After Madagascar, we headed east in the Indian Ocean and arrived at the French island of Reunion. Unlike so many others, this island is not independent but part of France; it is the southern-most reach of the Euro as currency. As one of the 27 Regions of France, it enjoys the same status as the French regions on the European mainland. The interior of the island is volcanic in nature with few inhabitants. In contrast, the coastline is densely populated from what I saw in our sail around the island. Not sure if the homes are for permanent residents or vacationers.
Piton de la Fournaise is an active volcano on the island that last erupted in 2010; Piton des Neiges is extinct. Most of the ship guests went to see one or more of the three calderas on the island. These are volcanic features created by a collapse of land after an eruption. Two of the three can be reached via vehicle; one is only seen by helicopter. The terrain of Reunion is likened to Hawaii. Since we have been to several of the Hawaiian islands and even taken a helicopter tour, we opted to take the shuttle to Saint-Denis rather than the caldera tour. (The fact that a helicopter tour on Reunion was 800 euros/person helped us make that decision.)
Although Saint-Denis offers the most tourist activity options, we didn’t find anything to keep our attention during our midday visit. I suspect there is quite a nightlife here along the boardwalk lined with its bars and cafes. On Reunion, French is the official language, but most people speak Reunion Creole. Although English is taught as a compulsory second language in school, few people are fluent; during our visit we found no one who spoke English, including our shuttle driver.
I spent the afternoon packing. Boris collected his prize for his trivia contest wins.
Disembarkation Day was on the neighboring independent island of Mauritius, a very popular tourist destination. I really had never heard of it before we looked into the cruise, but most of the other ship guests were very familiar with Mauritius. (There was only a small minority of Americans on the cruise, a nice change.) The island was the only home of the Dodo bird which was extinct less than 80 years after its discovery. Most of the islanders we saw were of Indian descent. I was not surprised to learn that 49% of the population is Hindu.
The people I spoke to during or before the cruise recommended staying at an all-inclusive resort when visiting the island. Since we only have 1 1/2 days and 1 night, we decided we would just enjoy a resort. Boris booked us a room at the Hilton and upgraded us to a suite with points. It was a nice room with a wonderful balcony with a lounger and table with chairs. We were warned to keep the door closed to keep the mosquitoes out.
Boris is convinced that as few Americans visit Mauritius (a very long flight) the manager thought we were some sort of “checkers” sent by Hilton. We really did the get the royal treatment upon arrival. They were very accommodating since we got there about 9:30 or 10 in the morning, long before check-in, and we had our suite within 30 minutes. (Boris had called ahead.) There was a welcome drink, personal introductions to staff by the manager, and special seating. The manager made reservations for us at all the restaurants so we could choose where we wanted to eat later. I think it was just because we are Hilton club members and any guest should expect special treatment for these rates. My favorite touch was the gong that was rang when a new guest arrived.
I did a little work on the internet anticipated our upcoming travel home and since it was the first internet I had had in 12 days. Withdrawal!! Then I took the sarong and beach bag in my room, added a swimsuit and sunscreen and was set. I joined Boris for lunch on the beach, took a lot of pictures of the resort, and then enjoyed my lounger under an umbrella on the beach. It was way too hot (Boris packed in after a while for a nap in the room). The flies at lunch were out of control, but the spot was wonderful with our table in the sand.
We both were back at the beach for the incredible sunset, a definite benefit of our location in Flic-en-Flac on the west side of the island. This former fishing village has been transformed into an up and coming resort area. I got down first and had to get that sunset drink. A young couple sitting next to me asked me to take a picture of them in the water so they could show it to all their friends at work. I asked them if they were on their honeymoon, but they said they were business colleagues. They had just finished a conference and had until 8 pm that evening to enjoy the resort.
Just as the sun set, there was a tiki torch lighting ceremony where the lights all over the grounds were lit and then all the torch bearers came together. Some guests, obviously aware that this takes place each evening, came down with video cameras. When concluded, a band played in a central location so the music could be heard in each of the evening dining venues. We headed to our suite to change for dinner. We decided that since we had lunch on the beach at lunch and all the guests with the meal package were dining at the buffet, that we would try the third dining option, the upscale Thai restaurant under the palapa (tiki hut).
Our dinner was very nice and we had prime seating outside. Just after we ordered, we saw a group of native dancers perform under the band pavilion. After their performance, the dance band started. We were just the right distance away to enjoy the music, but not have our dinner interupted.
While on the beach in the afternoon, a clever salesman spotted Boris and talked him into fishing in the morning. (Even drove him to the ATM to get cash.) Boris was getting up at 5:15 am, so he wanted to make an early evening of it. I played on the internet.
Our second day in Mauritius meant more beach time for me. I found an even better lounging spot today. Boris joined me after fishing and we had a late lunch. After lunch there was only time for a shower and final packing before we left for the airport. We drove by the Casela Nature Park en route to the airport. Through the hotel porte cochere, we could see the peak of the mountains in Casela.
At the airport gift shop, I spotted a doll wearing the native costume our dancers had on the night before. It was nice to know that there had been that authentic touch. I liked the Hilton. It was an older hotel that was well maintained, but not to the standard I would have expected for that rate in the United States. You were definitely paying for location and the included resort services.
None of you want to hear about the 39 hours it took us to get home. (That is from the time we left the Hilton until reaching our house.) Mauritius-Johannsburg-Dakar-New York-Charlotte-Houston. Its like having a baby; hopefully you forget the delivery when it comes time for the next child or trip. I am headed back to Africa in June for a photography safari in Tanzania.