Astronomy in its purest form
A Cruise under the Southern Skies
When I reach the Darse Titan harbour basin, dusk is settling over the town of Le Port. There’s a lively atmosphere in front of the FestiYatch team’s base. In the distance, I spot the huge, illuminated mast of the Maloya, the brand-new catamaran on board which I’ll be spending an evening under the southern skies…
I quietly watch Bruno Payet set up his equipment. Tonight, our guide is an astronomer with over 20 years of experience and he’s taking us out to discover the stars, from the waves of the Indian Ocean. However, the evening begins on dry land, with an introduction to the solar system using a professional telescope. I’m eager for him to tell us more about the sky, which has had me spellbound since I arrived on the island.
“Tonight, the big names are out and about,” explains Bruno with a wink. So, one after another, we put our curious eyes to the telescope and marvel at Saturn, Mars and Jupiter. The stars seem to be within our reach.
Bruno’s passion is infectious and, captivated by the incredible sights, we’re reluctant to drag ourselves away from the planets. But the stars are calling…
The crew are waiting for us in front of the catamaran moored at Le Port. All lit up, the Maloya is simply magnificent. It seems she is also the largest catamaran in the Indian Ocean. At 72 feet long and fully equipped, we have everything we need to get settled in. Upon boarding, we’re offered a drink and Creole puff pastry canapés: it’s off to a good start!
The light becomes more subdued as the boat pulls away from the light pollution and Bruno gives us a crash course in astronomy, using a video projector. There are a lot of children on board tonight, and Bruno puts his storyteller cap on, enthralling the adults, too.
Over Reunion Island, I discover the starry skies of the Southern Hemisphere. Here, new stories are just waiting to be discovered. I learn that, instead of the North Star, sailors use the Southern Cross to navigate. Four stars which shine just that bit brighter than the rest, around which you can make out Centaurus.
Once we’re a good distance from the shore, Bruno and the team invite us to the front of the boat. The best spots are on the trampolines, where you can feel the gentle spray of the waves and breathe in the fresh sea air.
Bruno was right – the sky is spectacular tonight. The sky over Reunion Island offers visitors the amazing chance to see the Milky Way, which crosses right up at the zenith. Covering the immensity of the night sky, it provides an incredible backdrop for the stars.
So, let’s start our treasure hunt. The atmosphere is perfect for families and together we have fun exploring the thousands of glimmering points in the sky, guided by Bruno’s laser. A few shooting stars leave us spellbound by this incredible canvas.
We would have stayed there all night, but the magic had to come to an end and we slowly made our way back to dry land. One thing is certain: tonight, it’ll be sweet dreams all round.