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Réunion 2011

Time for the next leg of my Indian Ocean tour. I’d wanted to visit Madagascar, but the logistics of that were prohibitive. So instead I was heading from Mauritius to nearby Réunion Island (formerly Bourbon Island), which is part of the French republic and, therefore, a part of the European Union. They use the Euro as currency and have an active volcano – what’s not to like!? There are a very limited number of flights coming into and flying out of Réunion every week, though. So you have to be extra vigilant and get the airport on time, because missing your flight could mean being trapped there for days!!

Air Austral, Reunion
Awww. What a cute little plane. Look at it’s olde-style propellers and little body. Must be a local museum piece. Huh? What’s that? That’s MY plane?? You want me to get inside THAT thing?! SHUT…. UP!

As usual, I got the same typical #FlyingWhileMuslim welcome from Réunion airport border staff that I get in other parts of the EU as well. This really is a piece of France sitting off the coast of Africa. The main airport, Roland Garros, is close to the capital Saint-Denis, but it was more convenient for me – or so I thought – to fly into the smaller airport nearer my accommodation.

Pierrefonds "International" Airport
Pierrefonds “International” Airport is a little provincial runway on the south coast of Réunion Island. They probably get 6 flights a day on average. Not the most sophisticated operation but somehow incredibly overstaffed – there were more staff than arriving passengers. I guess that’s French efficiency for you!
Map of Reunion
Réunion has a region called “Le Tampon” which I found far funnier than I really should. I didn’t get to see it however. Instead I chose to base myself in the north eastern town of Saint-Gilles, which has the best beaches on the island – pure white sands like you wouldn’t believe..
Novotel Saint Gilles
I was staying in the Novotel Saint-Gilles, which is just a short(ish) taxi ride away from the airport.

Urban exploring

Day one, and I have to admit my choice of the Novotel wasn’t as wise as I’d imagined. In the European mainland, Novotels are mid-range hotels for corporate customers. They’re clean, modern, classy and gorgeous. This tropical island Novotel was none of those things. It wasn’t even as good as a Euro-level Ibis hotel. But it was a good base from which to explore Réunion’s beaches and urban coastal areas.

Saint-Gilles Les Hautes
Saint-Gilles Les Hautes, Réunion. They drive on the right here. Bloody idiots!
L'Hermitage beach, Île De La Réunion.
L’Hermitage beach, Île De La Réunion.
L'Hermitage beach, Île De La Réunion.
L’Hermitage beach, Île De La Réunion.
That mountain in the background is Piton-des-Neiges, the highest point on the island of Réunion.
Planning to see it up close and personal tomorrow!
La Villa Club, Reunion
Looks like Père Noël started early this year. Either that or he’s had one too many and ended up waaaay off course!
Le Loft, L'Hermitage
Le Loft, L’Hermitage. I wonder what they sell here…?
La Moulin du Tango
La Moulin du Tango! Sacre Bleu!
La Moulin du Tango
Mosquée Moufia
Lots of mosques in Réunion, but none anywhere near the tourist areas or the numerous national forests. So looks like I won’t be visiting any beautiful buildings like this one: The Mouffia Mosque in Saint-Denis.
Ile de la Réunion
Mosque on Ile de la Réunion

Le Cirque de Cilaos

The highlight of my visit to Réunion was a day trip to see Le Cirque de Cilaos.

Coastal exploration

Not all of Réunion is beautiful scenery and tourist attractions. Some parts of the coast are downright dangerous and in bad weather – which happened often – it can look as miserable as the British seaside!

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