We discovered a little known facet of nature on Reunion by paddling on the inlets of Etang de Saint-Paul. A haven of peace teeming with life just two minutes from the city!
There is a place on Reunion Island with a wealth of unsuspected riches: Etang de Saint-Paul. Downstream it widens before mingling with the sea and becoming quite visible. But on the other side of the main road the inlets are hidden from view by the vegetation: it is this unspoilt universe that we wanted to discover.
The area is classified as a National Nature Reserve and it can be visited in kayaks, accompanied by eco-guards. We met with Nicolas and Laurent who told us about the history of this place before we got on board. The lake is actually a labyrinthine water course, fed by several sources from the foot of the cliffs. It is on its banks that the first colonisers of the island settled in the 17th century.
Water hens, herons and dragonflies
Our kayak slides silently through the calm water of the lake. Nicolas has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the fauna and the flora. We kept quiet: as we turn a bend, we see a water hen. They’re very timid and lots of them live here. As soon as it senses our presence, it gathers pace, flapping its wings over the water to settle twenty meters away, out of sight.
A little further on, it is a striated heron – known on Reunion as a “butor” – which offers us the spectacle of its majestic flight. When man arrived, the pond was home to pink flamingos, and its shores to giant land tortoises, so our guides tell us.
Stop at Tour des Roches
After an hour of kayaking the vegetation becomes more dense, the inlet becomes narrower. Dragonflies in spectacular colours brush against us, we see chameleons (“endormis”) clinging to the papyrus stems. When we reach Tour des Roches, where children swim in crystal clear water, it’s time to make a half-turn, while Nicolas and Laurent continue their passionate commentary.
The lake is a true haven of peace, an oasis of nature just two minutes from the city. Exploring it in a kayak brings a real sense of tranquillity, but there are other ways of visiting the Reserve on land, on foot or by bike. An experience not to be missed during your holiday on Reunion Island!