Cosmo-topia! Ill de la Reunion: Not for the faint-hearted by Antonia Vann

Posted on July 28, 2011

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So, quick debrief. Reunion Island is a French territory located in the Indian Ocean, close to Mauritius, to the east of Madagascar. We’re talking palm trees, flying fish, sparkling blue water and French-speakers. Everywhere. In fact, no one speaks English on this Island, not even in the tourist office. So, if you can’t speak French and are no good at interpretative acting, it’s not easy to get around. And even if you do speak French, you often find yourself in a state of confusion as their ‘French’ is spoken with a creole tang- a local variation.

A map of Reunion Island.

Why is Reunion not for the faint hearted, you ask? Well, not only must you survive the battle with the language, you are also faced with the prospect of meeting 40 different species of shark (particularly the Bull and tiger sharks who troll the waters near this island). Non-nature lovers, watch out. With 500 species of spiders (some of which are so massive that they carry their babies on their tummies), there is no casual ‘strolling’ to be done. March around with intention…and a hat, as the spiders create net-like webs right above the walking tracks. Gross. With an island full of crazy drivers who pay no attention to traffic lights or pedestrian crossings, two people in 14 days were knocked down while casually walking to the shops. Make sure you have your wits about you! Lastly, be prepared to encounter stray starving animals every day, their ribs protruding as they cry for your help. The only way to get through this is to have a heart of stone or, alternatively, a torn-up baguette in your shoulder bag to bring wherever you go. With extremely high prices for everything but rum and bananas (yes, get excited), Reunion Island is much more than just a casual holiday. Make sure you are armed with lots of mosquito spray to stop you being eaten alive, sunscreen to stop you getting burnt to a crisp, a French-English dictionary, a straw hat (just to look cool) and a long-sleeved top (otherwise people point and laugh at your white-ness as you walk past).

Time to end this negativity. People on Reunion are super friendly, in fact, so friendly that it becomes rather exhausting. It seems to be the custom to say “Bonjour” to everyone who walks past. If it’s a busy beach/street, things get hectic. It’s also an extremely beautiful island. You can swim/snorkel/dive in the crystal blue sea, mess around in protected lagoons, climb a volcano and sit in its craters, go horse riding on the golden beaches and take spectacular helicopter rides into ravines and over cliff-faces and waterfalls. This experience was one of the best in my life- it’s seriously breathtaking.

LAVA!!!

The food is also incredible. Weight watchers, this island is not for you, unless you are prepared to do some serious trekking. As the Creole and French culture has merged, you eat croissants and baguettes for breakfast, crepes and fresh goat’s cheese salads for lunch and then traditional Creole curries for dinner. You can get curried-anything here- swordfish, octopus, beef, chicken…the list goes on. Actually, they eat anything on Reunion- raw fish, pig trotters, they even ate all the monkeys once imported from Mauritius. Fussy eaters, don’t despair, there is definitely something for everyone.

When people think of islands they think of beaches and that’s about it. But there really is so much to do here. Apart from administrative measures- alerting room service that the sheets on the bed are covered in God-knows-what; that the floor is covered in soot; that there is an infestation of ants in your room; that your shower only shoots out cold water and that the neighbour’s dogs have somehow come into your villa and chewed up your clothes….there are fun activities too!!!

You can…

–          Go on a helicopter ride

–          Ride horses on the beach

–          Go to a rum factory to see how it’s made (free tasting session included)

–          Climb a volcano

–          Walk in forests

–          Swim in the sea/lagoons/waterfalls

–          Explore local markets (buy yourself corny tourist trinkets and…bananas)

–          Explore fantastic gardens (The Garden of Eden)

–          Go to a vanilla farm

–          Surf/white-water raft/paraglide

–          Watch whales/dolphins…

and so, so much more!

Pretty water!

With weather averaging about 26 degrees all year round, you leave with a perfect golden glow but do remember those umbrellas, as the island definitely experiences massive tropical thunderstorms and an occasional cyclone here or there.

So Reunion Island. A tropical paradise? Maybe not my paradise, but with complimentary shots of rum after each meal, great food, warm weather, a Wi-Fi connection, bananas, straw hats and salsa music being blasted out of cars instead of the usual ‘doof doof’, Reunion Island was definitely an experience not to be missed.

Had a recent Island Experience? Utopia, or the worst? Contribute your opinion below in comments

For more of You’re Dripping Egg’s Cosmo-topia! series, click here

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