway. In Dzaoudzi there are buildings of the colonial period: the former governor’s palace, the “Eiffel Palace”, built of metal and lined with wood, the mansion of Rocher, the old post office, and villas of the colonial period with beautiful gardens. The old capital of Mayotte lies just 2,5 km east of the new capital Mamoudzou. The international airport of Mayotte is located on the island of Pamanzi.

Dzaoudzi

Mamoudzou (formerly Mzamboro), the capital of Mayotte, is located on the east coast of Grande Terre or Maures. The blocks of houses in the traditional local style are lined with palm trees and eucalyptus trees. All the same “bangas” – traditional sheds, individually painted, the walls are sometimes covered with graffiti with the most unimaginable combination of colors and objects. The economic center of the city is the Market Square – Place du Marche, where the bank, offices of Air France and Ewa Air, and the tourist office are located. Cultural heritage center, a complex of government buildings, carefully restored mosque. In the suburb of Cingoni, where the old capital of the Sultanate of Mahore was located, the ancient graves of the nobility of the 16th century have not been erased by time. The museum in Mamuzu displays a collection of artifacts that were wrecked on the island’s reefs. The botanical garden tells about the uniquely diverse flora of this corner of the world. The Mamuzu Oceanarium is open all year round, revealing the island’s exceptional underwater world. Birds of incredible colors and species are on display at the Ornithological Park.

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Reunion

Day 3. Flight from Mayotte to Reunion Island. Departure to Caldera, Salazi Canyon, the largest and greenest of the three natural amphitheaters of the volcanic island. Sunset and overnight in a hotel in Ad Bour, a mountain town with charming Creole houses and colorful flower gardens.

Réunion (formerly St. Apollonius Island) is located in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar and 175 km southwest of Mauritius, since 1946 is an overseas department of France as Mayotte, Guadeloupe, Guiana and Martinique. Réunion has a tropical climate, but the temperature drops as it rises in altitude. The weather is cool and dry from May to November, hot and rainy from November to April. The official language is French; most of the region’s population speaks Creole. About 90% of the population is Catholic. The island is 63 km long and 45 km wide; its hottest point is. Piton de la Fournes – a shield volcano on the eastern end of Reunion Island, which rises to 2,631 meters above sea level and is sometimes called the sister of Hawaii volcanoes because of its similar climate and volcanic nature.

Salazi is the most picturesque volcanic caldera of Reunion Island. Salazi holds a number of records related to rainfall and is considered the wettest volcanic cirque on the island. Hundreds of waterfalls pour down the high cliffs in endless torrents, irrigating the lush carpets of incredibly dense vegetation. Some flora takes up every available inch of space, and, for example, wild shu-shu bushes occupy almost half of the caldera. Among Salazi’s dizzying waterfalls, one of the most impressive are the Veil of the Bride, White Falls (one of the highest in the world!), and Iron Hole Falls.

python neuges

Piton de Neigez (French for “snowy peak”), a volcano and the highest point on the island at 3070 meters, is visible when approaching Salazi. It is at rest surrounded by calderas and canyons, and despite the name, it rarely has snow on top.

There are beaches on the island with blindingly white sand, some with lava black sand, and some with gently green sand made up of olivine crystals.

Reunion

Indian islands

Day 4. Journey south to Saint-Pierre, the capital of the south of Réunion. On the way stopping at Piton Saint-Rose on the east coast of the island. A visit to the Church of Our Lady of Lava, named after the eruption of the volcano Piton de la Fournese in 1977, which remains an active volcano. Continuing south toward the town of St. Philip. Stunning scenery, where various eruptions caused dramatic flows of lava. Overnight in St. Pierre.

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Our Lady of Lava (Notre-Dame-des-Laves) is a Catholic church in the east of the island of Réunion, famous for having survived the 1977 eruption of the Piton de la Fournes volcano. The red-hot lava did not touch the church, but bypassed it, which was a real miracle for the faithful. People always come to this amazing place.

chameleon

Saint-Pierre is a port city and seaside resort with stores, restaurants and bustling nightlife. The towns of Réunion are located by the ocean all around the island and bear the names of Catholic saints: St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Philip. St. Pierre has a beautiful waterfront and one of the largest and most beautiful markets on the island, selling fruits, vegetables, fish, cheese. The city’s cultural history can be read in its architecture: creole huts, colonial mansions, and an old town hall, a testament to the era of the East India Company. There are many people in Réunion who believe in magic and witches. In the town of Saint Pierre there is the tomb of Sitaranou, the patron saint of Réunion, who is believed to have magical powers even after death. Monuments to Cytaran can be found along the roads in different parts of the island.

The island of volcanoes – Reunion has absorbed the culture and traditions of Europeans, Africans, Malagasy (inhabitants of Madagascar) and Asians. Reunion has long been home to a huge Tamil diaspora. There are their temples in St. Pierre and in all the major cities of the island. It is not uncommon for the Tamils to hold colorful ceremonies on the beach with music and dancing.

Day 5: Excursion to the volcano Piton de la Furnez, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The itinerary along the Anclo Fuqua ─ a large caldera formed by the volcano, ending with an ascent to the observation point on the north side. Visit to La Cité du Volcan, a science center and museum. Return to Saint-Pierre and visit the oldest family rum distillery where the Saga du Rhum rum museum is located. Overnight in St. Pierre.

The Piton de la Fournes occupies about a third of the entire island of Réunion and rises to 2,631 meters. It is impossible not to notice it! It is breathtaking to see the impressive lunar desert beyond the horizon. It is as if you were on another planet! The eruptions began about 50,000 years ago, and the hot spot that feeds Piton de la Fournes is also known to have created the islands of Mauritius and Rodriguez. Records, which were first recorded in 1640, note that this basalt shield volcano has erupted nearly 180 times. The last eruption was on July 29, 2019. These days, Piton de la Furnez erupts an average of once every nine months and is constantly monitored by volcano experts, including scientists and government monitoring agencies, in case residents and visitors need to be evacuated.

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réunion, volcano, python de la fournes

The volcano is easily accessible thanks to marked hiking trails from the coast to the edge of the crater. On foot, by car, by mountain bike or, more unusually, by horseback and even by sigweed, there are many opportunities to make climbing the volcano a unique experience. The passage through Plaine de Sable is often compared to an excursion to Mars: a huge mineral expanse with reddish reflections gives the impression of landing on another planet. Piton de la Fournes, with all the other volcanoes, peaks and cirques – as much as 40% of the protected island of Réunion has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2010.

The island of Réunion has been exporting sugar cane and rum since the 17th century. Small distilleries produce thousands of flavors, including ginger, lemon, tamarind, vanilla or coffee. You can mix rum with herbs and spices for your own unique batch. La Saga du Rhum Museum tells the story of rum and its role in island life.

rum, reunion

Day 6. Excursion along the panoramic winding mountain road to Caldera de Silaos, another natural amphitheater of the island. Travel along the west coast of Réunion with a stop in the resort town of Saint-Lay and the island’s first capital, Saint Paul, with its beautiful French colonial-era buildings. Arrival in the capital of Réunion and overnight in a hotel in Saint-Denis.

Silaos is one of the three great calderas gathered in the center of the island around Piton de Neigez. The natural wonders, formed 300,000 years ago, are marked by chaotic topography: ramparts, gorges, deep valleys, craggy peaks to the sky and dizzying waterfalls.

silaos

There is also the Caldera de Mafate, accessible only on foot along a path in the mountains or by helicopter. This shows how isolated this natural site is from human activity. The villagers, built on small slabs – islets – cultivate their fields in solitude with nature. There is one school here, food is mostly transported by helicopter, and electricity runs on solar power.

Saint-Laye is a seaside town on the west coast of the island of Réunion, 51 km from Saint-Denis. In 1811 it was the starting point for the only slave revolt on the island. The memorial chapel on the cliff is a popular place of worship and is considered miraculous. In the mid-19th century, the island suffered a terrible cholera epidemic that killed several thousand people. The chapel was erected to commemorate the end of cholera.

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réunion island

Saint-Paul is the first capital of the island of Réunion, the city of Saint Paul. In this place in 1637 the French flag was raised and the development of the city began. The first settlers of the island lived in the volcanic grottoes. Interesting sea cemetery with pirate graves, among which the prototype of the pirate from “The Odyssey of Captain Blad” – the legendary Olivier Lavasseur. Beautiful colonial architecture – the town hall, historic hotel and numerous villas. The bay near the first capital is bordered by an absolutely black beach of volcanic sand and is not protected from sharks and waves of the Indian Ocean coral reef.

sen pol

Day 7. Free time in the capital of Saint Denis. Departure to Russia.

sen delhi

Saint Denis – the main city of Reunion, spread in the north of the island. An administrative capital, a dynamic city, and the pulsating heart of the island, Saint-Denis has its cultural treasures. Creole architecture can be seen on the Rue de Paris or the Rue de Marechal-Leclerc, where the Léon Dirks Museum with its contemporary art collections is open in a beautiful Creole house. The State Garden, the green lung of the city with fruit trees, exotic plants and landscaped pools, is a pleasant place to stroll. Museum of Natural History. The waterfront of Barahua, with its sea cannons, is a meeting place and the site of lively markets. Because of Réunion’s mixed population, Saint-Denis has many religious buildings: the Catholic cathedral, the Nour-Al-Islam mosque, the first mosque in France, and several Tamil temples.

Table of combined tours and flights

Country Dates
Eritrea. The ancient history of the young state.
Djibouti. As on another planet.
Somaliland. In the land of camels.
Somalia. A day in Mogadishu
Comoros Once in the Indian Ocean
Mayotte-Reunion Exotic with French charm

Visas for Russians in Mayotte and Reunion are required. They are issued at the French Embassy and visa centers. The applicant shall request a visa for each territory separately. Visa to visit the French Overseas Territory (TOM) – Mayotte and the French Overseas Department (DOM) Reunion is not required if: Russian citizen in a valid passport already has a short-term Schengen visa issued by the French Consulate General for 6 months, 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 years, or a residence permit or long-term visa of any Schengen country.

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