HOT TIPS

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - INDIAN OCEAN -

Climb one of the world’s most ac­tive vol­ca­noes, Pi­ton de la Four­naise (see main story).

Hike the cirques with or with­out a guide. Guides’ daily rates vary, but ex­pect to pay be­tween €45 and €60 per per­son (in a group of three to four). Alexis Vin­cent can be con­tacted via aya­panare­union.com.

Spend five days walk­ing Mafate, the most re­mote cirque. The tourist board (see Es­sen­tials panel) will help book guides and gîtes ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Take a he­li­copter ride through Réu­nion’s vast calderas or cirques. Trips cost €260 (£239) for 45 min­utes with Co­rail (00 262 262 222 266; corail­he­li­copteres.com).

Visit the hi-tech vol­canol­ogy mu­seum, Cité du Vol­can, in Bourg Mu­rat (museesre­union. re; en­try €9/€6 con­ces­sions).

Drive the N2 or “Route du Vol­can”, through enor­mous fields of re­cent lava. The coulée (or flow) from the 2007 erup­tion is al­most a mile wide.

Go canyon­ing, moun­tain bik­ing, para­plan­ing or rid­ing. Again, you can book through the tourist board.

Head to L’Er­mitage-LesBains for white sandy beaches and some ex­cel­lent snorkelling in the la­goon.

Take a whale­watch­ing cruise from Saint-Gilles (00 262 262 332 832; grand­bleu.re; €30 per per­son).

In Saint-De­nis, eat at trendy Vapi­ano, housed in some stylishly con­verted Vic­to­rian bar­racks. he’s still the mas­ter of curses and cures, and sor­cery steps in where mod­ern life fal­ters.

If any­thing, the walk­ing was even bet­ter in the next cirque, Salazie. With its gi­gan­tic epi­phytes and tree ferns, it all felt pleas­ingly ex­trater­res­trial. Way above, I could al­ways see long spin­dles of wa­ter tum­bling down from the rim. The French had al­ways loved it here, and in the 1860s they perched them­selves among the pin­na­cles and built a lit­tle town of pas­tel-coloured man­sions. Hap­pily, Hell-Bourg is still as fret­ted and frilly as ever.

Of the three old calderas, the last – Mafate – is prob­a­bly the wildest. Alexis told me the only way in was by he­li­copter or on foot, and that’s how we found our­selves climb­ing the ravine. Even the cows had to be car­ried out by chop­per, he said, and the rub­bish. Once in­side, there are no ser­vices or roads, and yet it’s still home to some 900 scat­tered souls. We met a few that day; a lentil farmer; the post­mistress (with her lava-red hair), and Jeff, who kept eight cats and a tiny tin bar. There was also an old woman who watched us from the shad­ows. “Un­til the Eight­ies,” ex­plained Alexis, “the Mafa­tais sel­dom met out­siders. And many had never even seen a car…”

My re­ward for all this walk­ing was a few days on the coast. It felt odd hav­ing a hori­zon again, and not to be climb­ing. I stayed at The Lux near L’Er­mitage-Les-Bains. Built in the style of a planter’s man­sion, it had vast, chirpy gar­dens that led down through the pines to the sea. Although the la­goon seemed mir­ror-calm, be­neath the sur­face there was a car­ni­val of fish. It was like swim­ming around in a shoal of Pi­cas­sos.

I spent my last week on the other vol­canic mas­sif, the ac­tive one. Pi­ton de la Four­naise (or “Le Vol­can”) has erupted 250 times in the past 350 years, most re­cently in 2016. It’s one of the most ac­tive out­lets in the world – and ac­ces­si­ble on foot or by road. It’s a dis­con­cert­ing drive that be­gins with hay­fields and woods, and ends on a desert of bright red ash.

The road ends on the edge of a vast firepit, al­most the size of Guernsey. I parked, and peered down through the clouds. Some 98 per cent of the is­land’s erup­tions oc­cur here, in the En­c­los Fouqué, and way out in the mid­dle is the main cone, Dolomieu, look­ing be­guil­ingly pink and sym­met­ri­cal. It’s a six-hour walk to the

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