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Thursday, 7 March 2013

Islands made for cruising. Réunion for dramatic scenery



Snapshots of the world's best island cruising destinations.

By Roderick Eime

Characterised by an aggressive, still active volcanic landscape, Réunion is the Hawaii of the Indian Ocean with towering, thickly wooded peaks and a couple of decent beaches.

Almost overlooked by its better publicised Indian Ocean neighbours, Mauritius and Madagascar, Réunion is small enough to be romantic and civilised enough to offer a comfortable, European style experience. After all, it is part of France, yet with a sultry and tropical Creole flavour.

Réunion's interesting, predominantly French colonial history, serves as a fascinating counterpoint to the jaw-dropping terrain on this 2500 square kilometre island. A 'must-do' among the serious trekking community, it is mentioned in the same breath as the Himalayas and New Zealand, with the three "cirques" (natural amphitheatres) providing stunning venues for energetic strolls. The Cirque de Salazie, the Cirque de Cilaos and the Cirque de Mafate each evolved from the original Piton des Neiges volcano (3000m) that formed the island. There is also fascinating hiking around the still-active Piton de la Fournaise, a shield volcano on the eastern end which rises more than 2631 metres.

Most of the population is arranged around the coastal perimeter, but three tiny villages form superb little micro-destinations on their own; Cilaos, Salazie and La Nouvelle (in the Cirque de Mafate), which is only accessible only by foot or helicopter.

There are around thirty cruise visits to the island annually with P&O, MSC and Silversea the most regular. The main port is Pointe des Galets.

Official tourism site: www.reunion.fr/en/

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