Réunion Island: Like “Survivor” Minus The Bad Bits

There’s a fresh Indian Ocean island escape turning our heads seaward. While Reunion Island has filled the same section of the sea since the 1700s when it was occupied by the French and officially named “Réunion” (prior to this not much is recorded about the island’s history), when it comes to tourism it’s been largely blind-sided by the perennially popular beaches of Mauritius, Mozambique, Madagascar, Zanzibar and the like.

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In 2014 the Reunion Island Tourism Board has shifted their focus from mainland France – the island’s “Mother Ship” if you will – to South Africa and other emerging markets, and like an ‘itch not scratched’ they’ve been promoting the heck out of it this year. Even if you look at it objectively, it’s no wonder the island is a super alternative to the ‘more of the same’ breakaways mentioned earlier.

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Despite its Euro, a possible deterrent for budget conscious South African travellers, it still has many competitive advantages over its peers mentioned earlier, catching the imagination of South Africans pining after an idyllic ocean getaway of a new variety …

  • It’s visa free! This is extremely important for those of us saddled with South African passports, and the fact that Reunion is officially an “overseas departmente of France” doesn’t factor into the paperwork of your travels as it’s not in the Schengen area. As such the admin is waived allowing SA passports free entry for 90 days without the rigmarole of getting a visa.
  • Its modern infrastructure will remind you of Europe while the exceptional natural landscape lends itself to an unsurpassable quality of life.
  • It’s slightly closer to South Africa than Mauritius. And with direct flights between Johannesburg and Saint-Denis on Air Austral, the national carrier of Reunion, it’s never been easier to get to the island from South Africa.

Travelstarter Diana Steele just returned from a week-long trip to Reunion where she joined select members of the South African travel trade to take part in the Mascarun – an active introduction to the island and the many adventures it holds …

Travelstart's Diana Steele on Reunion Island.

Travelstart’s Diana Steele in Reunion

In addition to Reunion’s reputation for beaching, history and romance, Diana’s tales go far beyond these nuances; unlocking Reunion’s adventurous side and the reason we think it’s probably your best bet if you’re looking for an idyllic “Survivor” style getaway sans the awful bits like trying to light a fire with wet tinder, solving silly puzzles, and being forced to shack up with castaways of varying degrees of emotional competence …

Diana on Reunion Island …

The Food
“Local food is Creole style cuisine and they love to picnic. The locals say their national sport is picnicking and it’s not uncommon to bring big pots of food to a picnic where dishes compete against each other.”

To Do
“Hiking, river rafting, kloofing, and glass bottom kayaking were my favourites; however, the helicopter flip over the cirques was undoubtedly the highlight!”

Tips
“Self-drive and buy food from the food trucks as they have delicious and affordable options. Pack insect repellent as there are lots of mosquitos.”

In Summary
“Reunion’s diversity has led the locals to explain it as “mini worlds” in one destination … it’s an adventure destination supreme for the young at heart!”

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Our Readers Comments

  1. Hi, where is the first photo?

    • Hi Leon, this is the Takamaka valley in the east of Reunion 🙂

  2. Reunion is certainly an island of contrasts. Awesome amazing – it will definitely be a week packed with excitement – you’ll be tired!!!! 🙂 and you must go back, because after the week, you’ll realize that you haven’t covered everything – I’m going back to visit our friends

  3. You didn’t give us any information… There was an introduction and then nothing more? ? Volcanos etc? ?

  4. Reunion is truly Paris in paradise! I travelled alone and used buses..it was heaven..not touristy at all..absolutely God’s garden of Eden!

  5. Have been many times and it is NOT visa free!!….. unless rules were changed in past 12 months?

  6. Such a beautiful island – I lived in Seychelles for 8 years and Réunion was my bolthole for civilisation! Dentists and docs were great – and then wonderful friends as well. I remember saying that I would like to see a volcano letting off steam… well the fab friends phoned to say it was happening. Hopped on first flight and a chopper ride had been arranged to see La Fournaise letting off steam!!! What fabulous memories of Réunion 🙂

  7. Reunion is a beautiful place, affordable as well. I was there a month ago and loved every moment of it

  8. really lovely….will go one day.

  9. Need to know cost of return flight from Jhb only. Most economical please.

  10. We are from South Africa do we need a yellow fever injection or not

    • Hi Ronel,

      Thanks for getting in touch!

      When travelling from South Africa to Reunion no yellow fever vaccination is required! 🙂

      Marcelle

  11. One write up says there are direct flights from O R Thambo to Reunion then the link says there are no direct flights but a connection via Madagascar?

    I am interested in the costs of the flights – what link shld I use to get a quote?

    Thanks

    • Hi John,

      Great to hear from you.

      There are direct flights, however Air Austral only fly’s on certain days OR Tambo to Reunion – Saint Denis.

      If you would like a quote you are welcome to e-mail our direct sales team at: travelbar@travelstart.com and one of our Travel Experts would love to assist.

      Please send all your details: number of passengers when you are thinking of going and that you are looking for a direct flights. One of our Travel Consultants will get back to you within 2 working days.

      Alternatively you welcome to contact them direct on:021 468 4300

      Have a great day.

  12. Reunion was great. Fly air Austral to St Denis…rent a cheap vehicle at Garcia location….transport essential to explore the Island….west side warm and beautiful beaches for swimming at St Gilles down to St Leu….paragliding at St Leu…then to Lookout point over Maido….day drive to Cileous with its stunning views and pristine little town..another outing to the volcano at day or night time….travel to eastern side to ancient tree fern forests…then of course Salazi valley with its stunning 1,000m high waterfalls….European style towns..etc…my favorite was to stay on the western side and enjoy the most amazing sun sets on the beach after a full days outing…surreal!!

  13. I’ve been to Reunion 2 months ago. It’s a real gem in the Indian Ocean. I was so amazed by the waterfalls. The people are just amazing and friendly, even at the hotel (Akoya Hotel) I was staying, the staff were friendly and so ready to help. Had so much fun and the local food is so yummy even at the hotel, there was a variety of those delicious typical food. Another thing is make Reunion really beautiful is its cultural richness. If anyone planning to go at a destination with cultural diversity, natural surroundings, active volcano site and cheerful people, do visit Reunion. You can stay at Akoya hotel for enhancing your holiday experience.

    • It feels good to see that Reunion Island is really being appreciated by many people out there. Its flora and fauna is unique along with its waterfalls and its volcano. As for Akoya Hotel, I totally agree with whatever you’ve written regarding it. It is one of the finest hotel in Reunion which provides quality services and really good food.
      I will continue to encourage nature lovers to come and visit Reunions as well as Akoya hotel.
      Thank you.

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