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Intraurban Adventure

Réunion: A journey for the senses


Il est bon on l’île Bourbon*

Shall we go to the mountains or the seaside? People often have very different ideas when it comes to selecting a holiday destination. However, visitors to the French island of Réunion, east of Madagascar, do not need to commit to a single option. The ‘island of meetings’ offers tourists not only sunny, sandy beaches, but also fascinating mountain scenery with magnificent views. And gourmets do not go empty handed either. Accompany us on a journey for the senses – or ‘une voyage d’émotions’, as the island’s official slogan describes it.

*It is beautiful on island of Bourbon

Réunion, which covers an area measuring 2,500 square kilometres, is a comparatively small island in contrast to Madagascar, which is located 800 kilometres to the west. Most of the approx. 860,000 inhabitants speak French or Réunionnais – a creole language, which primarily consists of French words, but also borrows terminology from Malagasy, Hindi, Portuguese, Gujurati and Tamil. In keeping with the island’s varied landscape, Réunion creole can be broken down into three dialects: the mountainous area, the flat part and the urban areas. The capital, Saint-Denis, is situated in the northern region and has religious sites for the world’s three main religions: Islam, Christianity and Hinduism, which are all followed by large numbers of people on the island.

An island with four names

vanilla beans

The history of the island goes back to the 14th century and has been closely connected to France since 1700. However, the region has had many different names over the course of time: ranging from Dina Maghrabin and Santa Apolonia all the way to Île Bourbon and Île Napoléon. Even Île de la Réunion was replaced for a while, but celebrated its final comeback after the French Revolution in February 1848. However, the vanilla from the island is still known by the term Bourbon, inspired the island’s former name: Île Bourbon. Controversy exists about the origin of the name Réunion. It was allegedly selected in homage to the meeting of the federated forces from Marseille and the Paris National Guard.

Volcanic origin: Unspoilt nature, but no fire risk


Those who love nature will find everything they could possibly desire on Réunion: not only sandy beaches with pure blue water, high plains with crystal-clear rivers and volcanic mountains – the island also has its own tropical forest called the Forêt de Belouv. UNESCO had very good reason to declare the national park a world heritage site in 2010 – it stretches for 105,000 hectares and accounts for 42 per cent of the island’s surface area. Tourists should definitely visit it simply because of the variety of animals and plants found there. The Piton de la Fournaise volcano is also one of the most active in the world and is a magnificent sight. However, there is no need to be afraid: the regular eruptions are a harmless spectacle and you can watch them without any worry. They even create new life: new land measuring up to 45 hectares was created near Cape Pointe du Tremblet after the eruption in April 2007. Some new plants and species of animals were found here a short time later and this boosted Réunion’s reputation even further as one of the biodiversity hotspots the world over with about 230 endemic types of plants and various protection programmes for the local flora and fauna.

The three calderas called Mafate, Salazie and Cilaos also form part of the national park. The last two are independent communities, which blend into the landscape with their unusually natural appearance because they have not used excessive amounts of tarmac. You cannot reach the Cirque de Mafate on traditional roads: instead, it is only accessible by helicopter or footpath through the natural surroundings. Visitors can also enjoy breathtaking views, e.g. of the Trou de Fer waterfall in the north of the island, as they traverse the various footpaths that crisscross the island, extending 1,000 kilometres in total. The waterfall that forms part of the Salazie caldera is one of the largest in the world, dropping 725 metres. There are also many beaches and bays where people can relax, e.g. Saint-Leu, Saint-Gilles-les-Bains or Boucan Canot.

A mixture of tranquillity and action

Forêt de Bélouve

Réunion offers a large number of exciting activities in addition to its tourist sites. They include, for example, the Botanical Gardens in Saint-Denis and the Les Makes wildlife park. A tour through the vanilla growing area and the Rum Distillery Museum are also fascinating opportunities to learn more about the local culture and history. Adrenaline junkies can enjoy paragliding over Saint-Leu Bay, canyoning and abseiling tours as well as diving activities. Interested people can even register for the well-known ultramarathon race known as Grand Raids, which is held every year in October on challenging routes such as the Trail de Bourbon or La Mascareignes. The Diagonale des Fous forms the legendary conclusion to the sports season where the very best show off their skills. The route, which is 166 kilometres long, starts in Saint-Pierre in the south and takes the marathon runners on climbs totalling almost 10,000 metres on their way to Saint-Denis in the north. Local and international trail runners push themselves to the absolute limit against a breathtaking background and this makes the competition a very special experience both physically and mentally. None of the tourists will be disappointed, whether they are participants or spectators.

A culinary excursion to every corner of the world

If your stomach starts to growl after the wild discovery tours, your only problem might be deciding what to eat. The varied cuisine on Réunion serves up dishes influenced by creole, Indian, African and French flavours. ‘Rougail Saucisse’ is a well-known dish, for example; it consists of sausage meat with a spicy vegetable sauce, which is usually served with rice. ‘Carri’, a curry dish with fish, meat, shellfish or vegetables and plenty of garlic, onions, tomatoes, turmeric, cloves and ginger, is also very popular. Generally speaking, the food on Réunion is colourful and strongly seasoned, mainly with chilli and saffron or a typically Indian mix of herbs known as masala.

Desserts include deep-fried or flour-based cakes and fresh exotic fruits such as lichis, pineapples, mangoes, guavas and dragon fruit, depending on the season. Local Bourbon vanilla is naturally an ingredient in many dishes. If you prefer to conclude your meal with a drink containing plenty of alcohol, a drink with rum arrangé is the obvious choice. The flavoured rum from local sugar cane is generally regarded as a real classic on the island and forms part of many cocktails. A journey to Réunion will then become the perfect experience for gourmets and adventurers.

Connections are good – Particularly to France

The French department of Réunion, as part of the European Union, has a well-developed economic infrastructure and is therefore a significant trading centre in the Indian Ocean. Alongside tourism, the most important business sectors on the island are agriculture and fishing. The agricultural and food business is therefore the largest sector in Réunion’s economy. Local people typically grow sugar cane, vanilla, pineapples, bananas and coffee and process animal products. Many of the exports are therefore geared towards rum, sugar and fish products. 34 per cent of all its exports go to France and half of all the products exported involve items related to the sugar industry. China and the United States are the most important buyers of hake, and this accounts for about 10 per cent of total exports. This is followed by vehicles exported to Mayotte, feed for shrimp farms sent to Madagascar and finally industrial waste such as iron, steel and waste paper shipped to India. Conversely, Réunion imports most of its food, pharmaceuticals and textiles from France. Germany is also an important supplier of cars.

Infrastructure and logistics geared towards growth

The main handling points for imports and exports are the Pointe des Galets seaport at Le Port and Roland Garros Airport in Sainte-Marie. The seaport is even the fourth-largest anywhere in France – it handled six million tonnes of products in 2021. Although cars are still the most popular way of getting around on Réunion, alternative means of transport are becoming more important. One example of this is the urban cable car system, which is easing the pressure on public transport in Saint-Denis. Cargo traffic has developed comparatively strongly during the last few years as the island’s main port is an important hub for scheduled services between Africa, Asia, the Middle East, India and Australia. The government has increased its investments in the country’s infrastructure during the last few years to cope with this dynamic growth more effectively.

the Pointe des Galets seaport at Le Port

As a result, the island of Réunion is an important hub for air and ocean freight. This is why Rhenus, the experienced logistics specialist, also has business operations on the French island for its customers. The office there, which is certified by IATA (the International Air Transport Association), is located very close to Roland Garros Airport. Thanks to having a local sales and operations team there, the business site can directly offer international transport operations, for example, using air and ocean services. Because of the team’s expertise in the fields of biosciences and the health sector, the services also include transporting perishable goods such as food and flowers as well as live animals.

Would you like some more information?

Rhenus France develops warehouse and transport solutions using air, ocean, road and rail services.



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