Island Escapes


We went all the way to Reunion Island and didn’t even get to see the volcano – how crazy is that!?

We stayed in La Plaine des Cafres, the closest town to Piton de la Fournaise. It is only 27km… but can take you anything from 50 minutes to actually get to and from the volcano.

The road, as all roads on Reunion Island, is the stuff that nightmare are made of. They are narrow. They wind around sharp curves. They are scary as hell – but with spectacular views.

Piton de la Fournaise - Reunion Island Volcano

It was raining that day, but we thought the rain may stop and we might get view. We were too optimistic… it got worse. The black volcanic landscape eerily unfolded in the mist and rain. The vast empty landscape was beautiful, unusual and magical.

Piton de la Fournaise - Reunion Island Volcano

It was still an experience to just get to the top…

“The journey not the arrival matters.” –T.S. Eliot

If you are staying over in La Plaine des Cafres you might as well visit the Volcano Museum. The rock (or lava) samples were really interesting and Lexa loved getting her little hands on all the moving and interactive parts of the exhibition.

Volcano Museum Reunion Island

Volcano Museum Reunion Island

If you haven’t read the other posts about our Reunion Island family holiday, here are the article links:

Why, I’d like nothing better than to achieve some bold adventure, worthy of our trip.


I miss travel. It has been 6 months since our last big trip. The struggle in my head and heart is real.

Photos from our first visit to Zanzibar

If you want to see more from my Zanzibar Travels..

Did you know that South Africa’s school holidays is starting sooner than usual? Not great news for me, because now it starts before my birthday, but it means that low season in Zanzibar coincides nicely!

When you have a friend in paradise 🙁

I see all these amazing pictures of what she sees and does on a daily basis and my heart just aches to live on a tropical beach somewhere. I know she works hard, but she gets to live a life that I want.

I want to go back to Zanzibar one day. I know I’ve been there, but it was literally in and out because of a family tragedy.

What I would do if I was in Zanzibar right now…

Obviously I would be in the water, taking photos, drinking cocktails, eating, going on tours – but… there is something else I want to do. It is out of my comfort zone, it is in the air and it scares me.

I have been wanting to do parasailing and fly boarding for some time now – however, I want to do it in paradise! Plus now that I have a friend with the inside scoop as a local, I wasn’t shy to ask who she would recommend…

Zanzibar Parasailing (, which also offers diving, jet skis and what not, is owned by a South African and they have a great safety record. They are in Kendwa/Nungwi and their prices seem reasonable to me.

To escape and sit quietly on the beach – that’s my idea of paradise.

Emilia Wickstead

When we visited Thailand I hated the more touristy areas, but Khao Lak… now that was paradise. It was probably low season and tourists still haven’t returned to Khao Lak completely after the 2004 tsunami. It was one of the worst hit towns in Thailand . We visited in 2013, 9 years after the tragedy. 250,000 people across 14 countries lost their their lives. It brought out the best in people in in what is one of the worst natural disasters on record.

You can also watch this movie based on a Spanish family’s experiences during the tragedy.

Khao Lak – beach paradise

Khao Lak was at the end of our holiday and we felt a little adventurous and hired a scooter on our second day. Yeah, we should never have done that..

However, we loved the beaches, restaurants and quiet shopping in Khao Lak! Plus the Khao Lak Bhandari Resort was so amazing!

This is why Khao Lak should be on your Thailand holiday itinerary

  • It’s only 80km from Phuket airport
  • Less tourists and cleaner beaches
  • No garish neon lights in sight (a-la-Patong)
  • Perfect for quiet family holidays with better snorkeling

What to do when you stay in Khao Lak

  • You can catch a (long) boat ride to the Similan Islands (if open to tourists)
  • Visit the Surin Islands
  • Krabi Elephant Sanctuary
  • Khao Lak Lam Ru National Park
  • Eat delicious food and enjoy the amazing beaches

We went to Reunion Island in 2018 with my elderly parents and 2 year old daughter on a self-drive/self-catering holiday for 9 days.

Here are my Reunion Island travel tips:

  1. Rent the smallest possible car that will fit your luggage (gasp). We rented a Renault Trafic 9 seater mini bus… and it was a scary drive! The roads are quite narrow and most of the town and scenic routes have a ditch on the right (passenger side) and a barely there yellow line shoulder. Plus you get to drive a left hand drive… Take the super waiver damage cover because plant life most certainly will hang over the road when the road is at its narrowest with a car coming from the front.
  2. Eat where the locals eat. The food will be traditional Creole and the portions bigger for a lot less. Check out for the takeaways painted in the Dodo beer colours.
  3. Learn some French or install a translation app on your phone. A lot of the locals, including business owners and staff, do not speak English.
  4. Sundays and Mondays not all attractions are open- this also extends to restaurants. However, if all else fails, go to the beach. If you happen to stumble over some black sand and rocks on the beach it’s probably volcanic rock.
  5. If you want to swim and sit on a great beach… look for the beach route. The best beaches stretch from Plage des Brisants to Plage de Boucan Canot – around Saint-Gilles.
  6. Install Google Offline Maps for Reunion Island. These maps have all the roads and most attractions. Plus you don’t need to delete them when you get home because they expire. Get the steps here.

You may also be interested in reading my article How much does (it) cost on Reunion Island?

When doing an independent tour of a country you always kind-of want to know how much it costs to buy a bread or coke so you can budget. Well, here are some of the items we bought and their prices.

How much does alcohol cost on Reunion Island?

How much does beer cost on Reunion Island
The cost of imported beer

Description Price Shop
Amsterdam Black Rhum 50CL €2.29 Leader Price
Special Prestige 50CL €1.29 Leader Price
Biere Gold 50CL €2.20 Leader Price
Dodo in a can €1.15 Local shop in Saint Philippe

Dodo Bourbon Reunion Island
Dodo Bourbon is the local beer and is the cheapest

How much does a baguette cost on Reunion Island?

Tip: sliced bread is more expensive than a baguette! Eat what the locals eat and your groceries will cost less.

Description Price Shop
Baguette €0.65 Leader Price, Hermitage
Baguette €0.80 Leader Price, Saint Philippe
Sliced bread €1.49 Carrefour Sainte Suzanne

And if you want some margarine to go with your bread… we paid €1.90 for a 200g Plantafin. If for some reason you feel like you need tomato sauce, we paid €1.80 for a normal squeegee bottle.

How much does fruit and vegetables cost on Reunion Island?

Description Price Shop
Tomatoes x 4 which was less than a kg €1.81 Leader Price
Banana bunch 1kg €2.90 Fraicheur de l’est, Saint Andre
Onion per kg €1.80 Fraicheur de l’est, Saint Andre
Potatoes per kg €1.90 Fraicheur de l’est, Saint Andre
Pears per kg €2.40 Fraicheur de l’est, Saint Andre
Dried dates 250g €2.65 Carrefour Sainte Suzanne
Bag of carrots €2.08 Carrefour Sainte Suzanne
2 x green peppers €2.49 Carrefour Sainte Suzanne
Small bag of potatoes €2.61 Carrefour Sainte Suzanne

…and if you need salt to cook, we paid €2.75 for a 110g grinder at Carrefour.

How much does cheese and biscuits cost on Reunion Island?

Description Price Shop
Babybel 120g 6 pieces €2.75 Leader Price
Babybel 120g 6 pieces €2.49 Carrefour Sainte Suzanne
TUC 100g €1.63 Leader Price

How much do snacks cost on Reunion Island?

Description Price Shop
Chips BBQ 135g €0.99 Carrefour Sainte Suzanne
Oreo cookies 176g €1.80 Carrefour Sainte Suzanne
Mini Snickers 227g €1.99 Carrefour Sainte Suzanne

How much does Coke-Cola cost on Reunion Island?

Description Price Shop
1.5l €1.85 Leader Price
1,5l x 4 €7.29 Carrefour Sainte Suzanne

How much does a can opener cost on Reunion Island?

The cheapest, nastiest can opener will set you back €5.49 from a Leader Price! It is very expensive as that same can opener costs R38 in South Africa.

How much does Pilchards cost (in case you feel like you want some)?

€2.93 for a 425g can. If you get that plus a baguette you are set for a big lunch to share between 4 people.

How much does
fuel cost on Reunion Island?

We rented a Renault Trafic 9 seater diesel with a 60l tank and did over 400km. In the end we spent €105 to fill up. A Total garage in Sainte Clotilde charged us €1.21 per liter of diesel.

Some garages have people to help fill your vehicle, others don’t. In case they don’t you have to go inside the shop (usually) and pay upfront for fuel by cash and afterwards you will get the remainder/change.

Rental of the van costs us R5 000 for the 12 days and they reserved a deposit of €1100, but we got this back afterwards.

How much does McDonalds cost on Reunion Island?

Description Price
Bic Mac Meal with hamburger, Coke and chips €9.90
Kiddies meal with burger, chips, Coke and toy €3.70

There were signs everywhere celebrating 50 years of the Big Mac, but finding a McDonalds… well, that was not so easy. They hide out in the bigger towns.

We had other takeaways from places lots of locals seemed to be eating at. Those meals were cheap as chips!

Local food by the beach
This is a sandwich that I ate for lunch + dinner. It has been Americano’d – chips added. Think it was €2.65.

Local food on Reunion Island
Local fare that cost less than 2 euros and I ate twice from it

Entrance fees to attractions

Description Prices
La Saga Du Rhum Adults €10
Children 6-16 €7.50Seniors €7.50
Piton de la Fournaise (volcano) €0
Musee Stella Matutina Adults €9
Provanille Adults €6
Reunion Island Aquarium Family €32 (2 adults + kid)
Adult €9.50
Kids 4-12 €6.50

I took some random pics of items you can buy on Reunion Island

I couldn’t resist…

How much does chocolates cost on Reunion Island
Milka & Oreo

I buy a lot of honey in South Africa so I thought I’d snap a pic of the “Miel”.

Honey on Reunion Island
Delicious golden honey

I like my Madeleines fresh, but hey, whatever floats your boat.

Reunion Island bag of Madeleines
Madeleines in a bag

This one was my most impractical find. An appliance to make crepes and popcorn – what do you think, is it a winner?

How much does stuff cost on Reunion Island?
Popcorn and Crepe appliance – winner/loser?

If you haven’t read any of my Reunion Island family holiday posts, here you go:

Our Reunion Island holiday wasn’t without its snags or moments of meltdown (mostly me) or times we felt the roads were just too unsafe. Unfortunately, once you are on a route you can’t just turn around… plus at the end of every terrifying drive there was something new to discover.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

From the suspension bridge we decided to take a secondary road that would shave quite a bit of distance off the route, but since it had a lot of “squiggles” it might add some time. What we didn’t realise was that it would be a beautiful road, but that the view would also be terrifying as f***.

Reunion Island sReunion Island sellf-drive holiday Susann Deyselellf-drive holiday Susann Deysel

There were times I wanted to get out of the car and just lay down in the road. The turn on turn on turn was just horrific… and then Lexa got sick and threw up all over herself (while strapped into her chair).

Reunion Island sellf-drive holiday Susann Deysel - Turns to make your stomach turn
Turns to make your stomach turn

This is my husband… I’m so glad he has nerves of steel. Yes he is sitting on the “wrong side of the car” it is not your eyes playing tricks.

Self-Drive Holiday on Reunion Island

It took like what felt like forever to get to La Plaine des Cafres, the town closest to the volcano. When we got there our AirBnb host didn’t respond to messages and couldn’t speak English so phoning was a big waste of time. Eventually she and her husband arrived… but he strongly smelled like alcohol and by that time my fuse was lit.

La Plaines des Cafres Reunion Island Travel

The AirBnb we rented was a dump

The horror of what was inside the highly rated traditional gite… I have many not so beautiful words to describe this place. The wi-fi password was incorrect and she claimed the internet was down (unfortunately she had 2 tech savvy guests who knew she was lying); the floors were dirty as f***; the kitchen sink was blocked and the tap was leaking at an alarming rate. We had to switch off the water so as not to flood the place ; and oh there were 3 forks for 5 people…

The only good thing about the AirBnb… it was almost right next to the Volcano Museum (coming in another post) and you could walk to a small shop just down the road.

The next morning we got the hell out of that dump and left at 6am to drive to the volcano. Nobody even bothered to shower.

On our way to the volcano, in the rain

We wanted to go up this volcano come rain or sunshine. Google Maps said it would take 46 minutes for 16 kilometers.

To the volcano Reunion Island Susann Deysel Blogger

You will just have to follow my series of articles about Reunion Island to see the photos from our very scary drive to the volcano.

If you haven’t read the first 4 posts about our Reunion Island family holiday, here are the article links:

I am a sucker for beautiful architecture or engineering marvels. I’ll admit that I can spend hours studying something beautiful and appreciate what went into it, from the drawings to construction. So, when I read about the bridge I thought it would be cool to see on our way to the volcano.

Reunion Island Travel Suspension Bridge

Unfortunately the bridge is not open to stroll across – which would have been amazing. However when you look at the walkway, it is made of wood and I have seen enough movies to not want to tread on wood and dangle from a hole, legs flailing!

Old suspension Bridge in Pont Des Anglais, St. Anne/St. Rose

It is a 5 minute stop plus it is free. There is a vendor that sells some jams, pineapples and drinks.

I love graffiti, but when you do it on historic buildings etc… it’s not art but vandalism.

If you haven’t read the first 3 posts about our family holiday on Reunion Island, here are the article links:

“I don’t mind being described as vanilla in certain ways.” – Cal Ripken, Jr.

I agree with Cal Ripken on not minding to be described as vanilla – now that I know that vanilla isn’t just ordinary. Believe it or not vanilla comes from an orchid!

5 things you didn’t know about Vanilla (or Vanille)

  1. Vanilla is originally from Mexico
  2. and was brought to Reunion Island in the 1800’s. Here at first they unsuccessfully tried to get production going. What they didn’t realise was that the orchid needed Melipona bees to pollinate them (as in Mexico). Then one day they realised that you have to pollinate each flower by hand… and voila!
  3. Each flower lasts 1 day and if it isn’t pollinated within 12 hours of blooming… no vanilla pods.
  4. The pods grow for 9 months… Once the green pods start turning yellow that’s when they are ready to harvest. They are first boiled and then dried in the sun for weeks (months).
  5. It can take 3 to 5 years for a vanilla plant to bloom and after harvest there is still months to go before you’ll find the vanilla on the shelves

ProVanille – Bras Panon

We went to ProVanille, a cooperative near Bras Panon on Reunion Island for an English tour. They buy their vanilla from farmers and do the curing, drying and sorting on the premises. However, they still have a few Vanilla plants for demonstration purposes.

Provanille Reunion Island family travel - Susann Deysel Travel Blogger

We first enjoyed a cup of vanilla coffee before the tour. The tour cost 24 Euros for 4 adults.
Provanille Reunion Island family travel - Susann Deysel Travel Blogger - vanilla coffee

They keep the plant low to the ground so they can reach the flowers and pods. These green pods are starting to go yellow so they would be harvested soon.

Provanille Reunion Island family travel - Susann Deysel Travel Blogger - growing vanilla

They dry the pods on wooden shelves in the sun, but as soon as the sun waves goodbye the vanilla is brought inside. See how rounded and puffy the pods are? This means they still contain a lot of moisture and still have some drying to do.

Provanille Reunion Island family travel - Susann Deysel Travel Blogger - drying the vanilla

These vanilla pods are much dryer, but according to our tour guide they still had some drying to do!

Provanille Reunion Island family travel - Susann Deysel Travel Blogger

This photo and video clip shows how they “class” the vanilla by length. You will pay a premium for longer pods.

Provanille Reunion Island family travel - Susann Deysel Travel Blogger- sorting the vanilla

Escale Bleue Vanille – Saint Phillippe

We also stopped by Escale Bleue Vanille to look at an award winning vanilla grower’s operation. It is pretty much the same everywhere, so if you visit one farm the next one is the same. We got in for free because their English tour guide was away… we aimlessly wandered about looking at everything, but it was still interesting.

Bleue Vanille Saint Philippe Reunion Island Bleue Vanille Saint Philippe Reunion Island

On the left is the shop and on the right (yes, that is a garage) a workshop to harvest the vanilla, boil it etc.

Bleue Vanille Saint Philippe Reunion Island

See how they keep the plant low to the ground? This is so they can get to the flowers and pods easily.

Bleue Vanille Saint Philippe Reunion Island
Bleue Vanille Saint Philippe Reunion Island

If there is a tree, their is a vanilla plant creeping up. They cut the “tentacles” holding onto the tree to reign in the height.
Bleue Vanille Saint Philippe Reunion Island

If you want to know what you can do with vanilla – other than baking – keep on coming back to my blog.

If you haven’t read the first 2 posts about our family holiday on Reunion Island, here are the article links:

Our first day on Reunion Island had a slow start. We had to get everyone through one bathroom, feed them with the provisions our hosts provided and get out and up to Hell-Bourg.

If you don’t know, Reunion Island has mountains in the middle of the island and the cirques where they have built little towns – plus little towns dotted along the coast. However, to get to these little towns on the cirques is a story on its own…

We first set off to buy provisions for our day trip, but Google Maps just couldn’t get us to a shop and we were left buying from real dodge-looking little shops. What we didn’t know was that there was a Carrefour not too far away – and that it was actually a grocery shop. We got routed to these 2 churches instead…

Reunion Island Saint Andre Churches - South African Travel Blogger

Anyway, we started our trip up to Hell-Bourg… and it was one hell of a road! Turn on turn on 180 degree turn all while my husband had to change gears with his right hand while sitting on the wrong side of the car and a very narrow road with a 1m ditch and a barely there shoulder… My heart was beating a million miles a minute and I was cursing like a pirate. My husband was glued to the middle line while I had to keep my eye on the closeness of the ditch.

Cirque de Salazie Hell-Bourg Reunion Island Susann Deysel Travel Blogger

When we finally arrived at Hell-Bourg we were more than a little relieved. My legs were jelly and I was never that glad to walk with my 2 little feet on this planet.


Hell-Bourg is a quaint little town with an even older version 20 minutes away by foot. We couldn’t do the walk as we had Lexa and the pram as well as my very old parents.

Reunion Island Travel Hell-Bourg

Hell-Bourg house tile Susann Deysel South African Travel Blogger

Hell-Bourg Cat Gate Susann Deysel
Hell-Bourg Cirque du Salazie Susann Deysel South African Blogger

Reunion Island Hell-Bourg Travel

However, we walked the main street, looked at all the sights that were open on a Monday (because most places are closed on a Monday and some shops and attractions observe a siesta. The main attraction on the cirque is to hike around, music museum (closed on Mondays), graveyard and eateries.

Hell-Bourg Graveyard Susann Deysel Travel Blogger

Hell-Bourg Graveyard Reunion Island Susann Deysel
With a view like this when you will never see it…

Hell-Bourg Graveyard neighbours Susann Deysel - Reunion Island Travel
Reunion Island Travel

After a quick lunch we made our way back down the mountain and had the most beautiful views. The jagged edges stabbing the sky was just beautiful.

Cirgue de Salazie Reunion Island Travel

Cirque de Salazie Waterfalls Travel Reunion Island

Vanilla Farm, St Suzanne

We then tried a vanilla farm, La Vanillerie near St Suzanne, but they did not have an English tour and could not tell me when they will have someone to do an English tour. I must add that I had emailed them 3 weeks prior and NEVER received a reply.

So, we then decided to go to La Cooperative Pro Vanille (Provanille) near Bras Panon when we drive down that way. It was lucky that I jotted down and printed out quite a bit of information on places to visit as we only found the tourism office at the end of the first day.

Temple du Colosse, St Andre

Instead of vanilla we then hunted for the colourful Temple du Colosse and a place to buy food. All the gates at the temple was locked so we couldn’t explore it but it was still impressive. It is definitely worth a visit.

Temple du Colosse Saint Andre Reunion Island

Did you miss my first post about our family tour to Reunion Island? You can find it here.

To travel is to breathe. It is the single most important thing you could do in your life that would change you for the better.

Nothing could quite prepare us for the roads of Reunion Island. We’ve been to island destinations – and I promise, we (I) don’t sit in a resort waiting for my next cocktail to arrive. We explore. We are on the road looking around, (attempting) to connect to locals, eating, drinking and taking photos.

Reunion Island Family Travel on Air Austral
Lexa did not scream or sleep on the flight, she was having the time of her life!

Meeting the roads of Reunion Island

If you’ve ever been to Zimbabwe you will know those tarred roads where if traffic comes from the front you have to scoot on over and drive one wheel in the dust… Reunion Island is the same, but far, far scarier. I will share more about the scariest road we’ve ever driven on my next post.

First night on Reunion Island

We rented a Renault Trafic, a very wide minibus with 3 seats per row. When we signed for it the rental agent showed us the damage card and it was scratched f.up on the passenger side… and then we took to the road with Google Offline Maps, in the rain, 9pm at night to find our self-catering accommodation “15 minutes away” (only because we got lost).

Reunion Island Self-Drive Family Holiday

The cottage in St Andre was hidden on a narrow street (read 1.5 cars should fit). Numbers on most of the houses were non-existent and well it was dark and raining and we were tired as we landed 8pm after 3.5 hours in the air – but you know that you pretty much lose a day at the airport when travelling. Eventually when we drove the whole street we turned around the boat of a mini bus in the dark, in a narrow street – me standing outside with a torch at the back and my dad relaying signals to husband at the wheel. Then we found it, the sign only visible from one side. Husband mounted a manhole that was almost 20cm high and tried to drive over it (because that’s what real men do) to turn into the driveway.

Reunion Island narrow road near Casa Floria St Andre

The owners must’ve heard us (me yelling in a panicked voice at husband not to floor it over the manhole) because they came out of their home across the road looking very concerned. They immediately welcomed us and got us in the gate and settled at Casa Floria that I booked via

The little cottage was perfect, 2 bedrooms, a huge bathroom with shower, fully equipped kitchen and livingroom plus internet – and a patio with a huge table for meals. The best part, the owners had thought of a family of 5 arriving very late in a new country and bought bread, milk, coffee, jam, butter, cheese and cold meat! It was just that touch that made us feel welcome in a French department in the Indian Ocean.

Reunion Island Family Travel Casa Floria St Andre

If you would like to find out more about our family holiday on Reunion Island, I will be sharing a few blog posts over the next few weeks. Tips to survive the roads, places to see, what to do and a lot of photos!

Read the article I wrote on our return from Reunion Island.