Cirque de Mafate
A world apartScroll
Only walking allows access along the small mountain trails, or by helicopter. Its wild nature made it a worthy refuge for runaway slaves. Today, despite their physical isolation, the inhabitants are more than ever committed to this tormented land, living on plateaux or in the hollow of a secret valley, delightfully known as islets decorated with their coloured shacks. In total, 180 Mafatais welcome hikers who stop off here. The largest village, called "La Nouvelle", has just one school, electricity is provided by the sun, and a bakery and grocery stores are supplied mainly by helicopter. These are the wonders of this hidden paradise which has become part of the inhabited heart of the National Park, a World Heritage site. Nature is queen here, bursting out at every turn of a marked trail, the mountains are everywhere, the pitons form unimaginable shapes, the ravines, waterfalls and forests are a feast for the eyes.
Access: Mafate, with no roads, has a dense network of trails making life possible in the cirque. Hiking is popular from such entry points as Rivière des Galets, Maïdo, Dos-D’âne, Taïbit (Cilaos) and the Col des Bœufs (Salazie) where a monitored car park keeps vehicles safe.
- A hiker’s paradise
A hundred and twenty kilometres of forest trails lead you to the islets or village where you will be warmly welcomed by the people of La Nouvelle, Marla, Roche Plate, Grand’Place (you may come across the famous old postman of Mafate), the islets of Orangers, Aurère, Ilet-à-Bourse, Ilet-à-Malheur. You’ll be out in the heart of nature.
Select a hiking trail depending on the time you have to spare and your starting point. Check in advance on the condition of the paths. Holiday tips: don’t forget to take water, a flashlight, dried fruit, and old shoes to rest your feet and cross the streams.
- A haven of peace on the spot
You won’t find a cash machine, but you can buy bread at the bakery. Grocery-bars let you refuel and take on refreshments; guest houses offer Creole cuisine cooked over a wood fire. Mountain huts, well maintained, allow you to sleep in a dormitory, a double room or in a bungalow. Only the noise and the coming and going of helicopters will wake you up in the morning, a great opportunity to enjoy this magical moment.
Recommendation: Plan ahead, book your accommodation in advance, especially during Reunion’s school holidays.