This morning, I got up at the crack of dawn for an unforgettable experience: I’m going to watch the sun come up over the Piton de la Fournaise, before setting off to explore the wonders of the South of Reunion Island.
Between 4am and 5am (depending on the season): it’s still pitch dark when Damien comes to pick us up for our day of adventure. Aboard a Land Rover Defender, the children go back to sleep as we get to know our guide. Damien is passionate about his island, he knows everything about the history, traditions and natural heritage sites. In just a matter of minutes, the stars begin to disappear, and the sky turns red in places. The headlights of our 4×4 light up the red gravel road on the way to the Volcano. We make our first stop at the top of the Plaine des Sables, and already from here, we’ve got an incredible view. In front of our eyes, is a moon-like landscape, a huge stretch of volcanic slags formed between 65,000 and 30,000 years ago. We carry on our way, to arrive at Pas de Bellecombe just as the sun starts to rise. Now, the road starts to get a lot more bumpy, much to the delight of the children who feel like they’re on a fairground ride!
Sunrise at the Piton de La Fournaise
An utterly breath-taking show awaits us. The sun appears through the clouds to the right of Dolomieu Crater, the peak of the Piton de la Fournaise massif. Damien serves us a cup of lemongrass herbal tea to warm us up, and tells us all about how Reunion Island came to be, two to three million years ago. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but you’re sitting on a very big volcano, he says. Because Reunion Island is in fact a volcanic massif, measuring 7,000 metres in height altogether”. The part of the island we can see is only actually 3% of the massif. This huge “mountain” is comprised of a dormant volcano, the Piton des Neiges, and another volcano which is among the most active on the planet, the Piton de la Fournaise.
We set off again, this time with the sun beating down on us, and we discover all the different shades of red the volcanic rock has on offer. After a stop at the top of the impressive Commerson Crater, we head down to the greener landscapes of the Plaines des Cafres and the Plaine des Palmistes. It’s time for breakfast with some of the locals. The whole family enjoys the homemade jams and fruit juices. The children run around in the grass and get to know the animals on this small farm.
Next stop, Notre-Dame des Laves. This church was almost entirely destroyed during the eruption of 1977. Then we explore the lava flows of the volcano, along the Route des Laves. Some of them are still fresh, from a recent eruption.
Swimming in the clear waters of Langevin
During our lunch break at the Case Volcan, we all discuss our discoveries of the morning. The local fruit juices and traditional caris are absolutely delicious. We carry on our discovery of Reunion Island specialties at the Escale Bleue, where some of the most well-known vanilla of the island is produced.
Then we head to our final stop: Langevin River. At the end of the winding road, we come face-to-face with the huge Grand Galet waterfall. Multiple waterfalls cascade into a deep blue pool. But for swimming with the children, Damien takes us to the Trou Noir waterfall. The water is freezing cold, but so refreshing! After a swim, we hop back in Damien’s 4×4, a smile on our faces. We won’t forget this day in a hurry, so many new discoveries!