Reunion is a wildly beautiful and rugged volcanic island with an interesting history. It was discovered by the Portuguese in the early 16th century and then claimed by the French in 1643, who named it Bourbon and established their first colony. Slaves were brought in to work the sugar plantations. The island was renamed Reunion in 1793, and it remained a French colony, except for a brief British occupation from 1810 to 1815.
Over time, the mix of French people with Africans, Chinese, Malays, and Malabar Indians gave the island its ethnic mix. This diversity only adds to the island’s intrigue. While the economy is dominated by the sugarcane industry, tourism also plays an important economic role. Major exports include sugar, seafood, rum, and vanilla.
Here are some basic facts and information about Reunion, to help you get to know the place better before travelling there.
Reunion is one of the youngest islands in the world, having first broke the surface of the Indian Ocean less than three million years ago. It is still highly mountainous with volcanic activity still happening today. The island is 63 kilometres long, 45 kilometres wide, convering 2,512 square kilometres. Like Hawaii, it is located above a hotspot in the Earth’s crust. One of its volcanoes, Piton de la Fournaise, over 2,631 metres above sea, is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The Piton des Neiges volcano is the highest point on the island at 3,070 metres above sea level and is extinct. Offshore, part of the west coast in characterised by a coral reef system. The coastline is mainly made up of cliffs and beaches.
The first settlers arrived from France in the 17th century to an uninhabited island, accompanied by servants from Madagascar. The first children born in Reunion were mixed race. Slavery was introduced and slave labour was imported from Madagsacar and other parts of Africa and India. In the 19th century, travellers from China and Muslim India settled here and continued to arrive and settle in greater amounts in the 20th century. More and more people arrived from France, leading to an overall mixed race population. French is the official language but most inhabitants speak Creole.
Reunion has a tropical climate softened by the breezes of the Indian Ocean. The sun shines all year round. There is little difference between day and night temperatures.