Natalie Roos is a Cape Town blogger who writes at www.tailsofamermaid.com. She recently visited Reunion Island as part of our #gotoReunion campaign and shared these hints and tips for South Africans coming to Reunion on her blog.
Reunion Island is a French department (or province) in the Indian Ocean. It is about 200km’s off the coast of Mauritius and a four hour flight from Johannesburg. South African citizens don’t need to apply for a visa to visit and can stay for up to three months. The island is famous for a warm, crystal clear lagoon and challenging and beautiful hiking trials. Not to mention an active volcano which can safely be viewed and even hiked. It’s also very famous for surfing, but recently the sport has been banned due to sharks.
The island has a very French vibe, blended with island energy. The roads and infrastructure are in perfect shape, due to the fact that the French government runs the island as if it were right in the heart of France. No potholes or shanty towns on this island.
The currency is the Euro and the food is a mixture of French and Creole flavours, with a lot of seafood thrown in. Think vanilla and coconut fish steamed in a banana leaf. The languages are French and Creole. Some people speak a bit of English, but it’s best to arrive knowing a few basic French phrases like “water” and “where can I find cold beer?”.
The island seems to run on rum, which is produced from the sugar cane crops grown almost everywhere along the west coast. It’s served in many varieties at the beginning of a meal, during a meal and after a meal. Local restaurants and bars take great pride in blending their own “rhum arrangés” or rum arrangement, which is made by infusing a bottle of the traditional Charrette rum with vanilla, coffee beans, fruits or even the fragrant leaves of indigenous orchids, called “Faham”.
The local beer is called Bourbon, after the island’s original name, but the locals call it Le Dodo, thanks to its colourful and iconic logo. It is delicious and served almost everywhere you can find food or drink. It’s legal to drink beer on the beach or walking the streets and in the humid heat, you’ll need it.
The volcano, Piton de la Fournaise, is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and it is closely monitored around the clock by a team of experts. It’s located on the south side of the island, away from where people live. It’s boiling heart is set inside a large caldera, so lava flows straight into the ocean, making it safe for people to live on the island. In 2015 it has been particularly active, and we even had the opportunity to see it spewing lava as we flew over in a helicopter with local company Helilagon.