Rare solar eclipse magic expected on Reunion Island


Cape Town - The island of Reunion is a unique island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, awash with extreme landscapes and experiences. A huge draw-card is that the island is in fact one of the world's few inhabited active volcanoes.

Riveting and exciting at the same, nature seems to defy the odds on this little island. And now the elements are conspiring to create an even more opportune time to go to Reunion.

This magical island, nestled comfortably in the Indian Ocean and a mere  four hour flight from Johannesburg on Air Austral, has been declared  the perfect location to view an upcoming astronomical event by astronomers of the Observatoire de Paris Meudon

The expected annular eclipse of the sun, will take place for about three hours between 12:20 to 3:40pm on 1 September. Most of the island will be plunged into twilight, as the moon moves between earth and the sun, leaving a fire ring in the sky - and  the islanders are set to make the most of the event. 

'Next event of this magnitude on the island will in the year 2200'

For the island of Reunion, the last visible total eclipse occurred in 1901. Beyond the annular eclipse of 1 September 2016 it will not be until the year 2200 when another eclipse will occur and the year 2267 for another total eclipse to be seen from this island. 

Most visitors will head to the southwest coast of the island between the tip of the Pit at Salt Pond and St, said to be the best viewing spot on the island.

'Etang du Gol where the solar ring will be most visible'

Peter’s beaches will be the best spot to experience the phenomenon live though, while the town of Etang du Gol is excited to welcome all the additional visitors for the event by making provisions in order to accommodate observers, including mobile instruments of the Observatory of Makes and a large HD projection screen of the event. 

But there really is so much to do on the island. Here are a few of our added favourites:

- Take a giant leap at Piton de Fournaise

The younger counterpart to Piton de Neiges, at 350-thousand-years-old, dishes up unbelievable, alien mars-lookalike vistas and a final look-out point over the protective rim of Fournaise on the eastern side of Reunion.

While De Nieges has not been active for the last 20 000 years it is still the highest land point within the Indian Ocean at 3017m above sea level. Heading towards the very active Fournaise (+2300m above sea level) through Reunion’s World Heritage National park is a bendy road trip but certainly the best on the ground introduction to the island’s diverse topography.

Island style sunset along LÉrmitage Coco beach

Being an island you’d think its beaches would not necessarily be considered unusual. But the uniqueness of Reunion’s beaches lie in the breaking barriers of its coral reefs. These create a spectacular haven for snorkelling, stand-up paddling or general beach frolicking silliness. 

La Saline is gorgeous and lined by some of the best beach houses on the island, Saint Gilles is a proper waterfront dazzler, while Coco Beach is a day and night explosion of island fun – it plays host to a New Year extravaganza second to none according to island locals, where camping and partying it out for a few days is the order of the season.

- Take a deep plunge into adventure along Bassin la mer and Bassin la Paix, Saint Benoit 

Reunion’s first attempt at smashing predictability, especially for the fainthearted. Like the island itself, it tosses you over a surprised waterfall which awakens a dormant sense of adventure that gives you the domkrag to tackle the conscious act of pushing yourself off a 6m high cliff. 

Adrenalin still coursing through your veins, you can progress to an 11m high verge. The choice to opt out is always there as the skilled team of runadventures.com lead you on a wildly impressive aquatic trek across what sometimes feels like a Jurassic island, but truth be told as a ‘new world’ Reunion has very little indigenous wildlife and no predators to speak of.  If you do anything out of the ordinary on the island – do this!

SEE: Taking risks on the Island of Reunion

- Find your energy flow in a Lava Tunnel at Grand Brulé, Sainte Rose

As if the Mars-like edge of Piton de la Fournaise is not unusual enough, this is probably the most unpredictable experience on the island. Going down into the dormant lava tubes, formed in the 2004 eruption, is surreal and a bit more intense than your average caving experience. 

There are the expected stalactites you’d see in the likes of the Cango Caves only this time they’re made of a luminescent charcoal-coloured igneous rocks and the intensity of a Gollum-esque darkness when all headlights are switched off, leaves a lasting impression.

Word to those not so comfortable with small, enclosed spaces - our caving experience lasted just over 40 minutes but can be adjusted accordingly.

What you need to know to #GoToReunion - South Africans no longer need a visa. 

To see more of what local South African and international bloggers thought of their adventures in Reunion go here. Go here to find where to stay and what else you can do in Reunion. Or email Reunion Tourism directly on reunionisland.za@atout-france.fr and follow them on Facebook - ReunionTourisme

What to read next Traveller24:

Reunion Island: Super 7 stays to check out

- Solo travelling the Indian Ocean islands

Indian Ocean escapes: Beach-busting holidays for South Africans 

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