Well installed above the river
While I was looking for a nice little cottage to spend a romantic weekend for Easter, I came across pictures of a lovely place. It shows a beautiful stone pool, a natural setting with lots of vegetation, tents, river … in short, everything to please. Furthermore, dogs are allowed.
We are thus left for 3 days in the “gorges of the Bras de la Plaine”, at Ilot Paradisiaque’s cottage in the South West of Reunion Island. You can go there from Saint-Louis (which we did), or from Tampon town (itinerary and contacts below).
Once arrived at the place indicated during my reservation by phone, we park. I must admit that we might not want to leave the car here for 1 or 2 nights, but we do not have much choice. So we leave our car at the foot of a big “Vacoa tree” (very recognizable tree by its trunk, itself formed of several trunks as well as by its very sharp branches). The path to go to the cottage begins here.
The hike down to the cottage
You can go to the cottage only by foot. It’s a 1h30/2h walk. Make sure you have a second pair of sneakers. Because, unless you remove shoes every time you cross the river, you’ll end up with wet feet. The beginning is quite easy, a 30/45min slope, more or less protected from sun. No particular difficulty, it is rather pleasant. However, you’ll have to climb back up on the way back, everything you’re walking down now. Our dog, Huaca descends the slope at top speed!
A total immersion in the heart of Bras de la Plaine’s gorge
We pass a small virgin statue embedded in the wall (on way back, it’s a landmark that means you’re almost there!). At the end of the descent, you’re on a big rock. You have to cross the first gully of the trek. Motivated, we take off the sneakers and use the large bamboo placed in the water on purpose to facilitate the crossing. We are now walking at the bottom of the river. It is much drier and rocky but still nice. We pass several ravines, and some bridges. Overall, the path is pretty well marked. On our right, a little hostel accessible by small stairs. You must keep going on this road despite a sign saying “Private Property”.
After the dam, we go back up the river
We cross a 2nd bridge, high and wide and then continue on the right. We can see a barrage on our right. At the end of this path, a small scale that looks to have lived a long life seems to be the only option. It descends again down the valley composed of gray sand and large rocks. Do not worry, this is the right path. We have to keep up the river. We walk since almost 1h30 when passing a large house on our left. It’s not here, but it’s the right direction, let’s continue for 10 minutes. On the right you can see blue tents on a small green hill far away. It’s here! I saw pictures of these tents.
After another 10 minutes walking across rocks and gray sand (while Huaca hurtles down cheerfully), a final short climb and you reach this little cottage. A nice decor presents itself to us. Stone slabs trace the path. On the right, the camping space. Tents on the cliff edge give a breathtaking view. Unfortunately, for safety, the tents’ entrance is not cliff side but mountainside. Probably to avoid unpleasant surprises upon awakening, such as: “Oh I forgot this step?”.
Arrival to the cottage, an exotic decor
Here we are surrounded by nature. On the left, a beautiful flowered garden, a raised natural pool surrounded by a slatted deck. Stones and pool water come from the river. This is why it is constantly renewed (and very cool). A small slide for swimming, it seems more suited to children’s games than for adults. Above the pool, enjoying a beautiful view, they also built a jacuzzi with river water. We didn’t have the chance to test it, but it’s operational now…
After the small paved road, a small Creole house and a wood fire sheltered on the terrace, it is where all our meals will be prepared.
Discovering the site and meeting Marie and Jacky, our hosts
We meet Marie and Jacky, a very nice Creole couple who welcomes us and shows us the place. Toilets and bathroom are on the house’s ground floor, dormitories are upstairs. The facilities are modest and you have to save electricity (because they are not connected to the network and therefore use a generator). They want to enlarge, to add a toilet and a shower. When the cottage is full … it takes a while before taking a shower (with cold water if you do not belong the 1st users) … or does a pee break.
They are charming and take us out so that we can choose our tent (possibility to sleep in a tent or in dormitory, see info below). They also tell us that at the end of the afternoon, they make a small drink at the pool. After putting our gear in the tent, and our wet items to dry on the clothesline, it’s time to join them around the pool. Punch and salty “songe”s fritters are served, we are delighted. There is a good atmosphere and this appointment allows us to chat with our hosts and the other guests of the cottage. Songe’s fritters (a root much used in Reunion for fritters, jam and cakes) and punch are delicious. It gets your appetite up.
Friendly night and unlimited carrys
For dinner, we’re fifteen on one big table. We’re served different dishes and accompaniments: a traditional Creole cuisine, cooked in a wood-fired oven. It’s famous and there’s a great atmosphere at the table. We are the only couple staying for 2 nights. There are locals, but also French and European tourists. Some have children of 5 or 6 years-old, so, it’s possible to do this trek with young children. But I think you’d better to carry them in some difficult water passages (when the river level is high and stronger).
The 2cd night, the population will be totally different. We will be with a large group of young people. There is a totally different atmosphere, more festive and friendly. Important info, there is no corkage fee here. Jacky and Marie allow you to bring your own bottle of wine and consume it during the meal.
After dinner, full and happy, we observe the starry night. Fatigue knocks at our door, we decided to return to our tent. Huaca quietly sleeps between the 1st and 2nd tent’s door. This was a good idea as it rained in the night.
Breakfast and supplies
The next day we are admiring our morning view. Breakfast is very good and very filling. Fresh fruit, homemade pancakes, yogurt, fruit juice, coffee, tea, chocolate … it lacks nothing. By the way, how do they get their supplies ?
And if we did deliver the helicopter rides?
We ask to Mary and Jacky how they source. Indeed, with no access except by foot, go shopping seem laborious. And that’s the case. Every day or so, their son Bryan made a round trip to town to help (a 4 hours walk and charged with about 25 to 30kg). And once a week, they charter a helicopter for the big stuff. It is very expensive, but they need it to run their business. It makes us immediately perspective on the way we live and consume.
Trek, swimming…all you can do close to the Ilot Paradisiaque cottage
During the day, there are several possibilities. Small hikes nearby the cottage, do some sports activities (you should take your soccer ball or beach volleyball rackets), sunbathing and swimming in the river. From our side, not being in a hurry as we stay here a 2nd night, we decide to do a bit of everything. It’s sunny, the place is nice, what a great idea for a nature weekend in Reunion Island. You’ll totally get away from everyday life (for information, they have barely no phone reception here).
We start with an early walk. Marie and Jacky indicate a short hike up the river. At noon, we have lunch with them; they can cook for people who like us want to stay 2 nights. Again, we enjoy a very good Creole meal. And even small chocolate eggs to celebrate Easter. The afternoon is punctuated between walking, swimming (guesthouse’s pool and river), football games and beach volleyball with the group of young people I mentioned earlier. In short, the place is perfect to take a breath of fresh air and really enjoy taking time for us.
The next day we decide to go back in the late morning. After a generous breakfast, you can enjoy the sunny pool for last time. We pack our clothes, thank our hosts and go for the return hike. Huaca is ecstatic all the way back, she runs, swims, waits, gets ahead … it’s nice to see. After the “river rocks” section, when we enter into the forest, we saw a small Tangues’ family (endemic hedgehogs from Reunion). After almost 2h, we find our car as we had left it, ready to bring us back home.
Itinerary, prices and contacts
Direction: The cottage, accessible only on/by foot is located in the “Bras de la Plaine” gorges, in the town of Tampon, southern island. You can go there by car from Saint-Louis town or Tampon town.
Their Facebook page.
From Saint-Louis, go to the Entre-Deux then headed for “Pont d’Yves”. Turn left after the Pont d’Yves football stadium, in the alley “Chemin de la Petite Ravine”. Take the street that goes down on your left (dead end). Park at the foot of the big Vacoa, it is the beginning of the Petite Ravine’s trail (there is also a possible starting from the Grand Bassin village, count 2:30). Beware, the path may be dangerous after heavy rains (due to the passages where you have to cross the river). The circuit is indicated by blue markers, regularly updated.
Difficulty: Medium – 300 meters difference of height.
PRICES and reservation: 40 € per night per person, dinner and breakfast included. 28 € per child under 10 years. There are 2 possibilities of accommodation:
- In the dormitory on the 1st floor of the guesthouse or
- Camping in tents in the garden (kind of 3 places Decathlon tents) with mattress, sheet, blanket…
Toilets and shower are shared on the ground floor of the guesthouse
Contact Jacky or Marie at 0692 31 60 77 or directly by writing on their Facebook page. Please note, weekends are often already full, remember to book well in advance.
For Information: Dogs are allowed. There is no, or very fee phone reception. There are no many outlets to recharge electrical appliances, so you can travel light or bring your power bank.