RéUNION (French : La Réunion, pronounced ( listen ); previously
Île Bourbon) is an island and region of
France in the
Indian Ocean ,
Madagascar and 175 kilometres (109 mi) southwest of Mauritius
. As of January 2016 , it had a population of 842 767. It is the most
prosperous island in the
Indian Ocean , having the highest GDP per
capita in the region.
The island has been inhabited since the 17th century when people from
Africa settled there. Slavery was abolished on
20 December 1848 (a date celebrated yearly on the island), after which
indentured workers were brought from Tamil Nadu, Southern
among other places. The island became an overseas department of France
As elsewhere in France, the official language is French . In
addition, the majority of the region's population speaks Réunion
Réunion is one of the overseas departments of
France. Like the other four overseas departments, it is also one of
the 18 regions of
France , with the modified status of overseas region
, and an integral part of the Republic with the same status as
Réunion is an outermost region of the European
Union and, as an overseas department of France, part of the
* 1 History
* 2 Politics
* 3 Administrative divisions
* 3.1 Municipalities (communes)
* 4 Foreign relations
* 5 Geography
* 5.2 Beaches
* 6 Environment
* 6.1 Wildlife
* 6.2 Gardening - Bourbon roses
* 7 Demographics
* 7.1 Historical demographics
* 7.2 Religion
* 8 Culture
* 8.1 Language
* 8.2 Music
* 8.3 Sport
* 9 Media
* 9.1 Broadcasting
* 9.2 Newspapers
* 9.3 Film
* 9.4 Blogs
* 10 Economy
* 11 Public services
* 11.1 Health
* 11.2 Transport
* 12 See also
* 13 References
* 14 Bibliography
* 15 External links
1816 ten cent coin, Isle de Bourbon
Not much is known of Réunion's history prior to the arrival of the
Portuguese in the early sixteenth century. Arab traders were familiar
with it by the name Dina Morgabin. The island is possibly featured on
a map from 1153 AD by Al Sharif el-Edrisi . The island might also have
been visited by Swahili or Austronesian (Ancient Indonesian-Malaysian)
sailors on their journey to the west from the Malay Archipelago to
The first European discovery of the area was made around 1507 by
Diogo Fernandes Pereira , but the specifics are
unclear. The uninhabited island might have been first sighted by the
expedition led by Dom
Pedro Mascarenhas , who gave his name to the
island group around Réunion, the Mascarenes .
Réunion itself was
dubbed Santa Apolónia after a favourite saint , which suggests that
the date of the Portuguese discovery could have been 9 February, her
Diogo Lopes de Sequeira is said to have landed on the
Rodrigues in 1509.
Over a century later, nominal Portuguese rule had left Santa
Apolónia virtually untouched. The island was then occupied by France
and administered from
Port Louis ,
Mauritius . Although the first
French claims date from 1638, when François Cauche and Salomon
Goubert visited in June 1638, the island was officially claimed by
Jacques Pronis of
France in 1642, when he deported a dozen French
mutineers to the island from
Madagascar . The convicts were returned
France several years later, and in 1649, the island was named Île
Bourbon after the French Royal
House of Bourbon
House of Bourbon . Colonization started
in 1665, when the French East
India Company sent the first settlers.
Mahé de La Bourdonnais
Mahé de La Bourdonnais in Saint-Denis
"Île de la Réunion" was the name given to the island in 1793 by a
decree of the
Convention nationale (elected revolutionary constituent
assembly) with the fall of the
House of Bourbon
House of Bourbon in France, and the
name commemorates the union of revolutionaries from
Marseille with the
National Guard in Paris, which took place on 10 August 1792. In 1801,
the island was renamed "Île Bonaparte", after First Consul Napoleon
Bonaparte . The island was invaded by a
Royal Navy squadron led by
Josias Rowley in 1810, who used the old name of "Bourbon".
When it was restored to
France by the
Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna in 1815, the
island retained the name of "Bourbon" until the fall of the restored
Bourbons during the
French Revolution of 1848 , when the island was
once again given the name "Île de la Réunion".
From the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, French
colonisation, supplemented by importing Africans, Chinese and Indians
as workers, contributed to ethnic diversity in the population. From
1690, most of the non-Europeans were enslaved. The colony abolished
slavery on 20 December 1848. Afterward, many of the foreign workers
came as indentured workers . The opening of the
Suez Canal in 1869
reduced the importance of the island as a stopover on the East Indies
Hindu festival, nineteenth century
Second World War ,
Réunion was under the authority of the
Vichy Regime until 30 November 1942, when
Free French forces took over
the island with the destroyer Léopard .
Réunion became a département d\'outre-mer (overseas départment )
France on 19 March 1946.
INSEE assigned to Reunion the department
code 974, and the region code 04 when regional councils were created
in 1982 in France, including in existing overseas departments which
also became overseas regions.
Over about two decades in the late twentieth century (1963–1982),
1,630 children from
Réunion were relocated to rural areas of
France , particularly to
Creuse , ostensibly for
education and work opportunities. That programme was led by
Michel Debré , who was an MP for
Réunion at the time. Many of these children were abused or
disadvantaged by the families with whom they were placed. Known as
Creuse , they and their fate came to light in 2002 when
one of them, Jean-Jacques Martial, filed suit against the French state
for kidnapping and deportation of a minor. Other similar lawsuits
were filed over the following years, but all were dismissed by French
courts and finally by the
European Court of Human Rights in 2011.
In 2005 and 2006,
Réunion was hit by a crippling epidemic of
chikungunya , a disease spread by mosquitoes. According to the BBC
News , 255,000 people on
Réunion had contracted the disease as of 26
April 2006. The neighbouring islands of
suffered epidemics of this disease during the same year. A few cases
also appeared in mainland France, carried by people travelling by
airline. The French government of
Dominique de Villepin
Dominique de Villepin sent an
emergency aid package worth 36 million
Euro and deployed approximately
five hundred troops in an effort to eradicate mosquitoes on the
Politics of Réunion Map of the
European Union in
the world with overseas countries and territories and outermost
Réunion sends seven deputies to the French National Assembly and
three senators to the Senate .
Arrondissements of the Réunion department , Cantons
Réunion department , and
Communes of the Réunion department
Réunion is divided into 24 communes
(municipalities) grouped into four arrondissements . It is also
subdivided into 49 cantons , meaningful only for electoral purposes at
the departmental or regional level. It is a French overseas
department and hence a French overseas region . The low number of
communes, compared with French metropolitan departments of similar
size and population, is unique: most of its communes encompass several
localities, sometimes separated by significant distances.
* Le Port
The communes voluntarily grouped themselves into five
intercommunalities for cooperating in some domains, apart from the
four arrondissements to which they belong for purposes of applying
national laws and executive regulation. After some changes in the
composition, name and status of intercommunalities, all of them
operate with the status of agglomeration communities , and apply their
own local taxation (in addition to national, regional, departmental
and municipal taxes) and have an autonomous budget decided by the
assembly representing all member communes. This budget is also partly
funded by the state, the region, the department, and by the European
Union for some development and investment programs. Every commune in
Réunion is now a member of an intercommunality with its own taxation,
to which member communes have delegated their authority in various
Although diplomacy, military and French government matters are
handled by Paris,
Réunion is a member of
La Francophonie , the Indian
Ocean Commission , the
International Trade Union Confederation , the
Universal Postal Union , the Port Management Association of Eastern
Africa , and the
World Federation of Trade Unions in its
Geography of Réunion INDIAN OCEAN PITON
3 071 m PITON DE LA FOURNAISE
2 632 m RIVIèRE DES PLUIES RIVIèRE DU MâT RIVIèRE DES
GALETS RIVIèRE DES MARSOUINS RIVIèRE DE L\\'EST RIVIèRE
DES REMPARTS RIVIèRE SAINT-ÉTIENNE SAINT-DENIS Sainte-
Marie SAINT-BENOîT SAINT-ANDRé BRAS-PANON SALAZIE
LA PLAINE-DES-PALMISTES SAINTE-ROSE SAINT-PAUL LE PORT
LA POSSESSION SAINT-LEU LES TROIS-BASSINS SAINT-PIERRE
LES AVIRONS L\\'ÉTANG-SALé SAINT-LOUIS CILAOS
ENTRE-DEUX LE TAMPON PETITE-ÎLE SAINT-JOSEPH
The island is 63 kilometres (39 mi) long; 45 kilometres (28 mi) wide;
and covers 2,512 square kilometres (970 sq mi). It is above a hotspot
in the Earth's crust. The
Piton de la Fournaise
Piton de la Fournaise , a shield volcano on
the eastern end of
Réunion Island, rises more than 2,631 metres
(8,632 ft) above sea level and is sometimes called a sister to
Hawaiian volcanoes because of the similarity of climate and volcanic
nature. It has erupted more than 100 times since 1640 and is under
constant monitoring, most recently erupting on 14 July 2017. During
another eruption in April 2007, the lava flow was estimated at
3,000,000 cubic metres (3,900,000 cu yd) per day. The Piton de la
Fournaise is created by a hotspot volcano, which also created the
Piton des Neiges and the islands of
Piton des Neiges volcano, the highest point on the island at
3,070 metres (10,070 ft) above sea level, is north west of the Piton
de la Fournaise. Collapsed calderas and canyons are south west of the
mountain. Like Kohala on the Big
Island of Hawaii , the Piton des
Neiges is extinct. Despite its name, snow (French : neige) practically
never falls on the summit. The slopes of both volcanoes are heavily
forested. Cultivated land and cities like the capital city of
Saint-Denis are concentrated on the surrounding coastal lowlands.
Offshore, part of the west coast is characterised by a coral reef
Réunion also has three calderas : the Cirque de
the Cirque de
Cilaos and the
Cirque de Mafate . The last is accessible
only on foot or by helicopter.
View from satellite
Réunion from space (NASA image). The three cirques, forming a kind
of 3-leafed clover shape, are visible in the central north west of the
image. Piton de la Fournaise, in the south east, is covered by cloud.
Lava flow emitted in 2005 by the
Piton de la Fournaise
Piton de la Fournaise
"Plage de l'Ermitage" beach
The climate in
Réunion is tropical , but temperature moderates with
elevation. The weather is cool and dry from May to November, but hot
and rainy from November to April. Precipitation levels vary greatly
within the island, with the east being much wetter than the west.
There is more than 6 m of rain a year on some parts of the east and
less than 1 m a year on the west coast.
Réunion holds the world
records for the most rainfall in 12-, 24-, 72- and 96-hour periods.
Réunion hosts many tropical and unique beaches. These beaches are
often equipped with barbecues, amenities, and parking spaces.
Hermitage Beach is the most extensive and best preserved lagoon in
Island and a popular snorkelling location. It is a white
sand beach that’s lined with casuarina trees under which the locals
often organise picnics. La Plage des Brisants is a well-known surfing
spot, with many athletic and leisurely activities taking place. Each
November, a film festival is also organised in La Plage des Bristants.
Movies are projected on a large screen in front of a crowd. Beaches at
Boucan Canot are surrounded by a stretch of restaurants that
particularly cater to tourists. L’Etang-Salé on the west coast is a
particularly unique beach as it's covered in black sand consisting of
tiny fragments of basalt. This occurs when lava contacts water, it
cools rapidly and shatters into sand and fragmented debris of various
size. Much of the debris is small enough to be considered sand. Grand
Anse is a tropical white sand beach lined with coconut trees in the
south of Réunion, with a rock pool built for swimmers, a pétanque
playground, and a picnic area.
Sunset at Grand Anse beach Reunion
Restaurants along Boucan Canot beach
Manapany beach rock pool
L'etang Sale Beach - a black sand beach from volcanic basalt
L’Ermitage les Bains lagoon in front of Saint Paul, and its pass
through the coral reef.
Réunion National Park
Réunion is home to a
World Heritage Site that
covers about 40% of the island's area and coincides with the central
zone of the
Réunion National Park .
Wildlife of Réunion See also: List of extinct animals
Réunion is home to a variety of birds such as the white-tailed
tropicbird (French : paille en queue). Its largest land animal is the
panther chameleon , Furcifer pardalis. Much of the West coast is
ringed by coral reef which harbours, among other animals, sea urchins
, conger eels and parrot fish . Sea turtles and dolphins also inhabit
the coastal waters. Humpback whales migrate north to the island from
the Antarctic waters annually during the Southern Hemisphere winter
(June–September) to breed and feed, and can be routinely observed
from the shores of
Réunion during this season. At least 19 species
formerly endemic to
Réunion have become extinct following human
Between 2011 and 2015, there were 17 shark attacks in the waters of
Réunion of which seven were fatal. In July 2013 the Prefect of
Réunion Michel Lalande announced a ban on swimming, surfing and
bodyboarding off more than half of the coast. Lalande also said 45
bull sharks and 45 tiger sharks would be culled , in addition to the
20 already killed as part of scientific research into the illness
Migrations of humpback whales contributed to a bloom of whale
watching industries on Réunion, and watching rules have been governed
by the OMAR (Observatoire Marin de la Réunion) and Globice (Groupe
local d\'observation et d\'identification des cétacés).
A panther chameleon
Hawksbill sea turtle
Hawksbill sea turtle
Humpback whale off St-Gilles
GARDENING - BOURBON ROSES
The first members of the "Bourbon" group of garden roses originated
on this island (then still Île Bourbon, hence the name) from a
spontaneous hybridisation between Damask roses and
Rosa chinensis ,
which had been brought there by the colonists. The first Bourbon roses
were discovered on the island in 1817.
Manapany Main article:
Demographics of Réunion See also:
Chinois (Réunion) ,
Zarabes , and
Ethnic groups present include people of African , Indian , European ,
Malagasy and Chinese origin. Local names for these are Yabs,
Malbars , and Chinois . All of the ethnic groups comprising the island
are immigrant populations that have come to
Réunion from Europe,
Africa over the centuries. There are no indigenous people on
the island, as it was originally deserted. These populations have
mixed from the earliest days of the island's colonial history (indeed,
the first settlers married women from
Madagascar and of
Indo-Portuguese heritage) resulting in a majority population of mixed
race and of "Creole" culture.
It is not known exactly how many people there are of each ethnicity
since the French census does not ask questions there about ethnic
origin, which applies in
Réunion because it is a part of the 1958
constitution , and also because of the extent of racial mixing on the
island. According to estimates, whites (petits blancs and gros blancs)
make up approximately one-quarter of the population,
Malbars make up
more than 25% of the population and people of Chinese ancestry form
roughly 3%. The percentages for mixed race people and those of
Afro-Malagasy origins vary widely in estimates. There are also some
people of Vietnamese ancestry on the island, though they are very few
Tamils are the largest group among the Indian community. The
island's community of Muslims from North Western
India , particularly
Gujarat , and elsewhere is commonly referred to as
Creoles (a name given to those born on the island, regardless of
ethnic origins), make up the majority of the population. Groups that
are not creole include people recently arrived from Metropolitan
France (known as zoreils) and those from
Mayotte and the
Official data from
INSEE by census or estimate; estimates shown in
Religion in Réunion ,
Islam in Réunion , and Hinduism in
Réunion Catholic church of Notre-Dame-des-Neiges in
The predominant religion is
Christianity , notably Roman Catholicism
, with a single (Latin Rite) jurisdiction, the Roman Catholic Diocese
Réunion . Religious Intelligence estimates
Christians to be 80.9% of the population, followed by Hindus (10.7%)
and Muslims (2.2%).
Chinese folk religion and
Buddhism are also
represented, among others.
Most large towns have a
Hindu temple and a mosque .
Réunionese culture is a blend (métissage) of European, African,
Indian , Chinese and insular traditions. The most widely spoken
Réunion Creole , derives from French .
French is the only official language of Réunion. Although not
Réunion Creole is the native language of a large part of
the population and is spoken alongside French. Creole is used
informally and orally in some administration offices whereas the
official language of any administration office as well as education is
Because of the diverse population, other languages are also spoken
Comorian language varieties (especially
Shimaore ), Malagasy
by recent immigrants from
Mayotte and Madagascar, Mandarin , Hakka and
Cantonese by members of the Chinese community, but fewer people speak
these languages as younger generations start to converse in French and
Réunion Creole. There are significant number of speakers of Indian
languages mostly Tamil , Gujarati and
Urdu . Arabic is taught in
mosques and spoken by a small community of Muslims. English is a
compulsory second language as part of the French school curriculum,
but as in mainland France, English fluency is rare. German and Spanish
are offered as a third language. Tamil is also taught as an optional
language in some schools.
Music of Réunion See also:
Sega music and
There are two music genres which originated in Réunion: sega, which
originated earlier and is also traditional in Mauritius,
Seychelles and maloya, which originated in the 19th century and is
only found in Réunion.
Moringue is a popular combat/dance sport similar to capoeira .
There are several famous Réunionese sportsmen and women like the
Jackson Richardson , as well as the karateka
Lucie Ignace .
Professional footballers include
Dimitri Payet , Florent Sinama
Guillaume Hoarau .
Laurent Robert and ex-Hibernian and
Didier Agathe have also featured in movies. Agathe
A Shot at Glory , whilst Robert was in Goal! .
Réunion has a number of contributions to worldwide professional
surfing . It has been home to notable pro surfers including Jeremy
Johanne Defay and Justine Mauvin . Famous break St Leu has
been host to several world surfing championship competitions.
Réunion has a local public television channel,
Réunion 1ère ,
which now forms part of
France Télévision , and also receives France
France 3 ,
France 4 ,
France 5 and
France 24 from metropolitan
France, as well as
France Ô , which shows programming from all of the
overseas departments and territories . There are also two local
private channels, Télé Kréol and Antenne Réunion.
It has a local public radio station, formerly Radio Réunion, but now
Réunion 1ère, like its television counterpart. It also
receives the Radio
France Inter ,
France Musique and
France Culture . The first private local radio station, Radio Freedom,
was introduced in 1981. They broadcast daily content about weather and
Two main newspapers:
* Journal de l\'île de La
* Le Quotidien (Réunionese newspaper) (fr)
* Adama (animated there)
Mississippi Mermaid (1969) (filmed there)
* Visit Reunion (English language blog and instagram page)
Tourism blog (English/French tourism blog)
Economy of Réunion Man sorting
Bourbon vanilla .
In 2013, the GDP of
Réunion was estimated at 16.7 billion euros
(US$22.2 bn) and the GDP per capita was 19,854 euros (US$26,369).
Sugar was traditionally the chief agricultural product and export.
Tourism is now an important source of income. The island's remote
location combined with its stable political alignment with Europe
makes it a key location for satellite receiving stations and naval
navigation. Unemployment is a major problem on Réunion; the rate
stood at 30 percent in 2014 and 60 percent among young people.
Le Monde , 42 percent of the population lived below the
poverty line in 2010.
Rum distillation is a sugar-based process that contributes to the
island's economy. A "Product of
France ", it is shipped to
bottling, then shipped to consumers around the world.
Réunion experienced an epidemic of chikungunya , a
viral disease similar to dengue fever brought in from East Africa,
which infected almost a third of the population because of its
transmission through mosquitoes. The epidemic has since been
eradicated. See the History section for more details.
Transport in Réunion
Roland Garros Airport
Roland Garros Airport serves the island, handling flights to mainland
South Africa ,
Pierrefonds Airport ,
a smaller airport, has some flights to
Mauritius and Madagascar.
* Islands portal
* Administrative divisions of
* Culture of the
Indian Ocean Islands
List of colonial and departmental heads of Réunion
List of islands administered by
France in the Indian and Pacific
List of islands
List of Réunionnais
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
* Overseas departments and territories of
Scouting and Guiding in Réunion
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to RéUNION .
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