Sunday, 26 June 2016

Grand Étang

Grand Étang (which means 'Big Pond') is Reunion's only high altitude volcanic lake and its largest inland body of water, with an area covering 50 hectares (123 acres).

Grand Etang, looking east

Located in the district of Saint-Benoît, it lies at an altitude of 525 metres at the bottom of an almost vertical ridge separating it from the Rivière des Marsouins valley.

looking west

You can walk or ride a horse around the lake, or just pic-nic there. The walk is about 4 km long, more if you take a detour to visit the waterfalls to the west. It's pretty easy but can be muddy depending on the time of year.

waterfalls, Grand Etang

looking west from the start of the walk

on the north shore looking west

path from carpark to lake

Grand Etang is part of a larger site that has been identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because it supports a colony of Audubon's shearwaters (with 300 breeding pairs), as well as populations of Réunion harriers, Mascarene swiftlets, Mascarene paradise flycatchers, Réunion bulbuls, Mascarene white-eyes, Réunion olive white-eyes and Réunion stonechats.

Reunion stonechat at Grand Etang (known locally as a tec-tec)

One plant I've only ever seen growing at Grand Etang and nowhere else is wild Job's-tears. The plant bears hard, pearly-white oval beads that can be used for making necklaces, rosaries and other objects.

Job's tears

close-up of Job's tears

Fed essentially by rainfall and runoff, the water level is very variable.

The water can reach up to 10 metres depth, but on the day we visited it was less than 1.9 metres deep at this measuring stick near the shore.

depth measurement instrument

My husband remembers seeing pictures of Grand Etang after Cyclone Hyacinthe ("the wettest tropical cyclone on record in the world") in 1980 when the level of the water was so high it was more or less touching the electrical cables strung across the lake.

Some links (in French)