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Hiking into Mafate, Reunion

When I travel, I hate that sluggish feeling after any flight, and when you arrive at a destination, there’s usually a large meal and not much activity while you settle in. Reunion was the complete opposite in every way starting off with a 7km hike into the Mafate caldera (a collapsed volcano) on my first full day on the island.


Mafate, Reunion, is absolutely incredible. Not only is it exquisitely beautiful, but it’s also only accessible by hiking in or helicopter. There are no roads leading in here, so no cars, scooters or motorbikes. Being in such a remote spot high up in the mountains, I assumed the village we were heading towards would be rather rural. While it had the laid-back feeling of a village cut off from the mainland, rural it was not.


The hike into Mafate is relatively easy. It’s mostly flat with a slow steady climb. There’s no pulling yourself up rocks or climbing over boulders to get yourself along and the 7km can be done in about 2-3 hours depending on your pace. You’ll also see locals pretty much the whole way heading in and out of the caldera. There are a few rivers to skip over, and even some beautiful natural pools to dive into if you’re getting too hot. Basically, it’s at your own pace and there’s no sense of urgency about a destination.

Inside Mafate, there are tons of tiny villages across the flats and slopes of the mountains. While we were inside the caldera for just the day, there are actually over 200km of trail here and backpackers will spend days trekking across the three cirques or calderas of Reunion island. The guesthouse I got a chance to sneak a peak at was simple, just some comfy beds in small rooms, with external communal ablution blocks nearby. There are also plenty of spots to smash down your tent for an amazing night’s sleep after a long day of hiking.


At the end of a hike we were welcomed into the small village of Cayenne. A small guesthouse, with no pronounced name at its entrance, awaited at the start of the village for us. A large table spread out with colourful table cloths and a massive selection of Creole food was our introduction to the delicate flavours and vibrant culture of Creole cooking.

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I first read about this place on Natalie’s blog and she mentioned all the cats that hang around the guesthouse that we ate at. What she didn’t highlight as much was how opportunistic these felines tend to be. This guy for instance stole an entire chicken wing off the table. Cute, but you may end up fighting for your lunch!


While we could’ve hiked back out, we were spoiled to a helicopter lift back to the coastline of Reunion. It was incredible to see all these small villages scattered across the mountains, it must be an incredibly peaceful life the people here lead. What I did find so amazing though is how clean everything is, and then we were told why. The authorities helicopter in supplies and remove massive bags of garbage for recycling on a weekly basis. Helicopters were swooping in and out of the mountain’s crevices to collect that week’s garbage while we were around. The locals just run out, connect it onto a dangling hook and wave it goodbye!

My Trip to Reunion Island was part of the Reunion Island Tourism Board’s Mascarun campaign. As with all posts, I maintain full editorial control.

Travel & food blogger helping adventurous South Africans find their next escape.

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