What travellers can look forward to on Reunion Island
I’ll never forget the first time I heard about Reunion.
I was in Paris, it was early October 2009 and my producer, Gwenola, was running late for our breakfast meeting. Cold and miserable, I ordered a coffee in broken French. As the waitron walked away I again realised - even after living in the city for almost six months – that the only thing I had in common with other Parisians was a pale, pasty skin from a lack of summer sun.
Everything in me longed for heat. More specifically, for a beach.
(I am possibly the biggest beach bum you’ll ever meet. In all honesty, my favourite thing in the world is lazing away in a remote setting - preferably a tropical island of some kind – a place with white, soft sand and clear warm water… )
My coffee arrived and just as I thought my nose was actually going to fall off my face from the cold Gwenola arrived, cutting though the crowds outside Garde Lyon. She was practically glowing with her sun kissed skin and still so high on inspiration it was actually sickening.
“Désolé, Dee! Désolé! I was going to fly back a week ago, but I just had to stay … Reunion was magnifique! The beaches, the climate, the food … everything! Magnifique!”
I felt like throwing my coffee cup at her, or my frozen nose.
“… you would have loved it!”
For centuries the island of Reunion’s moonlike volcanoes, lagoons, lush landscapes and monumental cirques rising from the deep blue have inspired many. The island has lured me with the promise of her breathtaking beaches ever since I first learned of her. Today, almost six years later (and miraculously clear of any crimes involving a coffee cup against Gwenola, and with a still intact nose), I have to pinch myself every time I think of my trip to her next month.
I always try to manage my expectations, especially when I’ve been conjuring them up for years. Nonetheless, here are the the things I cannot help but look forward to:
• Knowing that I won't arrive feeling like a canned sardine
I wouldn’t say I’m a flight attendant’s worst nightmare, but when a journey is longer than four hours my legs attached to an 1.82m body start to get a tad … ahem … restless. The assurance of a direct flight under five hours and a ‘no visa requirement’ thrown in as an added bonus … well … that plays a significant role in the twisting of my rubber arm.
• Proving to myself that I can hike across towering volcanic landscapes
I have the worst feet. When I was 13 my bridges collapsed and two major surgeries later - one involving taking bone from my left hip for reconstruction - I have in 20 years not done a hike longer than a day. I look forward to three full days of trekking through a UNESCO World Heritage site, each step an affirmation of personal determination.
• Rediscovering myself in another’s household
I truly believe that authenticity lies at the heart of responsible and conscious travel. And what could be more authentic than someone’s home? Home stays in the Cirque de Mafate are right up my alley and I have a feeling I’m going to a real place with real people.
• Affirming my love for Creole cooking and culture
I recently visited Seychelles and I’m smitten with Creole cuisine. Reunion, sharing some of the same influences, will undoubtedly inspire my tastebuds and spice collection. Hopefully we will have the opportunity to help prepare some meals and scribble down some recipes.
• Learning from my fellow travellers
I’m a documentary filmmaker in ‘real life’, so to experience Reunion with the likes of Natalie Roos from Tails of a Mermaid, Mike Eloff aka The Lawry, Heather Mason from 2Summers, Instagrammer Andy Carrie, Carlinn Meyer from Superficialgirls and GQ Magazine's travel writer Tony Weaver is beyond humbling.
• Rewarding myself with a brand new beach
Reunion is an island, so no doubt this beach bum will be spending time on the shore and frolicking in the water.
Be sure to follow me on Instagram (and #GoToReunion on social media) for pictures. It’s my turn to be Gwenola, so jealousy on your part is guaranteed!
Independent filmmaker Daréll Lourens, produces short-form online advocacy documentaries for The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR). She founded The Good Holiday travel blog early 2014 and shares a weekly #tuesdaytravelstory about personal travel experiences so good, you want to take them home with you.
In April this year, The Good Holiday won Gold for Best Responsible Tourism Blog in Africa, proudly made possible by World Travel Market and the prestigious African Responsible Tourism Awards.
"When you’re on holiday you become a different person. You unwind, peel off outer layers, and willingly experience something other than your norm. The Tourism and Travel industry facilitates physical journeys, sure, but unlike any other industry, it has the opportunity - and therefore responsibility - to also help us venture with open minds to alternative lifestyles that are more sustainable, and hearts appreciating cultures other than our own. As a South African I honestly believe that when we all start travelling to the diverse corners of our own country and the world - and we consciously choose destinations outside our own cultural comfort zones - we'd dismantle the prejudice and stigma that continues to segregate us all."