I have spent some time in the island with the idea to do lots of trekking and hiking. The Reunion Island is a real paradise for these activities. I took always with me my camera and, although on the heavy side, it was a great companion during my day and, most important, I was able to take some great Reunion Island pictures.
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I had some intense days with early wake up calls to get the best of the day in the mountain, the morning. As it several times happens, the afternoon can be cloudy, if not raining and, if you plan for example to climb Piton Des Neiges (over 3,000 metres) you really need to be up and running by sunrise.
I was very happy with my photos all around the Reunion Island.
Some great spots you can easily arrive with a rented car. Expect some hours of trekking if you want to reach the highest point or see one of the most active and productive volcano on earth, the Piton de la Fournaise.
I remember I posted few pics of Reunion Island on my Facebook personal profile and I had few friends coming back to me asking where I was actually, in France? in Europe? in Africa? in the middle of the Indian Ocean?
Where is reunion island on the world map?
That’s a great question to ask. I was myself not fully aware of this island till I decided to visit this part of the world, starting my trip with a first stop in Mauritius. I had to google for more information as well, including some photos, to take inspiration from
Just to have an idea of how far is this island from US or Australia or Europe, here below some distances:
- only 4,000 km from Cape Town in South Africa
- 8,000 km from Melbourne in Australia
- almost 10,000 km from London
- 15,000 km from New York
- if you live on the west coast of United States a direct flight from Los Angeles would need to fly over 18,000 km which is not be possible with today’s commercial airplanes
Reunion Island is part of France however the capital, Paris, is just over 9,300 km away, a long trip for just a weekend 😀
Yes, the island is pretty isolated, and this is most probably one of the beauty of Reunion, still very wild, especially in the centre where there are no roads and trekking is the only mean of transportation. And this is where you and your camera can take the best photos, that beautiful images that will for sure stand out.
So now I am pretty comfortable that if somebody will ask you where is reunion island on the world map? you can answer with some numbers and expertise 😉
Reunion Island is best to be seen from the top. This can bee seen for many places I guess however Reunion is a volcanic island with steep peaks, active volcano, a reef, although on a small side. These are all great subjects for what I love in my travel photography. There is a small drawback, it is indeed an expensive experience at just over 200 Euro.
From time to time I get asked by some blog readers if I pay my trips. Yes, I pay for them, and 200 euro is a sum that makes me thinking. I had a bit of a google and I found two operators: Helilagon and Coral. I contacted both of them with an email in English and only Helilagon replied. Unfortunately English is not widely spoken in the Reunion Island. I booked with them on the very last day of my trip.
I explained Helilagon that I run a travel Photography blog and I would love to take some pictures. I asked if there was the possibility to be next to an open window. Unfortunately that was not possible, for safety reasons they keep the helicopter with closed windows and doors.
However they offered me a 10% discount because I am a blogger (if you contact them just say you are a blogger too ;). Great news, basically it was like a free meal 😀
Both operators offer a similar range of tours, from 70 euro to over 200 euro based on what you would like to see. With Helilagon I got the helicopter pilot explaining in English too, which was great!
Is it worthy? Is well spent money? Watch the video below for an idea of what you will see and I am sure you will book straight away 😀
Gear to use
I usually take with me few lenses to cover the most of the circumstances. See the free Travel Photography Gear Guide for more information. I planned to visit also a local market and the low light could have been a problem (I prefer not to us flashes in public environments, looking too professional is not always an advantage :D).
Trekking/Climbing and photography are not good friends. I would have loved to take with me my middle range zoom (Sigma 70-200 f/2.8) however the weight would have killed me on the long run so I decided to leave it back home. It was indeed a mistake because it would have been very handy on the helicopter. Lesson learnt: it’s better to take more than less
For my Reunion Island pictures I ended up taking:
- Nikon D600
my old lady with a new sensor of the D610, no more dust problems.
Of all the DSLR the D600/D610 is probably the lightest one. Great full sensor camera. This trip made me thinking even more on my next gear. Is it a good time to go mirror less? I finished last week to review the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 and admittedly it is great to travel light. I would probably still go for a full sensor, as the Sony a7r, although quite an expensive camera.
- Nikkor lens 24-120mm 1:4
it would cover most of the photo opportunities. It’s a great all round lens. I used it quite a lot in the past with always great results. It would not fail in this tough trip and indeed it didn’t
- Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8
a Reunion Island gallery must include images of the local life, especially the local markets. It is mandatory to have a quick lens in this cases. I like the Nikkor 50mm also because it is a small one and people are actually less worried of the photographer (“sure he/she is not a pro 😀“)
Subjects for your photography
- trekking/climbing : Reunion is a tropical island with a unique vegetation, you will walk through amazing sceneries. You add the fact that it is a young volcanic island which means steep peaks and interesting formations. I was trekking and in few occasions I was not sure if I should leave my camera in hand or back in my bag. There was a beautiful surprise every turn of a corner!
- the Piton de la Fournaise volcano : it looks like being on the moon, almost no colours, just black and white. You may be as lucky as I was and be there when the volcano is active. In that case you will not have access to the inside of the crater however you may walk to a fantastic viewpoint
- Cascade de Grand Galet : in the south west of the island, these are some impressive waterfalls. This valley is also a popular spot with the locals that spend the Sunday having a picnic in the area, usually cooler than the rest of the island
- Saint Pierre: nice beach and some old era building
- Dodo beer sign : so colourful and old style
- Saint Paul : the Saturday morning market is a great spot for documenting the locals, their way to spend the day and sell or buy local products. You can finish up the morning with a great meal in one of the pop-up eateries
- Helicopter trip : take a polarizing filter to reduce the reflection from the helicopter window
- Saint Denis : the capital has some nice old lanes and buildings in the city centre. You can visit it when you land or you can spare a couple of hours before leaving the island. I would not spend the night in Saint Denis unless you have an early flight
- Winding roads : there are few viewpoints on the way to Cilaos or otherwise from the helicopter
Sixteen great photography locations
This is a map with the sites where you can take some great photos. The island is so beautiful that I am sure I left a few out of this map. Please, in case, add a comment below and I will update the map
Can I download these photos?
All images are Creative Commons, Non-Commercial. See more information here on what this mean
Enjoy the top 10 and click for the remaining ones in the next page (they are all full screen 🙂 )
Check to the next page of photos (they are all full screen 🙂 )
Looking for a place to sleep was not that easy. The main reason was that the volcano was active; this is one of the biggest attractions of the island. I was lucky I booked something in advance which helped me to organised myself.
Tampon – Piton de la Fournaise
I wanted to visit the volcano for sunset so I booked the first night at Sud Hôtel in Tampon (around 1 hour and half from the volcano peak). Great hotel and best service I experienced in the island. They all could speak perfect English (which is not that common). They organised my dinner even if the kitchen was closed. The room was just big and it was nice to have a swimming pool for an early morning swim. Breakfast was not spectacular but overall a great choice
In Cilaos I stayed in a small family run place called Casa Célina. The couple owning the bed and breakfast could hardly speak any English and my French is close to nothing. In saying that we did not have any trouble in our communication using a new language, Frenglish. They have only few rooms which tend to be booked out during the weekend by the locals coming here for some trekking. Very spacious bedroom, great view with a sun room, perfect place to spend the late hours of the afternoon. The breakfast was the highlight with some gorgeous handmade croissants and crepes, the perfect meal for a hiking day
St Gilles Les Bains – Le Maïdo & Beach
Finally I stayed in St Gilles Les Bains for few days of beach, night-life and access to trekking in Le Maïdo (1 hour by car). I loved the little town. It was nice to have few nice bars and restaurants around with a touch of drinking fun. The beach is beautiful as well however I suggest to swim within the net. It is quite typical in Australia too where the cage, or net, protects from sharks and jelly fish.
I booked in the very cosy Hotel de la Plage. Perfect location, unbeatable, few meters from everything. The place is really colourful and you definitely feel like being at the beach. The guy running the hotel makes also a big difference, he makes you feeling like at home. If you have any doubt on where to go ask him and he will tell you everything he knows….and it’s a lot. My room was spotless clean!
More information on Reunion Island
Enjoy this beautiful island!