Long thin waterfalls on Salazie Mountain, Reunion

Réunion, The Intense Island - in a Nutshell

Author: Sue
Date: 18th September 2018
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European Africa

Réunion is a huge culture shock after travelling in mainland Africa. Arriving from eSwatini I’ve been catapulted right back into Europe. Four lane highways, modern suburbia and very, very French, from the moment that I step onto the Reunion based French airline, Air Austral, in Jo’burg (very good food for an airline.)

Who Does Réunion Belong To?

  • Réunion Island, is a French departement in the Indian Ocean, so it’s politically part of Europe and geographically part of Africa.
  • The currency is the euro and the official language (of course) is French. However, the majority of the region’s population speaks Reunion Creole.
  • The island has only been inhabited since the seventeenth century when people from France and Madagascar settled there. From 1810 - 1848 Reunion was referred to as Île Bourbon.

Facts and Factoids

  • Reunion is formed from two (dormant) volcanoes, which rose from the seabed. The highest peak is Piton des Neiges (Peak of Snows) at 3,071 metres. The other volcano is Piton de la Fournaise (Furnace) at 2,631 metres. This is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, erupting regularly. The last eruption was in April 2020.
  • So Réunion is famous for striking volcanic activity, as well as frequent shark attacks. This is why it's known as The Intense Island.
  • Réunion is a département of France, so its official flag is the tricolore of France. This is its unofficial flag. It depicts a volcano.
  • La Réunion is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Réunion National Park, which covers about 40% of the island’s area.
  • Reunion island has its own airline - Air Austral. Its headquarters are at Roland Garros airport near the capital, Saint-Denis. I flew on Air Austral from Johannesburg.

Is Réunion a Poor Country?

Despite its European aspect, Réunion 's dominant sugarcane industry results in poorly-distributed prosperity amongst its 840,000 inhabitants. As in many countries some have wealth, too many live below the poverty line.

What to Do in Réunion?

Head inland to the volcano parks and waterfalls and down south for the incredible coastal scenery, again shaped by the volcanoes. There are beaches - but disappointing ones - and check there's a shark net.

Leaving Réunion

A small dose of Europe was just what I needed after my month in the bush; it’s been a welcome and enjoyable few days. Downsides? It’s horribly expensive here. Set dinner with no choice - 29 euros. And it’s also one of those areas of France where inability to speak French is treated churlishly. The service at the hotel has varied, even when delivered by the same person. I find some of their accents hard to follow and my hesitation has often not been well tolerated.

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