Les Cirques, Calderas
Inaccessible for a long time, the rocky calderas offered refuge for escaping slaves. In the 19th century, poor peasants not being able to afford living on the expensive coast chose to inhabit the calderas. The new inhabitants rapidly adapted to the harsh climate and geographic conditions. Plush oak and conifer forests are impeccable for hiking enthusiasts. Cilaos, Salazie and Mafate are ready to be discovered by you on your luxury charter vacation.
Cilaos is the most impressive caldera out of the three. Embedded in the island’s high peaks, it stretches over 100 km2. A spectacular cliff-side twisting road along the Saint-Etienne river and narrow tunnels swiftly guide to Cilaos, protected by high peaks of Piton des Neiges and Grand-Bénare. 350 sharp bends punctuate a riverside road leading to Cilaos, a road marked with narrow passages and a slippery, humid surface. At the turn of the last century, colonizers enjoyed being carried in sedan chairs on the road to profit from soothing thermal springs. Local specialties include lentils, sweet wine as well as fine embroidery reputation of which well surpasses the island’s borders. Quaint passages in this picturesque town reveal Creole houses ornamented with colorful rooftops.
Thermal springs disappeared in the 1930s after a violent cyclone damaged the island. Three of the springs were successfully found and are now open to visitors everyday apart from Wednesday afternoon. Their hot sparkling waters are perfect for treating rheumatism and anemia. Hop off board of your luxury charter mega yacht or luxury charter catamaran and enjoy the soothing thermal springs, gently caressing your senses.
The Embroidery House is an association of embroideress perpetuating talent and tradition. An art implanted in the past centuries to Britton nuns by Angèle MacAuliffe, daughter of a doctor working at springs clinic. Treat yourself to wonderful lace souvenirs available on hand and bring aboard your luxury charter yacht a piece of Réunion.
The local tourist office is an endless source of information on the region’s activities. A series of brochures guide visitors through hiking, canoeing and biking and indicate shelters and contact information to guides.
Another volcanic caldera is Cirque de Salazie abundant in such plants as chayote, banana and watercress. A picturesque road leading to Salazie passes through gorges with sumptuous cascades rushing down. Pissen-en-l’Air gently sprinkles the road while the immense Voile-de-la-Mariée is noticeable from afar. Shielded away are the cascades of Ravine-Blanche, Bras-de-Caverne and Rivière-Mazerin. Salazie rested uninhabited for a long time until runaway slaves found refuge here. Achaing, along with his wife, was among many who escaped and found shelter at the peak of a mountain from where they could easily keep a watch on the area. They settled here and enlarged their family; the idyll did not last long, however, as they were eventually caught. Salazie is also the name of a small village, boasting a church protected with two crenellated towers, where time passes by lazily. La Mare-à-Poule-D’Eau is where colonizers discovered fertile soils perfect for growing rice. The road leads to Hell-Bourg, a bigger village with neat Creole houses and fragrant flower gardens where locals burst with energy and welcome visitors with a smile on their face. In the village you will find a special fish farm where fishing for trout is possible. And if you feel hungry, try one of the specialty chayote dishes.
Mafate is the third caldera in the region, abundant in natural wonders. Untamed and mysterious, the caldera owes its name to a Malagasy chief named Mafate who illegally ruled over some slaves. This caldera spreads over 95 km2 and its summits often exceed the height of 2000 meters. The region rests relatively immaculate with only 700 inhabitants, descendants of European colonizers. They were once forced inland as they simply could not afford life on the coast. Life in these isolated settlements is rather harsh. An elevated rate of illiteracy is caused by seldom classes at the local school. Visits by postmen and nurses are also rare as they travel on foot from village to village. Mafate is supplied only through helicopter visits. Authorities have already been planning a road connecting the villages of Salazie and de la Nouvelle as access to Mafate is possible only through six long hiking trails. If you are not ready for such as adventure, you are more than welcome to charter a helicopter to get here, an excursion exposing you to the region’s natural wonders.
Well remote, this immaculate region is not well communicated with the rest of the island. Without electricity, isolated houses are provided with power through solar panels. Extremely friendly, locals may shy away from visitors at first. La Nouvelle, another village on the map, has a population of only 24 families and has everything it needs, a church, two grocery stores, a restaurant and a heliport. A three-hour hike brings you closer to the small islet of Marla, a settlement with 10 huts. It is overlooked by Grand Béhare on one side and Trois Salazes, three rocky peaks, on the other. Nieghboring islets of Grand-Place and Aurère are somewhat bigger.