Map of Réunion
Map of Réunion

Réunion (French: La Réunion) is an island and overseas department of France, located in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar, about 200 km southwest of Mauritius, the nearest island. Like the other overseas departments, Réunion is also one of the twenty-six regions of France (being an overseas region) and an integral part of the Republic with the same status as those situated on the European mainland. As part of France, Réunion is part of the European Union, and thus the currency used is the euro (in fact, due to varying time zones in the European Union, Réunion was the first region in the world to use the euro, and the first ever purchase using the euro occurred at 12.01 a.m., when regional council president Paul Vergès bought a bag of lychees at a Saint-Denis market).[1].




Arab sailors used to call this island Adna Al Maghribain ("Western Island"). The Portuguese were the first Europeans to visit the island, finding it uninhabited in 1513, and naming it Santa Apollonia.

The island was then occupied by France and administered from Port Louis, Mauritius. Although the French flag was hoisted by François Cauche in 1638, Santa Apollonia 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 to France several years later, and in 1649, the King of France Louis XIII named the island Île Bourbon after his royal house.

"Réunion" was the name given to the island in 1793 by a decree of the Convention with the fall of the 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 August 10, 1792. In 1801, the island was renamed "Île Bonaparte," after Napoleon Bonaparte. The island was taken by the British navy led by Commodore Josias Rowley in 1810, who used the old name of "Bourbon." When it was restored to France by the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the island retained the name of "Bourbon" until 1848, when the fall of the restored Bourbons during the revolutions during that year meant that the island became "Réunion" once again.

From the 17th to the 19th centuries, French immigration supplemented by influxes of Africans, Chinese, Malays, and Indians gave the island its ethnic mix. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 cost the island its importance as a stopover on the East Indies trade route.

Réunion became an overseas department of France on March 19, 1946.

Between 15 and 16 March 1952, Cilaos at the center of Réunion received 1,869.9 mm (73.6 in) of rainfall. This is the greatest 24-hour precipitation total ever recorded on Earth.

In 2005 and 2006 Réunion was hit by a crippling epidemic of chikungunya, a disease spread by mosquitos. According to the BBC News[1], 255,000 people on Réunion had contracted the disease as of 26 April, 2006. The disease also spread to Madagascar [2] and to mainland France through airline travel. The disease led to more than 200 deaths on Réunion. The French government under Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin sent an emergency aid package worth 36 million euros ($42.8M U.S. dollars) and deployed approximately five hundred French troops in an effort to eradicate mosquitos.

Chikungunya means "that which bends" in the Makonde language of the Tanzania/ Mozambique border region where it was first identified. It can cause dehydration, extreme pain and high fevers and in some rare cases can be fatal. There is no known cure.


Administrative divisions

Administratively, Réunion is divided into 4 arrondissements, 24 communes, and 47 cantons. It is a French overseas department as well as a French region. The low number of communes, compared to French metropolitan departments of similar size and population, is unique; most Réunionnese communes encompass several localities, sometimes separated by significant distances. Réunion is part of the Indian Ocean Commission.



View from satellite.
View from satellite.

The island is 39 miles (63 kilometers) long; 28 miles (45 kilometers) wide; and covers 970 square miles (2512 square kilometres). It is similar to the island Hawaii insofar as both are located above hotspots in the Earth's crust.

Piton de la Fournaise, a shield volcano on the eastern end of Réunion Island, rises more than 8565 feet (2611 meters) above sea level and is sometimes called a sister to Hawaiian volcanoes because of the similarity of climate and volcanic nature, has erupted more than 100 times since 1640 and is under constant monitoring. It most recently erupted on July 20, 2006. La Fournaise is created by a hot spot volcano, which also created the Piton des Neiges and the islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues.

Piton des Neiges volcano, the highest point on the island at 10069 feet (3070 meters) above sea level, is northwest of Piton de la Fournaise volcano. Collapsed calderas and canyons are southwest of the mountain. Like Mauna Kea on the big island of Hawaii, Piton des Neiges is extinct. Despite its name, snow 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.

Réunion also has three calderas: the Cirque de Salazie, the Cirque de Cilaos and the Cirque de Mafate. The latter is accessible only by foot or helicopter.



Sugar is the chief agricultural product and export. Tourism is also an important source of income.



Réunion contains most of the same ethnic populations as Mauritius: Malabars or Tamil, Vietnamese, African, Malagasy, Chinese and ethnic French - but in different proportions. Creoles, of mixed origins, make up the majority, about 90% of the population. Whites make up approximately one-quarter of the population, Indians make up 21% and people of Chinese or Vietnamese ancestry most of the remainder.

While Gujarati and Tamil people make up the majority of the Indo-Réunionnaise people, people of Hindi, Urdu, Bhojpuri and other origins form the remainder of the population

The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism (86% of the population in 1995), with Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism also represented.

Reunion has a very similar culture, ethnic makeup, language and traditions to those of Mauritius and the Seychelles.


Public health

Réunion is currently experiencing an epidemic of Chikungunya virus. As of April 6 2006, 230,000 people have been infected (29% of the population).



Réunionese culture is a blend of European, African, Indian, Chinese and insular traditions.

The most widely spoken language, Réunion Creole, derives from French, with many idiosyncrasies. Réunion Creole is now taught in some schools. However, an official orthography has yet to be agreed upon.

Local food and music blend influences from Africa, India, China and Europe.


Miscellaneous topics

The whole flotilla of the French Navy based in Réunion.
The whole flotilla of the French Navy based in Réunion.


  1. Réunion is pictured on all Euro banknotes, on the backside at the bottom of each note, right of the Greek ΕΥΡΩ (EURO) next to the denomination.

See also


External links

Réunion from space (NASA image). The three cirques, forming a kind of 3-leafed clover shape, are visible in the central north of the image. Piton de la Fournaise, in the south east, is covered by cloud.
Réunion from space (NASA image). The three cirques, forming a kind of 3-leafed clover shape, are visible in the central north of the image. Piton de la Fournaise, in the south east, is covered by cloud.




Fauna and flora


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