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The island of Reunion is situated 700 km east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. The Portuguese discovered the island in the 16th century but the French claimed it in 1643. It was named Bourbon and the first French colony was established in 1662. The island’s sugar plantations were worked by slaves shipped from mainland Africa. In 1793 the island was renamed Reunion and continued to exist as a French colony with the exception of a brief period of the British occupation from 1810 to 1815. Over time influx of Malay, Chinese, and Malabar Indians labour contributed to ethnicity of Reunion.

In 1946 the mode of ruling was changed, and the island was made a department of the French government. The islanders are citizen of France and most of them are happy to maintain status quo. There is little effort to sever ties, or gain independence from France. The island’s government is made up of two elected bodies – the General Council and the Regional Council. The members are elected through universal suffrage. Five deputies are sent to the French National Assemble in addition to three Senate representatives.

A volcanic island, the geography of Reunion is made up of rocky shoreline offering a limited number of beaches and natural harbours. It does offer tourists, the backbone of its economy, wide ranging activities like horse riding, amazing diving sites, canyon exploring and mountain trekking.  It is also a desirable destination for surfers and offers spectacular “cirques”- natural amphitheatres created by surrounding mountains. The island is known to house the tallest mountain in the Indian Ocean and the most active as well, having erupted 170 times since the middle of the seventeenth century. Lava flow forces road closings and can cause damage to the buildings. Sugarcane industry along with export of seafood, vanilla and rum in addition to financial aid from Pairs supplement the economy of Reunion.

Thanks to a mixture of cultures the cuisine of Reunion in varied. Standard dishes include cari and rougail which are made from meat or fish in sauce and consumed with rice. There is a large variety of tropical fruits like mango, lychee, pineapple, papaya and bananas. Lunchtime offers a variety of sandwiches and samosas, making for a relatively cheap meal. The main drink is rum, with the low quality drink being made from fermented cane sugar molasses without being aged. It is frequently consumed as rhum arrange. This type of rum is easy to drink as it is sugary and fruity but has a fairly high alcohol content.


Fast Facts:

Territory:    Reunion

Status:    French overseas territory

Capital:    Saint-Denis

Area:    2,507 sq. km (968 sq. miles)

Major languages:   French (official), Creole

Religion:   Christianity, Hindu, Muslim

Monetary unit:   euro

International dialling code:   +262


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