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Reunion is a fascinating island where you can find different climates on a very small scale.  The main climate zone is subtropical-oceanic but especially around the volcanoes you can find lots of different micro-climates. On the island are 19 main-ecosystems with 110 vegetation types ranging from rain and cloud forests to palm-savanna and heath, almost 50 % of the plants are endemic (only growing on this island).
The fauna was decimated by humans to less than 50% of the species. There are still 78 species of birds (7 which are endemic), 10 mammals of which only 2 were local (6 bats, 2 rats, 1 mouse and an animal called tenrec (Tenrec ecaudatus) similar to hedgehogs) and 6 reptiles. Also there are more than 500 species of butterflies living on Reunion.
All of this was the reason that the mountains, the cirques (the collapsed magma chambers) and the valleys of Reunion are a world heritage site since 2010 and under special protection. The most valuable  on Reunion is definitely the primary forest which still covers one third of the island – not like in Rodriguez and Mauritius where it is almost all gone. Probably because the first settlers only came in 1650, there was always volcanic activity, the ground was very hard to work with and in lot of areas not really accessible. A primary forest is a type of forest which has never been influenced by humans and therefor is very interesting for biologists.

11_Tec_tec_(Saxicola tectes)_seen_in_Foret_de_Belouve

To visit this special forest was definitely a must for us. During two hiking trips we trudged through ankle deep mud to be rewarded by a beautiful view in the end. Then first hike started at the viewpoint “Gite de Belouve” at the end of the forest street through the high mountain forest “Foret de Bebour/Belouve”. Here you have  a fantastic view across one of the three cirques, the collapsed magma chambers of the dormant volcano “Piton de Neige”. You see the “Cirque de Salazie” which can only be accessed by one street in the north of the island. And you have to get there real early before the first clouds start to move into the valley. There are two ways to reach this viewpoint because you can only walk on the ways which have been cleaned by the forest department. Otherwise the forest is just too dense. Sadly due to the daily rain and the high air humidity the walkways are wet all the time and look more like mud slides. Anyway we chose this muddy way to see big parts of the special forest and were full of mud after our hike. The forest is really fantastic with a lot of different species of moss and lichens, which hang on the trees, the huge tree ferns (Cyathea glauca), the endemic highland tamarind (Acacia heterophylla), the endemic Calumet-bamboo and a lot of orchids, which we sadly didn't see in bloom. After 2,5 hours we reached the viewpoint “Trou de Fer” or Iron Hole where you can see the big waterfall. Every once in a while you can watch a helicopter flying his round inside the hole.


The second forest hike was in the lower part of the primary forest, the “Foret de Bebour”. This was a very exhausting hike due to the masses of mud on the way. At the end you have a view of the valley of Takamaka, where the abundance of water let to generate electric power and over 600 waterfalls can be counted. On the way back we stopped at the “Basin de Hirondelles”, a beautiful little pond in the middle of the forest. Since there are only a few primary forest left worldwide we enjoy the hours walking through the dense greenery.


We also visited the “Cirque de Cilaos” which is known for producing a special kind of lentils. Since the price of one kilo is about €16.- we decided not to buy any. But it is a necessary price to pay since the lentils are cultivated, harvested, sieved, cleaned and packed by hand. Quality has it's price. The street leading into the Cirque de Cilaos is an adventure itself. Often only wide enough for one car , with small tunnels and lots of serpentine’s. Arriving in Cilaos our first hike was to a waterfall called “Bras de Rouge”, but the waterfall is not visible from the hiking trail. The second and much longer hike we did was to a place called “Le Chapelle”, a canyon-cave which has  a few holes at the top. If you are there at the right time of the day the sun lights up the hole cave which then looks like a cathedral. But to reach this canyon you ave to hike up a longer stretch in the riverbed. It is definitely worth it because the sunlight inside the cave is beautiful.


The third of the cirques, the “Cirque de Mafat” can only be reached by foot or helicopter and therefor is a paradise for the real hiker. We only got to see it from above, first the viewpoint “Cap Noir” and later on our helicopter flight. If you want to see the whole cirque without clouds you also have to get up very early. On Cap Noir at the loop hike you have a few very good viewpoints into the “Cirque de Mafate” and also towards the ocean and the village of Le Port.


Also worth a trip is the “Le Grand Etang”, the biggest mountain lake of the island. The water level depends on the amount of rainfall and can be as high so that you can not go around or as low that the lake is almost gone. In the early morning hours you can observe birds of prey hunting for food and if you walk to the other end of the lake you can see three waterfalls, during the rainy season probably even more. There is one way leading directly under the waterfalls where there is enough space for a picnic.


To catch a glimpse of the steep northern cliff and experience the steppe climate you can choose to walk along the “Le Chemin des Anglais”. St. Deniz in the north and St. Paul in the west are the two big settlements and have only been connected on land by a paved road for horses and draft animals in the year 1732. In 1810 the road was used by the English during their fight against the French, that is were the name comes from. One can still see parts of the paved road and after 1,5 km you can see the so called Littoral and the new highway from a viewpoint.
There are plenty of other walks and hikes and things to do and see on this small island in the middle of the Indian ocean. We really enjoyed our short stay but we are looking forward to go sailing again on the open ocean.