When I was little, I used to think about travelling a lot, but unlike all the other kids, I didn’t dream of going to the “mainstream” vacation destinations like Paris and Rome, but rather, to places where humans don’t travel to very often to at all. One day, my friend and I found out that in less than two months, we would be the first Georgians to set foot on the southernmost island in the world … Reunion Island.
It was raining outside … the weather made everything seem gray and noisy. Boarding was underway for our flight from Paris to Saint-Denis. There was now only 12,000 kilometers left before our dream destination.
Nevertheless, sooner or later (more later), the giant Boeing began its descent and concluded its 12-hour flight at Ronald Garros Airport on Reunion Island (the famous French aviator who the airport was named after was in fact born on the island).
While all of Europe is amidst the peak of winter and cold, Reunion Island greets you with sunny summer weather and 35° Celcius.
From all the coasts of the Island, Plage de l’Ermitage (Saint Gilles les Bains) is one of the few places where swimming is allowed. Beautiful fish swim around in the ocean and if you look out from an elevated location, you are almost sure to see giant whales in the blue water as well.
Reunion Island is of volcanic origin. There are scores of giant craters on it and as surprising as this may seem, small villages are built precisely in these craters.
In Reunion National Park, you can find one of the most active volcanoes in the world – Piton de la Fournaise (French for “peak of the furnace”). It erupts roughly twice a year with the most recent eruption beginning in July 2017.
7 After 7 years of construction, a seaside “beltway” highway was recently finished which makes it much easier to get from one side of the island to the other.
Despite the density of the place, up to 150 different ethnic and religious minorities are settled here, making the whole place more pleasant and harmonious. Mosques, synagogues, churches and Buddhist, Hindu, Baptist, Protestant and various other religious temples and places of worship are scattered in all the small villages and towns, which are populated by a wide range of ethnicities and races such as Afro-Malagasies, Chinese, Indians, Vietnamese, Europeans, Creoles, and numerous others.
The island’s economy is mostly farming based. They grow corn, potatoes, bananas, Indian mangoes, vanilla and sugar cane, from which sugar and rum are produced.
Every Saturday evening, the families invite each other to parties and dance to traditional Creole songs until midnight. You will have to taste traditional bourbon beer and 49% ABV Rum.
On the Island, I visited 12 different cities and small villages – each of them distinguished by culturally different populations, history, adventures and diverse traditions. This is an island where you can freely “chill” under a waterfall or in a river, watch volcanoes erupt, swim with dolphins in the Indian Ocean, or hike around the jungle and/or desert.
Author: Murtaz Bolkvadze