Sometime, somehow, I stumbled upon a picture of La Réunion and I decided that I needed to go there. The landscape seemed surreal, jurassic, and lush. This was years ago and my dream is finally coming to fruition since I will be going there in May.
I’m greatly anticipating visiting this small island off Madagascar, but planning this portion of the trip has proven to be very challenging for this English speaker, non-driver and solo traveller.
La Réunion gets about 500K tourists a year but I believe the majority are from French-speaking countries and therefore, English resources on the country are fairly limited. I borrowed the Lonely Planet’s book on Mauritius, La Réunion and Seychelles which has some decent information about tourist attractions but little about organizing your trip for hotels, gîtes and itineraries. Luckily I read/speak French from taking French immersion, albeit not so well these days, and I’ve been able to scour some French resources. I also bought a mini Lonely Planet guide for La Réunion in French which is helpful again for tourist attractions but not much more.
The biggest challenges I’m facing are going at it without a car, since I don’t really drive, and going at it solo since I’d like to do some of the hikes, especially of the multi-day variety. I don’t feel comfortable hiking alone since I’m not a very experienced outdoorsman though I love to hike. I would also like to go to Piton de la Fournaise, an active volcano on the island, and meet some other travellers but I’m not sure how easy it will be. I have posted on a few French-speaking forums but have gotten little information back so I don’t have a sense yet of how to go about my trip.
I have written to numerous tour companies and hotels to try to arrange day tours and accommodation but none have gotten back to me so I think that email usage is pretty low there. I finally wrote to the tourist board of La Réunion and that seems to be the best resource. We spoke over the phone and I gave her a general sense of what I wanted and sent off an email. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard back yet. I leave soon but I don’t have anything planned. I may just have to wing it once I get there, even though a lot of the resources I have read suggest booking gîtes fast since they book up. I’m hoping that visiting in shoulder season will allow me to just make decisions on the fly.
I will post more if I hear back from the tourist board.