Be well prepared to make sure you have a good time
Reunion Island is paradise on earth for hikers, but it is also a high mountain territory with intense rainy periods and fragile mountainsides! To get the most out of your expedition, it’s important to know everything you need to about the territory.
Think eco-friendly !
Important advice to keep in mind !
You need to book mountain gîtes in advance, for overnight stays and meals.
The peaks can be shrouded in the clouds from 11am: leave early if you want to admire the superb landscapes !
It gets dark early (5:30pm in winter; 7pm in summer) and very quickly: you must remember to take a headlamp with you.
The sun’s rays are powerful and there are often mosquitoes so remember to bring protection !
Up in the mountains (Volcano, Piton des Neiges, Grand Bénare,…), you could experience both very hot temperatures and very cold temperatures, so make sure you have the right equipment and food.
Don’t set off on long hiking expeditions if there is a weather warning for storms, heavy rain or cyclones !
There are markers at the beginning of footpaths indicating the walking time and main difficulties along the way: make sure you read this information to avoid any bad surprises !
The volcanic geology has turned the trails into cliffs (the “ramparts”) where falling rocks and landslides could occur: do not plan a hike along these trails during heavy rain and 3 days after the rainy periods (the ground can break apart as it dries, so the rain can make rocks unstable).
Many trails have sections that cross over the rivers: always check the level, current and colour of the water before crossing. Water that starts to foam or change colour is sign of a flood. In fact, a sunny day can often be misleading and it is sometimes impossible to predict heavy rainfall in the island’s highlands. Don’t hesitate to turn back, or wait for the water to recede.
It is very pleasurable to swim in the rivers but do not venture into the water if it is stagnant: it could be infected by leptospirosis, transmitted by rat urine. Along the coastal paths, the swell can be dangerous: do not go along these paths if large swells have been announced.
The footpaths of Reunion Island are generally not easy ones: mountainous terrain, steep uphill climbs, a great number of steps, ladders, muddy or stony passages. These characteristics of a tropical climate must be considered, when deciding upon a group’s ability.
During the cyclone season (December to April), respect the safety recommendations and keep yourself up to date with the different levels of alert. After a cyclone, when the alert has been lifted, wait to be given the go ahead for the site in question.
On the website onf.fr you can get information about the trails managed by the French National Forests Office in real time, and find out if they are open or closed. If a path is closed then it means it is still dangerous, even if the danger is not obvious (unstable rocks for example).
Eco-friendly behaviour to adopt
No rubbish, even biodegradable waste, should be left behind as it can attract rats and cats which can be harmful to the many birds of Reunion Island.
A particularly big threat to the island’s ecosystems is the spread of Invasive Alien Species: make sure you clean your clothing, shoes and equipment meticulously before entering the natural areas.
The areas around the most popular sites are turned into open-air toilets which is then unpleasant for anyone passing through: let’s change this behaviour, bury our waste and make sure toilet paper is picked up.
Wild camping is tolerated on the sides of the footpaths, but building fires is strictly forbidden outside of fire pits that have been specially created for this purposes.
Be careful and anticipate dangers: the mountains are a wide-open space and your safety cannot be guaranteed, everyone is responsible for their own actions there. A great number of professionals are on hand to help you explore this rich and exceptional territory. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice at the tourist offices.