2 days route in the south of Reunion Island
The turquoise waters of the Pointe au Sel’s basin of Saint-Leu
Let’s go discovering La Reunion’s basins. Our weekend begins in Saint- Leu, in the west of Reunion (city where I grew up!). Our first step is the basin of «La Pointe au Sel», nicknamed «The Cave». It’s close to Saint-Leu (in direction of Saint-Pierre). The “Pointe au Sel” exit is well signposted. We park and pass in front of the Salt Museum. The salt of Saint-Leu is the most famous of Reunion Island. Feel free to visit, the entrance is free and there is a presentation film about the history of the salt of Saint-Leu. You can buy it in many different forms and there are often watercolors’ exhibitions. It doesn’t take long and it won’t be the best visit of your holiday, but at least it exists!
Basins – Discover the Pointe au Sel’s cove
Keep walking on thirty meters towards the cliff and the sea. Below, we can see a pond with turquoise water, here we are. This “natural pool” of “La Pointe au Sel” is a mix of sea water that comes from the ocean, and freshwater (cooler) flowing through the volcanic rock. After we get down to the only small sandbar, the fun part starts. We picnic, swim and make fun trying to make the most beautiful jump (between 3 and 5 meters). The water temperature is pleasant even if small territorial black fishes (called “demoiselles”) have fun pecking our legs when we are unfortunately to close to their “territory”. It does not hurt, but it is surprising!
It is a place I really love, even one of my favorite basins. I discovered it one afternoon, as a child, while I was walking along the coast from Saint-Leu. Today this place is not a secret anymore, so you’ll rarely be the only one having this great idea. But the beauty of the place and its surrounding landscapes, worth the visit.
On the road to Manapany-les-Bains, a green oceanfront
After a few jumps in “La Pointe au Sel”, we drive in the direction of Manapany, another twenty minutes after Saint-Pierre. Located between Petite-Ile and Saint-Joseph, in the South of Reunion Island, Manapany is a very green place where we can observe the “green lizard”, an endemic species of our Island, and specifically from here.
If you haven’t planned to come again in southern Reunion, do not hesitate to make a detour by the beach of Grande Anse. For us, it is the most beautiful beach of the South of La Reunion. During weekends, there are many locals who come to picnic with their family. Be careful, camping is now forbidden here.
For your information, Manapany means “bat” in Malagasy (many names of Reunion’s places come from Madagascar, as Cilaos, Salazie and many others …). The story tells that Malagasy slaves ate bats regularly. There is also a former lime kiln (in ruins) which served for the sugarcane treatment.
Waves, festival and natural swimming pool
We decided to settle close to the dead end street (a small roundabout) at the end of the village. On our right, there are a small gully and large boulders. Sitting in the grass, we face the onslaught of the waves breaking on the rocks. It is spectacular, both violent and soothing. Especially during heavy swells.
Before the shark crisis, the Manapany Surf Festival was celebrated every year. Because there is in Manapany-les-Bains, a beautiful and much appreciated surf spot. Today, after having being renamed “Manapany Escalade Festival” (rock climbing) 2 years ago, this festival is now a blended multi-sports festival. The program includes: Creole music, Maloya, roots reggae, world fusion … and sport as: fishing, mountain biking Trial, urban sports … It takes place every year in September (17 and 18 September 2016).
Before night falls, we go to the small natural pool of Manapany. It’s composed of basaltic rocks, perfect to cool off in the afternoon. The view is superb, small green hills, mountains in the back ground and waves breaking on the rocks beyond the pool. Then, we install out tent to camp for this night, lulled by the sound of the sea and Indian Ocean.
Goodbye the sea, on the road to Langevin
The next day we go to the river, its waterfalls, basins and ponds. Langevin River is a natural site in the municipality of Saint-Joseph. During the weekend there are always old men playing chess, sat in the shade of the first kiosks that we cross on the way. This is also where are the only few small shops that help you out if you lack some bread for lunch.
On the left, there are also some places with small natural slides in the river. They are hard to find if you don’t know them. A tip, you can try to find them looking at happy children sliding in the river. Not far from here, there is the possibility to practice trout fishing. We never tested yet, but it will happen!
Grand Galet Falls, the most majestic falls of Langevin
We continue our path going to the end of the Langevin River, the majestic waterfall of “Grand Galet.” You can take beautiful pictures of the waterfall from the point of view just in front of it. It is common to bump into a group that makes zip line; here is the start of a well known cannoning course, thrills guaranteed!
On the right of the point of view’s barriers, there is a passage down to the base of the Grand Galet waterfall and its numerous basins. We go for a picnic on the big dry rocks, a little lower than the first basin. We front a second one. To swim in it, you can either jump (3 or 4 meters) or go down via a small path on the right. It’s a bit muddy (and be careful, the end of the path finds it way directly into the water).
After we ate our homemade sandwiches and our fresh fruits, we decide to go down stream on the whole river (or rather a part because it would take the day to go down to the bottom). A part directly by the river and the other by the road (sometimes it’s dangerous or impossible to continue by the river, so we have to make a detour). Warning for those who are scared of heights, there are several passages where we can continue only by jumping from one basin to another.
Trou Noir and Zirondelles waterfalls and basins
We continue to the next waterfall, the “Trou Noir” (Black Hole). To go there, there is a easy walk (about 15 minutes), ok for children. Magnificent waterfalls, basins and a natural pool with clear blue and fresh water. Even if the water is cold, it is impossible not to go for a swim. One can even come across some trout!
Still going down lower on the river, there is another waterfall and its pond, the Zirondelles’ falls. It’s less impressive than the 2 first one, but still very nice to see. As we took more time than expected, we do a U-turn not to be caught by the nightfall. We return to our car in order to go back home after this perfect weekend lost into the wild of the southern island.
Local products and lava flows
On the road, there are some greengrocers but above all, they sell local honey. And not just any honey … pink berry (baies roses) and litchi (letchis) honey, my 2 favorites. There is also honey “from the forest” (de la forêt), and less frequently from medlar trees (bibasse) or eucalyptus. I buy some litchi honey, it’s more beige and thicker than usual honey, so good!
If you haven’t planned to come back in this area, you can push a little further to the lava flows. It’s quite impressive to see the strength of some eruptions we have here in Reunion Island. The lava that flowed straight to the sea … With a little more time, you can even visit the lava tunnels, for a volcanic experience!
Itinerary and contacts
La Pointe au Sel (Saint-Leu), Manapany (Petit-Ile) and La Rivière Langevin (Saint-Joseph) are places really easy to find and well indicated.
Salt Museum: 25 Pointe au Sel les Bas, Saint-Leu 97436, Reunion Island.
Phone : 0262 346 700
Other activities in the surrounding area
- Trout fishing in Langevin River: we can find their opening hours on their website http://wwtruite.re/
Hours: from 11am to 5pm. Phone : 06 92 61 40 40
- Lava tube: caving in lava tubes to discover La Reunion from the inside. Many companies organize these trips: http://tunnelsdelave.re/, https://rando-volcan.com/, http://www.kokapatrando-reunion.com/en/ and some others…