Saturday, 25 July 2015

Slacklining in Reunion Island

I've previously posted an incredible video about slacklining across the 3 Salazes, here are more videos of slacklining in Reunion, including a world record!

The first shows Swiss Raphael Bacot and his Reunionnese counterpart Kevin Borg of Slackline 974 crossing a suspended midline against a background of exploding waves on the south coast, at Cap Mechant.

© Dronecopters

© Dronecopters

The second takes place in the isolated mountain cirque of Mafate and shows Kevin crossing a 40-metre high gorge at Trois Roches. Both these exploits were filmed using a mixture of images from a Gopro (from the slack liners' point of view) and aerial shots by drones.

The third video shows Nathan Paulin setting a world record on 9th June 2015 by crossing the longest slackline in the world, 403m long and 250 metres above ground at the Cassé de la Rivière de l'Est. It took him 23 minutes to walk the 403m and he was filmed by Les six patates. (A few weeks later he set a new world record highline at the Natural Games in Millau, France – 469m).

See also:

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Mauritius seen from Reunion and vice versa

Well-known local photographer Luc Perrot published a photo this week of Mauritius seen from Piton de la Fournaise, Reunion Island. He explained that winter brings clear night skies, which make this sort of photo possible.

Mauritius as seen from Piton de la Fournaise,
Reunion Island © Luc Perrot

cropped version of the above photo © Luc Perrot

Panoramic view, with the volcano clearly visible
to the right © Luc Perrot

As some people seemed to think it wasn't possible to see Mauritius from Reunion, Mauritian photographer Burty Makoona sent the photo below, which Perrot annotated.

Reunion, seen from Mauritius © Burty Makoona

Annotated version:

Reunion, seen from Mauritius (annotated) © Burty Makoona

Another photo by Perrot was recently Photo of the Day on the Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD) website (EPOD is a service of the Universities Space Research Association).

Piton de la Fournaise © Luc Perrot

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Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Advance warning: solar eclipse on 1st September 2016

On Thursday 1st September 2016 an annular solar eclipse will be visible from Réunion Island.

example of an annular solar eclipse

A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, thereby totally or partly obscuring the image of the Sun for a viewer on Earth. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon's apparent diameter is smaller than the Sun's, blocking most of the Sun's light (in this case 97%) and causing the Sun to look like an annulus (ring).

path of the eclipse

While the whole eclipse will last from 06:13–12:00 UT, the point of maximum eclipse will last 186 seconds (3 minutes 6 seconds), and the maximum width of the band will be 100km (62 miles). It will be seen across central Africa southwards to Madagascar and into the Indian Ocean. The partial eclipse will be visible across most of Africa and parts of the Middle East. The points of Greatest Eclipse and Greatest Duration will be in southern Tanzania.

path of the eclipse

Most of Réunion will see the annular eclipse at about 10:09 UT. Although the island is not on the centreline, the duration in the south-west (near St Pierre) should be quite good, as the centreline duration is still over 3 minutes.

map showing path of eclipse over Reunion

The last solar eclipse visible on Réunion was on 21st June 2001.

For more information:

Sunday, 31 May 2015

May 2015 volcano eruption

Réunion's volcano, Piton de la Fournaise, erupted for the second time this year on May 17th and continued erupting for two weeks until yesterday, May 30th. During the 13 days the eruption lasted at least 8 million cubic metres of lava were ejected, which corresponds to the volume normally ejected over a period of 20 days. The volcanic cone which has formed has a volume of 400,000 cubic metres, or 13 Olympic swimming pools!

Here are some photos and videos of the eruption. 

This AFP photo by Richard Bouhet was widely distributed
by the international media

© Drone copters

© Lionel Ghighi

© Sebastien Conejero

© Sebastien Conejero

Note that one of Reunion's Volcano Observatory four webcams was directed towards the eruption (bottom right hand corner).

screenshot of the Volcano observatory webcam (source)

Update: the photo below, by Pierre Choukroun, was photo of the day  for June 16th on the website Volcano Discovery.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Scuba Diving in Rodrigues

The island of  Rodrigues, about 600 km ENE of Mauritius, is probably one of the remotest places I've dived after Saipan in the Pacific. The island covers only 108 sq. km, but the lagoon covers 230 sq. km! Its coral reefs are very rich, and we saw many species of reef fish while there, including some enormous porcupinefish, as well as some green turtles and lots of trevallies.

Rodrigues and its lagoon

We did 11 dives on ten different sites while in Rodrigues, all from the Cotton Dive Center in the east. The two most memorable were the St François Pass (which we dived twice), and Canyon where we had to used ropes! Below are a few photos.

Phyllidia varicosa nudibranch

Sea cucumber

this type of angelfish is only found in the waters around Rodrigues 

Yellow teardrop butterflyfish (Chaetodon interrupts), only found in the Indian Ocean

Blackspotted pufferfish (Arothron nigropunctatus)

Black-saddled leopard grouper (Plectropomus laevis)

Scorpion fish, possibly a humpback scorpionfish

Blue triggerfish (Pseudobalistes fuscus)

Moray eel

Pipefish (Corythoichthys)

Great barracuda (sphyraena barracuda)


Me (holding a Gopro) at Karlanne dive site

Bigeye trevallies (Caranx sexfasciatus)

Leaf fish (Taenianotus triacanthus)

Spiny lobster (Panulirus versicolor)

Giant clam (tridacna maxima)

Other articles about diving in Rodrigues:

me, watching a shoal of fish go by

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Saturday, 28 March 2015

Rodrigues 2015

Rodrigues has not changed much in nine years since my last visit. The people are just as friendly, there's maybe just a few more cars on the road and houses, but that's it. This year's visit was essentially for scuba-diving, but as the dive centre closes on Saturdays (market day in the capital, Port Mathurin) we hired a car and headed out and about.

view of Port Mathurin

The island, which has a population of about 40 000 inhabitants, belongs to Mauritius and is ≈600 km to its north east. Its surface area is 108 km2, it is 18km long by 8 km wide, and the highest point is only 355m.

unidentified bird seen at Port Mathurin

Rodrigues has two 'claims to fame' - it is the part of Africa closest to Australia, and it is the furthest place where the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa was heard.

boats, Port Mathurin

After visiting the market we headed to the François Leguat reserve in the island's southwest, near the airport. The reserve is a conservation project that was started in 2007 by a zoologist whose dream was to recreate the fauna and flora as it was when the first settlers arrived in Rodrigues. In 1691 François Leguat wrote that there were so many tortoises on Rodrigues that 'one can take more than a hundred steps on their shell without touching the ground'. The 300,000 giant tortoises were exploited for their meat and oil by the sailors and thus became extinct, but similar species have been re-introduced to the reserve and they can now be seen during the visit. Thus the domed Rodrigues giant tortoise and the saddle-backed Rodrigues giant tortoise have been replaced by the Radiated tortoise and Aldabra giant tortoise respectively.

An Aldabra giant tortoise 

The breeding programme has been successful and there are currently 2564 tortoises of both species! Radiated tortoises, having been introduced to Réunion, are fairly common there so I  more was interested in seeing the adult Aldabra giant tortoises which roam all over a large canyon in the reserve.

view of part of the canyon 
The reserve's oldest tortoise (left) and heaviest (right)

So as to re-create the fauna more than 130,000 endemic and native plants have been planted: some virtually extinct in the wild and many quite rare otherwise.

Bats are the only mammals found naturally in the Mascarene islands.  The Rodrigues fruit bat was described in 1970s at the rarest bat in the world, with only 70-100 individuals, but the population has now grown to 5,000 as forest cover has increased. They are important pollinators and seed dispersers of native trees as well as exotic fruit  trees. At the reserve they can be seen in an enclosure.

The giant fruit bat is Rodrigues' only endemic mammal

The second (optional) part of the visit is to Grande Caverne, whose name means 'Large Cave', but which is actually somewhat smaller than Caverne Patate that we visited in 2006. There is actually a network of eleven caves extending below the reserve, but only Grande Caverne, the largest at 500m in length, is open to visitors. 

Inside Grande Caverne

Inside Grande Caverne

Equipped with a hardhat, you are taken on a guided tour along specially-designed boardwalks with handrails and lighting which illuminates stalactites and stalagmites formed over thousands of years.

The well-informed tour guides point out quirky rock shapes and discuss the island's interesting geological history. Unlike the other islands in the Mascarenes which are composed of volcanic basalt, Rodrigues has a limestone platea, known as Plaine Corail.

King Kong?

The reserve also has its own museum, a small souvenir shop and a café.

See also:

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