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© Lionel.GHIGHI

Geography

An Island born 3 million years ago

With the combined forces of the ocean, the air and the movements of the earth’s crust, an island of astonishing scenery has risen from the sea. We are left with the three enormous ‘cirques’ (natural amphitheatres) of Cilaos, Salazie and Mafate, the deep valleys hewn into the volcanic slopes by the island’s main rivers, and the upper plains dotted with peaks….

Due to its relatively reduced surface area (2500km²), these abrupt mountains give Reunion a truly unique geographical identity. The flight across the island, either by helicopter or by microlite, is simply breath-taking.

The island’s highest point is the Piton des Neiges at 3 070 m. Its last volcanic eruptions were 16000 years ago. You can reach it either from Cilaos, Salazie or from La Plaine des Cafres, and people generally climb it in two stages, staying one night at the Piton des Neiges ‘gîte’ (hostel) before watching the sun rise over Reunion from the summit the next morning.

A volcano with easy access

210 kilometres of coastline

The coastline is mainly made up of cliffs and rocky beaches eroded by the waves. But there is a total of 35 km of sandy beaches running from the west to the south of the island. Places such as Grand’Anse, Saint-Pierre, Saint-Leu, Saint-Gilles (La Saline, l’Hermitage) all benefit from coral barriers forming shallow lagoons.

Due to the considerable wealth of marine life, these areas have been protected by a Natural Marine Reserve since 2007.

Micro-climates

The combination of humid tropical temperatures and an area of mountainous relief has favoured the multiplication of various micro-climates, thus contributing to the development of endemic fauna and flora.

From the dry savanna in the west to the humid forests at altitude, from the waterfall-covered windward slopes to the moonlike plateaux of the volcano, Reunion Island offers as many different natural environments as you may find on an entire continent. The coastal towns have developed while the island’s mountainous interior remains lush and untamed.