Reunion Travel Guides for Backpackers

Hiking the Cryptomeria forest in Reunion Island

Hiking to “Îlet Alcide” through the Cryptomeria forest To arrive at the departure parking, from the city of Saint-paul we started our ascent by car until the entrance of the forest road n68. This road goes through a forest of huge Cryptomeria trees. I browsed the internet about Cryptomeria, it is a “monotypic genus of conifer in the cypress family”, indeed, we started our walk between those huge “Christmas trees like” trees. Drive slowly on the forest road n68, early in the morning the sun is in front of you and even with good sunglass, the visibility is very low. Cryptomeria trees were introduced in La Reunion Island in the 19th century to be used for construction and wood for furniture. On the road you could encounter wood cutting machines and loggers, so depart early and take your time driving through the forest. Continue driving until you arrive at the end of the forest road and park in the parking. After 5 minutes walking on a large path, you will arrive at the entrance of the “Foret de Sans-Soucis”, this can be translated “No problems forest”. Basic rules when hiking in Reunion Island Indeed there are “no problems” hiking this forest if you respect some basic rules: Arrive early. Passing mid-day thunder storms could appear. Do not try to enter this forest after heavy rain or during a rainy day. During your walk, you will pass in small rivers beds that could be flooded very quickly. So the best time to walk in this forest is during winter from June to October. Take with you walking sticks as you could pass through muddy areas and slippery paths. Add extra time to the given hiking times. For example, the board at the entrance (see image 2) gives 1h30 minutes following Cambour Path one way, we did it in 2 hours. Take with you warm cloth and rain coats. Remember you are entering a rain and humid forest at 1500 meters high. Take with you water and something to make a small pic-nic once you arrive at the “Ilet Alcide” The start of the hike The hike using Cambour path is not very difficult, we did it with our 5 years old child but it will seem very long as it goes up and down and especially at the start. The path is cleaned and regular maintenance is done. There are a lot of indications boards all the way long. You will immediately start climbing using man made steps (woods and rocks…) or natural made steps (rocks, tree roots …) for 3 kilometers. This is definitely a difficult way to start a hiking especially if it’s humid or after a rainy day. At some parts of this climb, you will walk of apparent root trees and pass under or over broken trees. This climb will bring you from 1300 meters to 1500 meters altitude. The fauna and the flora Your walk will take you through a thick forest of Jurassic like bracken […]

A Day in Saint-Denis: Making the Most of Reunion

If you're visiting Reunion Island, your most likely going to spend a night in Saint-Denis. Saint-Denis is the entry point for most overseas visitors and Reunion’s largest city. Nestled between mountains, sky and sea the city is a dazzling sight from above. It won me over before my plane had even touched the ground. Surprisingly this little French capital often gets overlooked by travelers eager to reach the beaches and mountains the island is most famous for. True, Saint-Denis doesn’t offer up any of Reunion's big ticket items, but for those with a day up their sleeve, it’s a great introduction to life on the island, and an opportune chance to soak up the French language and Creole culture that makes this place so unique. Here are a few suggestions that will help you make the most of your time in the capital. You may just find that one day is not enough! Explore the City's Colonial Past Along Rue de Paris Rue de Paris cuts through the heart of the old quarter and is a good place to start your day. Begin by popping into the Tourist Information Bureau, located mid-way up the street, and pick up a handy English language map. From here wander the length of the street, taking in the many monuments, churches and historical buildings that line the pretty boulevard. The bright colors and distinctive architecture will give you a real sense of what life was like in the French colonial era. Each site is also handily signposted (in English!) with explanations of its particular architectural and historical significance, providing ample information for those wanting to delve a little further into the past. Feel Sophisticated While Browsing The Galleries Many of the historical buildings along rue de Paris have been converted into small galleries and upscale boutiques. Most are free to visit and easy to breeze through in a morning. The most prestigious collection can be found at the Musee Leon-Dierx where, for just 2 euros entry fee, art lovers will be treated to impressive pieces by the likes of Toulouse Letrec, Renoir, Gauguin and Picasso. Visiting these galleries will also give you a chance to take in the impressive interiors of some the most charming creole buildings, a worthwhile reason to visit in itself. Reconnect with your Inner Child at the State Botanical Gardens At the far end of rue de Paris lies the city’s botanical gardens. This park offers a nice refuge from the heat of the city, and creates a real sense of whimsy that will enchant both children and adults alike. I couldn't help but feel like a kid again as I wandered under the majestic old trees playfully adorned with colorful parasols, paper lanterns and glistening lights. Over-sized paper-maché flowers sprout next to real ones, vine-sculpted chameleons hang from branches overhead, and creative fountains pop-up around every bend. For the kids there are also a few quite unique playgrounds, a splash-pad, and an enclosure where you can get up-close with parrots and turtles. When you are ready for a break, there is also a nice […]

Reunion island: the volcano Le Piton de la Fournaise

Le Piton de la Fournaise Reunion island Have you heard about it ? it's a little french island, lost in the middle of the Indian Ocean (I let you look for it on the map). This island came out of the water 3 millions years ago. Nowadays, it's a paradise, with amazing landscapes: lagoons of crystal clear water, astonishing coral reef with colorful fishes, wales and dolphins. Mountain reliefs, rivers and waterfalls , exotic birds and endemic spiecies…Between land and sea, nature lovers are gonna enjoy it. Not only Reunion island has a wealth fauna and flora, but an incredible culture with nice people too. When you start an adventure in this island, you come out change.   Le Piton de la Fournaise a must-see spot ! But first things first ! Le Piton de la Fournaise. One fo the most acitve volcano in the world. 2631 meters, erupting several times a year. 500 000 years of aged, it is classified in the world cultural heritage of Unesco. Being able to see the nature in all its glory. Feeling the ground rumbled under your feet, starring at the explosion of the incandescent lava. This lava, which seems to be made of molten gold and pure light, rushes down the earth. Do you see the picture in your mind ? This is definitely a must-see spot !   Let's have a journey in volcanic lands ! Located in the south of the island, the lava flows built the landscape and gain ground on the sea. It created black sandy beaches with fine and very hot sand (watch out your feet !). The most well-known is “Etang-Salé”, a fishing village, where locals enjoy a family picnic all along the beach or under casuarinas trees (but this is another story I'll tell you about it).   a real pilgrimage The best thing to do this walk is in the morning to have a clear lookout. But before reaching the top of the volcano, you have a long travel to make full of danger, so get prepared. Pack your things, a piece of sweetpotatoes cake for the road (a local speciality), bring your courage with you, and your friends too. Be respectful of the place (no rubbish left…) and try to not wake the volcano up, it is really moody. First, you have to cross an astonishing lunar and dry lands. Then, the climb of the volcano is like a pilgrimage. You walk step by step on a waste-land in a strange atmosphere. More the time flies and more the walk seems to be with no end. When the weather starts to get worse, the wind smashes your face without rest. If you don't pay attention, the sun will burn your skin. Follow the tracks or you risk to fall in a hole down. When you start to give up, you finally reach the top. And you are not disappointed by the travel. You can see the huge crater, make […]
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