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Maïdo - Grand Bénare

Walking/pedestrian at Saint-Paul

15.4 km
  • Reunion Island, an island of beauty, rewards the early riser. You need to go in the very early morning to the summit of Maïdo, because generally the clouds cover the interior of the island in the middle of the morning. Piton Maïdo, located at... Reunion Island, an island of beauty, rewards the early riser. You need to go in the very early morning to the summit of Maïdo, because generally the clouds cover the interior of the island in the middle of the morning. Piton Maïdo, located at 2200 m above sea level, provides one of the most spectacular views of the Cirque of Mafate. It’s also the most accessible, a good hour from the west coast being enough to reach the summit. By car, don’t waste time admiring the beautiful, mysterious forest of highland tamarinds; you’ll have plenty of time to stop on the way back down. Approaching Maïdo, the majestic highland tamarinds disappear, giving way to ambavilles, yellow flowers and thickets. Maïdo owes its name to the fires that have regularly ravaged this region: Maïdo means 'scorched earth' in Malagasy. A few metres from the car park, you can see from the Maïdo viewpoint a landscape both dizzying and extraordinary. At our feet lie the islet of Roche Plate and Bronchard with its very flat top. Dominating the Cirque of Mafate more than 1000 metres up There is so much emotion as you contemplate this superb panorama that you forget about time. Beyond its exceptional landscapes, Cirque of Mafate is also a region with real history. It was the runaway slaves, known as "marrons", who first populated this cirque in the 18th century. Thanks to its rugged terrain and difficult access, Cirque of Mafate was, during the tragic period of slavery, a special place for runaway slaves, and became the natural refuge for black slaves, eager for freedom and dignity. Camps were set up here, whole families came to seek their freedom and a new life. In this way, sheltered by the mountains, yet thriving all the same, in this time both distant and near, a banished people began to build a semblance of normal life, enjoying more peaceful days, eating wild brèdes (edible leaves), cabbage palm and potatoes and, of course, game.
    Grand Bénare is one of the 3 highest peaks on the island at 2896m. Dominating the Cirques de Mafate and Cilaos, it’s one of the exceptional viewpoints over Reunion Island. We visit Grand Bénare via the Grand Bord trail, so named because it runs along the crest line overlooking the Cirque of Mafate. With each passing moment of the hike, this spectacular trail offers views of the cirque. The Piton des Neiges massif comes into view little by little, and at the halfway point, you can see the summit of Piton des Neiges. Make regular stops to admire the background of the Cirque of Mafate, the sites of Trois Roches, Plaine aux Sables and Marla each revealing themselves. The trail itself is stony and the high-altitude vegetation may seem monotonous, but the reward is well worth the effort. From the summit of Grand Bénare, marked by a large white cross, the Cirques de Mafate and Cilaos stretch out before you, separated only by the ridge that goes from Gros Morne to Grand Bénare via 3 Salazes, Tête de Chien and Col du Taïbit. In the Cirque of Cilaos, the village of Cilaos can be made out, and further on, Bras Sec. Ilet des Salazes is at your feet, as is Mare de Kelval and Marla. In the distance and far beyond the rampart of the cirque, you’ll see the volcano.
    The climate is harsh at this altitude. In winter, it's very cold, so don’t forget to cover up. Conversely, in summer, the terrain offers no shade, and the heat and sun are relentless. You have to remember to protect yourself with a hat and sunscreen. Take enough water; there’s no water available on this massif. It’s a good idea to leave early: this hike isn’t easy, and it’s better to arrive before 10.00 am at the top of Grand Bénare, because as soon as convection begins, lots of clouds rise along the ramparts of Mafate.
  • Difference in height
    857.6 m
  • Route interest
    The viewpoint over the Cirque of Mafate from the top of Maïdo The Grand Bord trail on a balcony 1000 metres above Mafate The view from Grand Bénare on the Cirques de Mafate and Cilaos and the Piton des Neiges massif
  • Equipment
    Gourd, raincaot, hiking shoes, energy food, sunscreen, bandages, paracetamol, hat, camera, detailed maps.
  • Did you know ?
    1/ A Malagasy sorcerer lived at the foot of Bronchard in a cavern near which flowed a spring of sulphurous water. This sorcerer was called 'Mafate' ('Mahafaty' in Malagasy meaning 'he who kills'). He was killed in 1751 by François Mussard, a runaway slave hunter, and gave his name to the cirque: ‘Cirque of Mafate’. The spring near which the runaway Mahafaty took refuge existed and an islet called 'Mafate' existed at the foot of Bronchard around 1870. There were even thermal baths here around 1860 that were very successful and the islet was renamed 'Mafate les Eaux'. In 1913, Mafate’s springs were buried when the Bronchard rampart collapsed.

    2/ Like many names describing landscapes, Bénare has a Malagasy origin and means great cold. To get an idea of the local climate, it’s worth pointing out that there’s a nearby place called La Glacière. This place was first used to produce ice around 1820. Soon, this trade allowed the poorest to gain additional income. Sacks, called gonis locally, were filled with 25 kilos of ice, then loaded onto the heads of the porters to be crushed, repacked and sold on in the lowlands. Madame Desbassyns, the famous owner of the West, had it sent to her son at Rivière des Pluies by a system of relays along with the mail.
  • Documentation
    GPX / KML files allow you to export the trail of your hike to your GPS (or other navigation tool)
How to reach the start
The fastest way is to take Route des Tamarins; the Maïdo exit is signposted. It’s located on the western part of the road at the village of Eperon. Then follow the signs that take you through the villages of Fleurimont, Guillaume and Petite France. You gradually pass from populated areas to cane fields and then forests. The climate of Petite France is like you get in urban areas. At this point, the forest is made up of mimosas, called cassia in Reunion Island. After Petite-France, the region is uninhabited. The road passes through a superb forest of highland tamarinds mixed with calumet bamboo, a variety endemic to Reunion Island, and ferns. The forest then gives way to high-mountain vegetation that’s shorter and more bushy: it shows you’re nearly there. After an hour’s drive from Saint-Paul, you reach the car park at the Maïdo viewpoint.
0 km : Maïdo - Grand Bénare 0 km : Maïdo - Grand Bénare 0,7 km : Maïdo - Grand Bénare 1,2 km : Maïdo - Grand Bénare 1,8 km : Maïdo - Grand Bénare 4,5 km : Maïdo - Grand Bénare 7,0 km : Maïdo - Grand Bénare 7,0 km : Maïdo - Grand Bénare
0 km - After admiring the view of Mafate from the Maïdo viewpoint, leave the car park heading south. Then follow the white markers which go left, which lead to the Grand Bord path, towards the mound. As you approach, the route is covered with red earth.

0.6 km - You reach the top of the mound on which stands a statue. From here, you can view the west coast. You can see the coast from Le Port, Saint Paul to the Ermitage lagoon.

1.5 km - Continue along the Grand Bord trail. The trail becomes rocky, but permanently overlooks the Cirque of Mafate, and you can continue enjoying the cirque throughout your journey.

2.4 km - You arrive at the junction with the Glacière path. To the right, the path leads to the Grotte de la Glacière. Continue straight ahead.

3.2 km - A few high-altitude flowers break the monotony of this vegetation which consists mainly of thickets. Half-way to Grand Bénare, we can see Piton des Neiges, which is no longer masked by Gros Morne, and admire more closely Trois Roches, Plaine aux Sables and Marla.

3.6 km - You reach a junction. Continue straight ahead.

4.8 km - At this junction, a trail heads off right again towards La Glacière. You’re still near the edge of the rampart, and continue to climb towards Grand Bénare.

7.0 km - The last part of the climb is made difficult by the large pebbles that make up the trail, but you’re rewarded by this panoramic view of the Cirques de Cilaos and Mafate. The return journey is by the same Grand Bord trail.
858 meters of difference in height
  • Start altitude : 2177 m
  • End altitude : 2177 m
  • Maximum altitude : 2878 m
  • Minimum altitude : 2174 m
  • Total positive elevation : 858 m
  • Total negative elevation : -857 m
  • Max positive elevation : 84 m
  • Min positive elevation : -84 m