Reunion Island, located in the Indian Ocean, is a heavenly destination with no scarcity of charm and attractions. This French Island, often referred to as ” the intense island “, is a genuine jewel of nature, renowned for its geographical diversity, rich culture and fascinating history. With spectacular landscapes ranging from white sandy beaches to mountain peaks, lush forests and volcanic cirques, Réunion offers an incomparable range of experiences.
Whether you’re a mountain hiker, a scuba diving enthusiast, a gourmet in search of exotic flavors, or simply looking to relax on paradise beaches, Réunion Island has something for everyone.
Here are 3 water-related activities I’ve done during my stay, which I hope will appeal to you. If you’re more of a hiker, I’ll leave you with these articles, which I hope will inspire you.
- TWO ACTIVITIES TO GET TO KNOW THE MAFATE CIRQUE IN RÉUNION ISLAND
- A TREK TO MAFATE, THE MOST REMOTE CIRQUE ON RÉUNION ISLAND
A NIGHT OF RELAXATION IN A HAMMOCK ON THE BEACH
Spending a night on the Ermitage beach in La Réunion, in a hammock, in the company of my sister, her friends, a dog, her roommates, and several companions met along the way, was an experience that, at first, seemed unusual to say the least, especially where the hammock was concerned, having never had any pleasant memories of restful sleep in this setting. However, it turned out to be a memorable experience that I’ll never forget.
Let’s rewind. It all started with my sister’s roommate, who organizes occasional beach trips for tourists. Let’s be honest, when I was told I’d be spending a night in a hammock, “delighted” wasn’t the first word that came to mind to describe my state of mind. However, the idea began to grow and I eventually welcomed the opportunity to experience an evening on the beach and discover more of Réunion’s Creole culture.
If you don’t have a hammock, that’s no problem at all, as a sleeping bag is all you need to spend a night under the stars. Our choice to sleep in hammocks was mainly due to the advantageous topography of Ermitage Beach, which abounds in suitable trees for hanging several hammocks close together. This allowed us to set up on the water’s edge, in an idyllic setting, for a night under the stars, lulled by the gentle murmur of the waves. All you have to do to enjoy this experience is head to Ermitage Beach.
As dusk sets in and the sun sinks into the horizon, l’Ermitage beach transforms into a veritable haven of peace, and my sister’s roommate turns into a chef. Palm trees silhouetted against the orange sky, creating the ideal setting for a relaxing evening with friends, family or lovers.
For my part, I found myself playing the role of (quality) kitchen assistant, chopping up the vegetables that would turn our meal into a feast.
The evening’s menu included a delicious rougail bringelle, a dish based on eggplants. Of course, we’d had to bring all the necessary equipment to cook on the beach. But if you’re a tourist looking for a Creole experience without the hassle of preparation, just head to any of the island’s stores, grocery stores or even gas stations to concoct a Reunion feast.
You’ll find a variety of delicacies, such as samoussas, bouchons (fritters made from cod or salted fish, but also other ingredients, fried to perfection), bonbons piments (spicy little fritters made from lentils and chillies), potato cakes (baked sweet potato desserts, surprisingly sweet), and above all, rhum arrangé, a local tradition based on rum infused with fruit, spices and various ingredients, creating a palette of unique flavors to discover.
Several friends of my sister’s roommates were present, sharing anecdotes, laughter, and dreams under the starry sky. It was a memorable evening of fireside chats about life on Reunion Island, but also about life in mainland France, and even about Switzerland, my home country, which sometimes seems quite unfamiliar to native islanders. A total disconnect from the outside world.
And then, once we’d carefully set up our hammocks between the trees, we stretched out, letting the sea breeze envelop us. The gentle rocking of the hammocks quickly lulled us into a surprisingly restorative sleep (after the hike to Mafate that had martyred my knees). The waves, with their rhythmic caress on the shore, offered a soothing melody, while the salty scent of the ocean permeated the atmosphere, allowing me to sleep like a baby and wake up in the early hours of the morning to the rising sun’s glow. And so, who would have thought?
The dawn on Ermitage Beach was simply revitalizing. The vivid hues that gently invaded the sky, in harmony with the surf of the ocean that resumed its melodious song, woke us up in an atmosphere of welcome calm, before the return of the (many) bathers.
After a hearty breakfast, we were ready for our next activity.
SCOURING REUNION’S MARKETS: A COLORFUL JOURNEY OF CRAFTS AND CULINARY DELIGHTS
As I’ve already explained, Réunion Island is a veritable paradise for lovers of exotic cuisine and cultural discoveries. One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the island’s rich culture and gastronomy is to visit its local markets. These markets are essential meeting places where you can discover fresh produce, eclectic local crafts and traditional dishes, all in a vibrant, warm atmosphere.
Réunion is home to a variety of markets, each with its own atmosphere and specific products. Among the most popular, all located on the west coast, are the Saint-Paul market (every Friday and Saturday morning), the Saint-Denis market (every Sunday morning), the Saint-Pierre market (every Saturday morning), and many others. For my part, I was lucky enough to discover the lesser-known, but more authentic and charming, Ermitage market, which is well worth a visit if you’re spending the night at the beach.
L’Ermitage-les-Bains, located on the west coast of La Réunion, is an ideal destination for beach lovers and lovers of exotic cuisine. Just like the coffee culture (to read the article here), wandering through the island’s markets allows you to discover a reflection of the island’s cultural diversity. You’ll find French, African, Indian, Chinese and Malagasy influences blending to create a mosaic of unique flavors.
And its location is somewhat idyllic, right on the seafront, offering visitors a breathtaking view of the Indian Ocean. It’s usually held every Sunday morning, but it’s best to check local schedules to make sure you don’t miss out. The beachfront location adds a unique dimension to the experience, as you can sample local dishes while enjoying the sea breeze and the soothing sound of the waves.
However, the area is divided into two parts: one dedicated to culinary delights and the other to local crafts. So, it’s a must to sample the local produce and the daily life of the inhabitants who come to the market. It perfectly embodies the spirit of La Réunion, an island where cultural diversity and generous flavors meet by the ocean.
Exotic spices and Creole products, such as curry and rougail, are also abundantly present on the stalls. The lively atmosphere and vibrant colors of this market make it a unique sensory experience. Vegetable achards, mango achards, rhum arrangé and the famous “ti’punch” are just some of the delicacies you can sample on the spot or take away with you as a souvenir.
As well as food, Réunion’s markets are also ideal places to discover local crafts. You can buy coral jewellery, hand-woven baskets, exotic wooden objects and many other souvenirs. Local artisans are often on hand to discuss their work and explain the traditions behind their creations.
Ultimately, the Hermitage market is much more than just a place to shop. It becomes a place where locals gather to socialize, where local musicians can play traditional music and where visitors can immerse themselves in Reunionese culture. The atmosphere is warm and friendly, making it a pleasant experience for all.
HUNTING FOR WATERFALLS IN REUNION ISLAND
Well, you guessed it, Réunion Island is an open-air paradise for nature lovers. Among its many natural wonders, the island’s spectacular waterfalls are among the most impressive. These majestic waterfalls, sometimes nestled in the heart of the lush jungle, offer magnificent panoramic views. And where there’s a waterfall, there’s often a bathing pool. Some are very accessible, while others are more of an expedition.
Naturally, there are dozens of them, and with only ten days on-site, I had to choose which one I would prefer to discover. For example, a glimpse of the Cascade du Trou de Fer would have been a memorable experience, but too difficult in terms of logistics or time. Indeed, the best would be to see it from the skies, either aboard an ulm or a helicopter. Both options are too expensive, a little dangerous for the ulm, and not very environmentally friendly for my taste. There are, however, some great hikes from the mainland to get you there. Check out the Rando Pitons website for more information. I would also have liked to visit the Takamaka Valley, home to dozens of waterfalls and marvellous vegetation. This is because it is part of the island’s wettest region.
What’s more, the Cirque de Salazie is renowned as Réunion’s waterfall kingdom. I’ll be writing about it and its waterfalls soon.
Bassin des Aigrettes and Bassin Cormoran
My first day on the island was devoted to discovering the waterfalls on the west side of the island. Indeed, the west of Réunion Island (the most touristic part and where most of the inhabitants live) is indisputably less rich in waterfalls than the interior or the east. But then, I had gently understood that everything takes time in Réunion and that distances, even short ones, can take longer than expected (traffic, road conditions, etc.). So I revised my itinerary to take advantage of the wonders that greeted me in the vicinity of where my sister lived and worked.
So, if you’re staying on the west coast during your stay, I advise you to head for the waterfalls of the ravine Saint-Gilles, which are Bassin des Aigrettes, Bassin Malheur and Bassin Cormoran.
Although access to them is officially forbidden by prefectural decree, these basins are very easily accessible and, therefore, much visited, especially the Aigrettes, which is the most beautiful.
To get there, you’ll need to park at the X parking lot or along the road, following all the cars already parked (yes, this walk is a success). Then, just past the refreshment station, a small path leads off to the right (this is where you’ll see the “no trespassing” sign). After a few tens of minutes of descent, you start to walk along the canal, which gives quick access to the Bassin des Aigrettes waterfall and its swimming pool, then further downstream to the waterfall and Bassin Malheur, something I didn’t undertake, as I didn’t have the time.
I preferred to enjoy the soothing power of the cascade des Aigrettes after the 11 long hours I’d spent flying in the low-cost FrenchBee, but also after this short walk which, although flat, offers a few more complicated passages. Indeed, you’ll still have to pass a sandy passage with a rope (still relatively easy if you’re used to walking) and a passage over a gate. The latter is sometimes barricaded, requiring visitors to pass under the grate and into the canal. However, this was not the case on my visit, and I was able to continue unhindered.
Retracing my steps, I turned left to discover the Cormoran Basin. Naturally, I followed a couple of hikers who led me down the wrong path, losing about twenty minutes in the process. Indeed, the trail is not very well signposted, so it’s best to have roaming and be able to follow the route on the Rando Pitons app (here in French). Which I did, of course, after getting lost.
A little aside. Being alone on this hike, I had underestimated the fact that the trails were not signposted. Most of the information on discovering the ravine pools is given as easy, with no real difficulty. So make sure you know where you’re going, and always have access to a roaming network with you when you hike!
Cascade Langevin is one of Réunion Island’s most emblematic waterfalls. Located in the so-called wild south of the island, it is famous for its natural pool of clear water, perfect for swimming. However, if you can manage it, which is no mean feat, even I’d give up.
Let me explain. To see the Langevin waterfall in all its splendour, you have to clamber over high and numerous pebbles, which can sometimes be slippery, due to a torrential tropical downpour such as Réunion Island often gets. So, before breaking a limb, I preferred to turn back, as I already had a good view of the lush walls and the trickles of water flowing down them.
Indeed, Cascade Langevin, which may also be known as Cascade Grand Galet, is characterized by multiple small cascades stretching along a vegetation-covered rock face, plunging into a wide, clear-water basin. This idyllic setting offers the opportunity for swimming and canyoning, which my sister’s friends did. For those who enjoy this kind of activity, the experience is said to be memorable, especially when you cross the basin by zip line.
A road leads to the waterfall. Here you’ll find a small parking lot. From here, it’s another 100 metres along the road before a sharp bend. At the bend in the road, step over the ledge and begin your descent into the woods, leading to the river and the large rocks I mentioned earlier. Good shoes are highly recommended!
One last waterfall?
Once again, a hike I wanted to undertake, but which turned out to be too complicated, firstly because I was on my own, and then because I had to work around my schedule (since I was borrowing my sister’s car and had to pick her up from work). It was the hike to reach the Grand Bassin islet and the waterfall of the same name.
However, located in the south in the commune of Le Tampon, the superb Grand Bassin waterfall is effortlessly visible from the Bois Court clock tower overlooking the Grand de Bassin islet, the Bras de Sainte-Suzanne and the Bras des Roches Noires. Although not close to the waterfall, this alternative offers a magnificent view of the valley below.
What water-related activities have you undertaken during your stay in Réunion Island?