Did you know? Some facts about Reunion

Here are some facts about Reunion which you might not know:

- With a drop of 725m Reunion's Trou de Fer is France's tallest, and the world's 21st highest waterfall.

Trou de Fer waterfall (source)

- The flight between Reunion and Paris-CDG covering 9,349km operated by Air Austral is technically the world's longest domestic flight. Flights to Paris-Orly with other airlines (such as Air France and Corsair) are about 10 km shorter.

- The three longest rivers in Reunion are Rivière des Galets (35.3 km), Rivière Saint-Étienne (34.5 km), and Rivière du Mât (34.1 km).

- In 1841, Edmond Albius, a 12-year-old slave who lived on  Réunion, discovered vanilla could be hand-pollinated.  Manual pollination allowed worldwide cultivation of the orchid, and his technique is still  used today.

Edmond Albius in 1863, aged 34 (image Wikipedia)
- Reunion has the world records for the most amount of rainfall for the following periods:
  • 9 hours: 1.087 metres (Belouve, 1964)
  • 12 hours: 1.144 metres (Foc-Foc, 1966)
  • 18.5 hours: 1.689 metres (Belouve, 1964)
  • 24 hours: 1.825 metres (Foc-Foc, 1966)
  • 2 days: 2.467 metres (Aurère, 1958)
  • 3 days: 3.93 metres*
  • 4 days: 4.87 metres*
  • 5 days: 4.98 metres*
  • 6 days: 5.07 metres*
  • 7 days: 5.40 metres*
  • 8 days: 5.51 metres*
  • 9 days: 5.51 metres*
  • 10 days: 5.61 metres
  • 11 days: 6.299 metres
  • 12 days: 6.401 metres
  • 13 days: 6.422 metres
  • 14 days: 6.432 metres
  • 15 days: 6.433 metres
* Figures recorded at Commerson Crater during Cyclone Gamede in February 2007, one of the wettest tropical cyclones on record. The records for 10 to 15 days were also recorded there in January 1980.

While not world records, here are the local precipitation records for shorter periods of time:
  • 1 hour: 261mm (Cilaos, 1964)
  • 3 hours: 422mm (Mare à Vieille Place, Salazie, 1998)
  • 6 hours: 687mm (Mare à Vieille Place, Salazie, 1998)

Sources : Australian Govt. Bureau of  MeteorologyMétéo France and Dr Jeff Master's blog on Weather underground.

cyclone Gamede

- Three of the five wettest tropical cyclones on record hit Reunion Island: Hyacinthe in 1980, Gamede  in 2007, and Diwa in 2006.

- On 24th March 1613, the English ship "The Pearl" stopped at the island and the ship's captain Samuel Castleton called the island England’s Forest, as he found the island to be particularly woody (although according to some accounts it was a pirate known as Blackwelle and not Castletown).

- Plaine des Cafres in the highlands of Reunion has been measured as having France's cleanest air, and one of the lowest pollution levels in the world. (The World Heath Organisation data is available here).

view over Plaine des Cafres looking towards Piton des Neiges 

- 30% of Reunion's surface is covered by slopes with an incline greater than 30%.

- Reunion is Europe's leading producer of sugar, and the world's 7th (see here).

- When built in 1894, the suspended bridge over the Rivière de l'Est was the world's longest (152m).

The old suspended bridge over the Rivière de l'Est

Grande Ravine Bridge, Trois Bassins (photo highestbridges.com)

- Reunion was the first place in the world to use the Euro (reportedly to buy a kilo of lychees).

- In 2003, a female fishing world record was achieved in the waters off Reunion, when Catherine Lavit caught a blue marlin weighing 551kg.

- Until Mayotte became a French department in March 2011, Reunion had France's oldest mosque, the Noor-E-Islam mosque in Saint Denis, built in 1905. The oldest mosque in mainland France (La Grande Mosquée de Paris) was only built 20 years later.

mosque Noor-e-islam of St Denis
(photo source)

- Reunion is often said to have the world's most expensive road to build and maintain, although this is probably no longer the case today. Built as a two-lane road in 1963 and widened to a dual carriageway in 1976, the Route du Littoral covers 13 km between Saint Denis and La Possession. At the time it cost 320 million French francs (over €48 million) to build. The cliff overhanging it often crumbles, resulting in frequent rockfalls which have killed more than twenty people over the past 30 years. Millions of euros still have to be spent trying to make it secure.  In 2004 for example, the authorities spent €83.7 million  (€64.5 million on metal safety nets, and €4.49 million on gabions). After the rockfall which happened on March 24th 2006 in which 4 people died, the budget was reevaluated at €90.57 million. The 2008-2010 budget was estimated at €51 million, bringing the 2006-2010 total spent to over €140 million.
Source: Clicanoo article 12/10/2008.

Route du Littoral (photo Serge Gelabert)

- Réunion is the 17th highest island in the world (see here).

- At 3070 metres, the Piton des Neiges (Reunion's highest summit) is the world's 82nd highest peak by prominence.

Piton des Neiges (©Serge Gelabert)

- Reunion is the world's 65th territory by highest point.

- Reunion is the world's 177th island in terms of surface area.

- At 2510 km2 Reunion has roughly the same land area as:

- Reunion is the 20th most recent country or island in terms of human settlement.

- Reunion ranks 65th in the world in terms of island population.

- Reunion is home to the European Union's most southern and eastern extremes at Pointe du Langevin (Saint Joseph) and Pointe des Cascades (Sainte Rose) respectively.

Pointe du Langevin at Saint Joseph

- Reunion's population was estimated at 876,562 on 1st January 2017. This means that its population is greater than the following independent countries and inhabited dependent territories (in order of decreasing population size): Comoros, Bhutan, Guyana, Montenegro, Macau, Solomon Islands, Luxembourg, Suriname, Western Sahara, Cabo Verde, Guadeloupe, Maldives, Malta, Brunei, Bahamas, Martinique, Belize, Iceland, Barbados, French Polynesia, French Guiana, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Mayotte, Sao Tome and Principe, Samoa, Saint Lucia, Guernsey & Jersey, Guam, Curaçao, Kiribati, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tonga, Grenada, Federated States of Micronesia, Aruba, United States Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, Seychelles, Isle of Man, Andorra, Dominica, Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Greenland, American Samoa, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Northern Mariana Islands, Marshall Islands, Faroe Islands, Sint Maarten, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Turks and Caicos Islands, Gibraltar, San Marino, British Virgin Islands, Caribbean Netherlands, Palau, Cook Islands, Anguilla, Wallis and Futuna, Nauru, Tuvalu, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Montserrat, Saint Helena, Ascension & Tristan da Cunha, Falkland Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Vatican City.

- Reunion sits on the 21st parallel south circle of latitude. Heading east from Reunion this parallel passes through: Australia (entering Western Australia just south of Barrow Island); New Caledonia; Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil; Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Madagascar.

- Reunion Island aims to be the first territory in the world where all environmentally-friendly innovations are integrated into society by 2030 under the programme GERRI (Green Energy Revolution – Reunion Island). Cancelled :-(

- Reunion sits on a volcanic hotspot.

- The last emperor of Vietnam was exiled to Reunion in 1916.

Duy-Tan, Viet Nam's last emperor (photo Wikipedia)

- In 2010 the Pitons, cirques and remparts of Reunion Island became a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site.

- In 2009 Reunion's maloya music was inscribed on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

- At Reunion the pirates John Taylor and Olivier Levasseur are reputed to have captured the most valuable prize in pirate history variously described as "Nostra Senora della Cabo", "Nostra Senhora do Cabo", or "Nossa Senhora do Cabo" (Our Lady of the Cape) a 700-ton Portuguese galleon. It had been damaged in an Indian Ocean storm and was undergoing repairs at Réunion when the pirates struck. The galleon was laden with silver, gold, diamonds, gems, as well as pearls, silks, spices, works of art, and church regalia, the total value of which has been estimated as being anywhere from £100,000 to £875,000 (more than $400 million in today's terms).

- In September 2014 a rare egg-bearing Mascarene Petrel was photographed just off the coast of Reunion in what is believed to be the first record of any bird photographed in flight with an obvious egg inside the body.

Mascarene Petrel with 'baby bump'

- Reunion grows Bourbon Pointu, commonly said to be one of the world's finest arabica coffees - although that's  a matter of personal opinion of course! One kilo can cost up to €600 in Japan.

- Reunion had its own unit of measurement, the gaulette, in use from at least the 1710s until the 20th century. It was equivalent to 15 feet (4.872m), and was used in an agricultural context to measure lengths as well as surface area.

- A raspy cricket on Reunion has been found acting as a plant pollinator for the first time in the world (see here for more information).

The raspy cricket 

- For a  comprehensive list of all species (plants, fish, reptiles, birds, insects etc) that are unique to Reunion see this list of Living National Treasures.

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