On learning about my job as a travel photojournalist, people often ask me to share a favourite destination, or most epic travel assignment. I think a better question is: which places would I go back to?
For me, travelling is never about ticking off a destination and moving on. It is rather the contrary.
When I visit a new country or place, the travel list only grows longer. For example, I yearn to return to Uganda and explore the parks and desert regions of the remote north. In Namibia, I'd relish a hike along the bottom of the Fish River Canyon. While I've stepped upon the sandy shores of Mozambique's magnificent beaches, many of the more remote and wild regions emphatically appeal to the overlander in me.
My trip to Reunion Island last year was jam-packed, and although tiny, it's not easy to experience everything on offer at this enthralling Indian Ocean island.
Also check out my South African's Guide to Reunion Island
These are my reasons to return to Reunion, a personal off-the-beaten-track bucket list.
Exciting lava tunnel explorations
Reunion Island's most famous attraction has to be its active volcano. Piton de la Fournaise occupies almost one-third of the surface of Reunion and is one of the most active volcanoes on earth. Although we trudged upon the hardened lava that scars the surface, and even peered into the centre of its core from high up in the sky, I'd love to go on a more in-depth adventure.
Travellers can go underground (dressed in all the necessary safety garb and under the expertise of a qualified guide) and walk within the volcano's lair through a network of lava tubes or tunnels.
Read more about this epic adventure from South Africans who have done it: Inside the Lava Tunnels on Reunion Island by Di Brown and Volcano Tourism on Reunion Island by Iga Motylska.
Mega multi-day mountain hikes
I adored the soaring green peaks of our day trip to Cilaos, which is one of three cirques on the island. Formed by glacial erosion, a cirque is a geological mountain feature that refers to the steep-sided hollow at the head of a mountainside.
Reunion's Cirque de Mafate is the most remote pinnacle, and hiking across its canyons and ridges sounds right up my alley. No roads lead into this Cirque, and it's only accessible by foot or by air, which makes it one of the wildest places in Reunion. Accommodation is offered in quaint gitês and overall it's a very affordable way for South Africans to experience the island's sublime scenery. Read about what it's like to hike in Reunion from Heather Mason.
A high-tech turtle centre
After researching a story about turtle conservation in South Africa, I discovered that Reunion has a highly-regarded and established rehabilitation and research centre. Kelonia is part aquarium, part conservation station and offers the chance to see all five varieties of turtle that swim the waters around Réunion.
I admit, it's probably a bit of a novelty, but I desperately want to jump into one of these transparent boats and glide over the clear waters of the Indian Ocean. Launching from the beach of Trou d'Eau, paddlers can expect to see Emperor Angelfish and pretty Yellow Teardrop Butterflyfish flitting below.
I'd also be super keen to explore the ocean more on a scuba diving adventure. The marine park boasts up to a thousand species of fish (plus those five turtle species mentioned above), or there's the most adventurous option of diving in the south, around Saint-Pierre to see the volcanic lava flows underwater.
Brilliant Forest Birding
The Mascarene Swiftlet, a Zebra Dove and the White-tailed Tropicbird. Don't these sound fantastical? They're just a handful of the beautiful birds you can find on Reunion Island. Better still, are the places they live.
The lush forests of Bebour-Belouve are home to plenty of indigenous species unique to the island. Lonely Planet reckons that this woodland could "set the stage for a new version of Avatar" and sure wouldn't mind a bit of forest-bathing here on my next trip. Hopefully it is not too far away.
For more information, contact the Reunion Island Tourism Board South African Office at email@example.com
I've partnered with @gotoreunionisland and am reliving beloved memories from my trip there last year 🇫🇷 All opinions and recommendations expressed are my own.
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