Reunion - Cilaos

La Réunion Walking Tour: a Tropical Island in the Indian Ocean


This tropical département, set in the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and Mauritius, is one of France’s best kept secrets. Within the mother country, Réunion is acknowledged as a destination of outstanding natural beauty with a rich network of walking trails, but outside France little is known of the island. During our two week La Reunion walking tour we discover many aspects of this uniquely hospitable and multicultural society.

We walk in tropical forest; explore the moonscape of La Réunion’s active volcano, Piton de la Fournaise; swim and snorkel from a sand beach protected by offshore coral reefs and visit historic coffee and sugar estates, botanical gardens and museums depicting the island’s fascinating history.

We enjoy Creole and French cuisine accompanied by (perfectly stored) French wines while based in hotels ranging from an African style lodge in the hills on the east coast to beachfront Creole villas on the Lagoon set in gardens shaded by palm trees, and a former East India Company Palace in the centre of Réunion’s appealing capital, St Denis.

HIGHLIGHTS of the tour include:

  • Escaping November weather to a French jewel in the tropics
  • Walks in the spectacular scenery of the island’s interior surrounded by forested peaks and cascading waterfalls
  • A day exploring the active volcano, Piton de la Fournaise, on foot
  • Visits to tropical gardens, historic estates and museums depicting the island’s history
  • Relaxing in stylish hotels across this fascinating island, enjoying Créole and French cuisine with great French and South African wines
DAY 1                                                                                                                  
L, D included

After meeting in the morning at St Denis airport, we have an hour’s transfer along the coast to Hell-bourg, set on the slopes of Piton des Neiges (3071 m, the highest mountain on the island and in the Indian Ocean). After settling into our comfortable traditional hotel (2 nights) in the centre of one of the prettiest Creole villages on Réunion, we set off on foot to discover the history and architecture following the route of the ‘Maisons Créoles’ (Creole Houses). At dinner, we sample our first Réunionnais cari, a locally adapted version of the subcontinental dish, accompanied by chou chou (christophine) gratin.

DAY 2                                                                                                                  
B, L, D included

Our circular walk (5 hrs) takes us above Hell-bourg through a managed forest of cryptomeria. As we climb, we have stunning views of the surrounding mountains forming the circle of Salazie. Close by, we may see the endemic Réunion stonechat or one of the exotic species such as Red-whiskered bulbul or Red fody. During the descent, we are introduced to the cult of St Expeditus, a mysterious 4C Roman centurion and the island’s most popular saint. Before returning to the village we pause at the atmospheric site of the old Thermal Resort, Hell-bourg’s original source of fame during colonial times, destroyed by the 1948 cyclone. The rest of the afternoon is free for individual exploration – perhaps visiting the well-stocked book and map shop or the museum of musical instruments of the Indian Ocean or just wandering through the back streets to admire the tropical front gardens.

DAY 3
B, L, D included

We return to the coastal road which circumnavigates Réunion and head for a vanilla-processing cooperative to learn about the history of vanilla cultivation on the island and enjoy its delightful smell. After lunch we stop in Ste Anne to admire the striking naïve Baroque church reminiscent of early South American churches. Our base for the next three nights is an African style lodge with excellent service and views stretching east over the ocean in the direction of Australia. There is an option of an hour’s walk on the property – we hope to see deer (left from the hunting estate days) and the native terrestrial orchid Cynorkis fastigiata.  

DAY 4
B, L, D included

Our goal today is Grand Étang, a volcanic lake at an altitude of 500 m ringed by forested mountains. We strike out from the circular trail to reach the River Anette waterfalls and have good chances of seeing the endemic Réunion Harrier, the island’s only raptor, gliding over the lake. We return to the lodge mid afternoon to enjoy the infinity swimming pool, indulge in a spa treatment or to relax with a book on the terrace. At dinner, we may try the typical island dish of duck with vanilla.

DAY 5
B, L, D included

We have a 2 hours’ drive across several microclimates and vegetation zones until we are traversing bare volcanic landscape on a dirt road. Once we reach Pas de Bellecombe at 2354 m, the highest point on the Volcano accessible by vehicle, we continue on foot to descend into the outer crater (Enclos Fouqué). Weather-permitting, we walk within the crater to explore its geological features, witnesses of (relatively) recent volcanic activity. Back in the comfort of our lodge and with an aperitif of rhum arrangé (flavoured rum) in hand, we may contemplate the tectonic plate movement theory.

DAY 6
B, L, D included

We continue south, crossing the Grand Brulé and other descriptively named lava flows. It’s easy to understand why any development in this area of the east coast is forbidden. As we round the south coast, we turn our attention to botany and head for the Jardin des Parfums et des Épices in St Phillipe. On a guided tour, we learn how plants like vacoa (Pandanus utilis), vanilla and lychee have influenced local history, economy, culture and cuisine. After lunch on Cap Méchant, we visit an orchid garden with an outstanding collection of tropical orchids. Our luxury hotel (2 nights) is set in landscaped gardens on a cliff above the Grande Anse beach and features spacious designer rooms, a gourmet restaurant and swimming pools with ocean views.

DAY 7
B, L, D included

The first part of the morning is dedicated to coffee and more specifically, to Réunion’s own variety Bourbon Pointu, valued for its delicate flavour with notes of citrus, spices and cocoa and naturally low caffeine content. Moving on to another important island product, we visit the Saga du Rhum museum. Nearby St Pierre is the biggest town on the south coast and it is well worth spending an afternoon exploring its sights on foot. The Hôtel de Ville, built as a warehouse for the French East India Company in 18C, and the adjacent historic Creole mansions are in contrast with the early 20C Mosque and the richly decorated Hindu temples. 

DAY 8
B, L, D included

We head inland once again, following the 37 km road with 427 mind-boggling hairpins! The setting of Cilaos couldn’t be more spectacular and we orientate ourselves at a viewpoint before walking (1.5 hrs) to lunch in a traditional restaurant in the town centre. There is time to visit the Embroidery museum and workshop or the wine shop where you can taste Cilaos wine. Our 3 star hotel (2 nights) is also central and offers rooms with balconies overlooking Piton des Neiges.

DAY 9
B, L, D included

We set off from the hotel on foot past the small lake, Mare à Joncs, and across a river valley into the neighbouring village, Bras Sec (1.5 hrs). We continue on an old path below the cliffs into La Palmiste Rouge (3.5 hrs) with a picnic stop en route. This is a section of the original porters’ trail – it was the only way to transport goods and indeed, people into the cirque from the coast until the road was built in the 1930s. We return to Cilaos by vehicle and make a stop in a teashop serving the best Crêpes Flambées in the world.

DAY 10
B, L, D included

We retrace our steps to the coast following the Bras de Cilaos ravine and recover from the experience on an easy 3 hr circular walk with panoramic views of the west coast. A relaxed seafood lunch on a sandy beach precedes a visit to Kélonia, the marine turtle research and observation centre, where we have the opportunity to see and learn about the five species of marine turtles native to the Indian Ocean. We base ourselves for 3 nights in Creole style villas set in a garden shaded by coconut palms and casuarina trees, just steps away from a beach protected by a coral reef.

DAY 11
B, L, D included

Our walk (5 hrs) starts from one of the most impressive viewpoints on Réunion, le Maïdo, situated on top of a mountain peak (2200 m) with stunning views into the Cirque de Mafate below, and takes us past caves used in colonial times to store ice which formed at winter time. This high-altitude area is also known for producing valuable geranium oil, using traditional wood fired stills to extract the essential oil from the plants’ minute ‘hair’. At Villèle, we stop at the Chapelle Pointue, a fine example of Neo-Gothic architecture, built by a notoriously cruel baroness in the 19C. The chapel was destroyed by a cyclone in 1932 and rebuilt a year later.

DAY 12
B, L, D included

We enjoy a free morning by the pool or on the beach. For indefatigable garden lovers, there is an option to visit the nearby Jardin d’Eden, with sections dedicated to medicinal and edible plants, water gardens or palm trees. We walk along the beach looking out for the elegant white tailed tropicbird, the national bird of Réunion, and at a paillote (beach restaurant), popular with locals and visitors alike, we have a light lunch. A sunset boat trip followed by dinner at a fish restaurant in the port of St Gilles les Baines, is a fitting finale to our time on the west coast.

DAY 13
B, L, D included

We have a guided tour of the excellent National Botanic Conservatory of the Mascarene Islands, set on the historic estate of Marquis of Chateauvieux, before we transfer to St Denis. Known as the Paris of the Indian Ocean, St Denis preserves the graceful atmosphere of a colonial capital. We start our exploration on the iconic Rue de Paris, lined with historic public administration buildings and private mansions, trendy cafés and chic boutique shops. We take a short detour to the Grand Marché, a craft market housed in a 19th century wrought iron structure listed as a national monument. 

DAY 14
B, L included

From our 3 star hotel in a former East India Company Palace, we have a short walk to the Barachois, a popular park on the seafront where a statue of Roland Garros reminds us that the daring aviator was born on the island. On the Avenue de la Victoire, we pass the modest Cathedral and our next stop is the Leon Dierx Museum and its outstanding collection of modern and contemporary art. In the Jardin de l’État, dating back to the late 18C, we reach the end of both Rue de Paris and our visit to la Réunion. Our journey concludes with a late afternoon transfer to the airport.

£ 4,990 per person sharing 
£ 1,000 deposit per person 
£ 790 double for single supplement

Please note that the double for single use room supplement is imposed by the hotel (which does not have any single rooms) and not by Kudu Travel. If you are willing to share but no other suitable guest books on the trip, we regret that the supplement will be payable.

Price includes
  • All accommodation for Days 1 through 14, on a twin shared basis
  • All meals (with wine at dinners and restaurant lunches) as listed in the daily notation
  • All land transportation in a private vehicle as described
  • All entrance, sightseeing and guiding fees as described
  • A sunset boat trip as described
  • Services of a French-speaking Kudu Travel tour leader
  • Gratuities for hotel and restaurant staff and drivers (appreciation for tour leaders & managers is entirely at your discretion)
 
Price does not include
  • International transportation to and from Réunion
  • Trip cancellation, medical or other insurance
  • Immunisations, prescriptions or other medical requirements
  • Passport, visa and health documentation
  • Personal expenses (laundry, alcohol other than wine with group lunches and dinners, free time activities, etc.)
  • Meals noted as excepted in the daily notation
  • Transport and transfer of excess baggage 
 

VALUE FOR MONEY - SO MUCH IS INCLUDED
On Kudu trips you will only need money for postcards, presents to take home, the odd G & T or an irresistible ice cream. Festival and opera tickets, museum and gallery entrances, National Park fees, all meals (with a very few exceptions specified in individual itineraries), wine with lunch and dinner, access to specialist books carried by the guides, gratuities for porters and hotel and restaurant staff, boat rides, train trips, internal flights, wine tastings, 4WDs with drivers, the services of skilled local guides and trackers etc are ALL INCLUDED in the cost of your holiday.

We are confident that, like previous very satisfied guests, you will discover that our tours give you excellent value for money.

  • 2 nights in Hell-bourg, in a comfortable traditional hotel in the town centre
  • 3 nights on the east coast, in an African style lodge with excellent service and views stretching over the ocean in the direction of Australia
  • 2 nights on the south coast, in a luxury hotel set in landscaped gardens on a cliff above the Grande Anse beach, featuring spacious designer rooms, a gourmet restaurant and swimming pools with ocean views
  • 2 nights in Cilaos, in a central 3 star hotel, in rooms with balconies overlooking Piton des Neiges
  • 3 nights in La Saline les Baines, in Creole style villas set in a garden shaded by coconut palms and casuarina trees, just steps away from a beach protected by a coral reef
  • 1 night in St. Denis, in a 3 star hotel in a former East India Company Palace

Visa and Health Requirements

Visitors from the EU, USA, Australia and Canada currently require a valid passport, but not a visa, for entry to France. If you are a national of any other country, please check visa regulations with your nearest Embassy of France.

At present there are no specific and compulsory health requirements for entry to France. Residents of countries in the EU can only claim free (emergency) medical treatment in France by presenting their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). You may also wish to check the advice given to travellers by the Department of Health and the FCO.

Insurance
It is essential, and a condition of booking, that you protect yourself with a suitable travel insurance policy as soon as you book a trip. Follow this link for a quote for a policy available to UK residents. 

If you are already insured or a non-UK resident, please inform us of your policy at the time of booking.

Size of Party
This trip will run with a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 14 guests.


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