When I go back to Reunion Island…

A couple of weeks ago I joined Urban Decay South Africa on an exclusive press trip to Reunion Island for the launch of their new Naked Heat Collection (watch my vlog HERE and my First Impressions Video HERE). It was a pretty crazy ride. We traveled a day there and a day back, with only one full day on the island, so we were all eager to fit an entire island holiday into 24 hours. While we experienced so many amazing moments, I realised there was so much more to do on Reunion, and the trip left me hungry to return.

Reunion Island forms part of the Reunion Island Natural Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2011. From the cool blue waters encircling the island the landscape runs up to ancient mountain ranges with magnificent summits and plummeting gorges. The most significant natural marvel, however, are the two volcanic peaks. One of these, Piton de la Fournaise, is an active volcano on the island, which means that you can head to the south-east side of Reunion to watch glowing rivers of molten lava moving down the mountainside and into the sea.

Aside from the natural beauty, there is a rich heritage to experience. The island is a cultural melting pot with populations from African, Madagascan, Asian and Europian decent, all adding a unique flavour to the mix. The official language is Creole, which has a foundation in French, and their culture draws from a variety of traditions.

Clearly one brief trip would only scratch the surface of this place.

So the next time I visit Reunion Island, I would love to…

…Live it up in luxury (again)

We stayed at LUX* Saint Gilles, a five star hotel that leads directly onto the beach. If you don’t mind spending a bit more it is certainly worth making this your base camp. Quaint creole villas are scattered throughout the large grounds, each separated into a handful of comfortable rooms.

Of course you don’t visit a volcanic island to spend it in bed, and the hotel by itself offers plenty to do. It is a perfect spot to explore the crystal clear waters around the island, with various options from transparent kayaking to snorkeling and stand-up paddle boards. Afterwards you can relax to the waves, tropical cocktail in hand, go for a massage at one of their dreamy garden booths, or get the heart rate up with a quick game of tennis. And then cool off in their large, sparkling swimming pool, a center piece surrounded by their various restaurants, pop-up bars and pool-side deck chairs.

…Explore the island

One of the best ways to experience the island is with a helicopter ride. A smooth flight takes you over the cool blue ocean (look out for whales during calving season), and over the grass lands leading down to the beach. Then up and up you go following the curve of the mountainside until the pilot suddenly dips his nose over the summit and into the valley, a roller-coaster plummet that suddenly reveals breathtaking gorges, waterfalls and rivers below. Sadly on the day of our trip there was a thunderstorm over the volcano and we couldn’t fly over it, so this is going back on my bucket list. LUX* Saint Gilles also offers VIP Heli trips where your private helicopter tour culminates in a gourmet meal. Tempting. Very tempting.

When I go back to Reunion, though, I definitely want to tackle those mountains on foot. Reunion Island offers a range of hiking trails, starting at easy 5km routes. This is a great link to start planning a hike. There are quite a few to choose from, rated from easy to hard. I would stay for a couple of days and tackle a few trails at different spots on the island during that time.

I also discovered that LUX* Saint Gilles offers a Volcano Magic 4×4 tour that covers the Piton de la Fournaise volcano, the Col de Bellevue mountain pass, Biberon waterfalls and the famous Notre Dame de Laves church. You also get to have lunch at the gorgeous Anse des Cascades before taking on the lava tunnels with a certified speleologist.

…Get a taste for the culture

Our day in Reunion ended with dinner right by the beach, where we were served freshly cracked coconuts to sip alongside Aperol spritz and white wine, while a live band and dancers entertained us with some local music. The island has two popular styles of music, Maloya and Séga, which was originally created by African and Madagascan slaves and has since infiltrated a range of genres. It is festive, upbeat and mesmerizing, with dancers twirling continuously to the drum and strumming of a guitar.

I would also really like to head back and try more of the local cuisine. Combine French, Indian, Chinese, Madagascan and East African influences with a wealth of tropical climate produce and things can only be delicious. I really want to visit Saint-Paul market on my next trip, where dozens of stalls sell vegetables, exotic fruits, spices and local eats from Friday to Saturday – a perfect spot to sample local dishes.

The island also hosts a number of festivals celebrating their rich cultural heritage, including Diwali, The Chinese New Year, Christmas and their Ethnic Diversity Freedom Festival. It could be worthwhile to schedule a trip around these and really get a feel for their traditions.

Reunion offers so much to do, taste and experience. I can’t wait to book my next flight.

A few things to know

  • Reunion Island is a region of France and trades in Euros
  • The main language is Creole, which is founded in French. Most people we interacted with spoke English well enough though.
  • South Africans don’t need a visa to visit Reunion
  • Your flight from Johannesburg to Reunion is just over 3 hours, but Reunion Island is two hours ahead of us.
  • The flight to Reunion Island only travels a few times per week, so plan accordingly.
  • The weather is tropical, with warm temperatures and a high humidity. Wear light, breathable fabrics.

To help you plan:

luxresorts.com

en.reunion.fr

reunionisland.net

Follow them on Instagram:

@gotoreunionsa, @luxsaintgilles and #GoToReunion

 

3 Comments

  1. Rae Tigere August 16, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    Reunion looks SO beautiful. 😍 High key jealous.

    Reply
    1. Malherbe Liezel August 17, 2017 at 3:31 pm

      We only saw a corner of it. I would love to go back for two weeks and really explore. But yes, it really is paradise.

      Reply
  2. Donae August 18, 2017 at 7:36 am

    thanks for the post – looks awesome. I’ve often looked at Reunion as a possible holiday destination given that its fairly close, has sun, sea and tropical weather!! But my husband and kids are all surfers and the island gets a bad rap for sharks (true story) – looking at your pics makes me want to go – maybe I’ll go without them!!!!

    Reply

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