After watching Occy tearing up those long fast and barrelling lefts of St. Leau in Reunion and dreaming of one day getting there, it was finally my turn, to make another dream come true and tick it off my list.
This quaint little island is bussling with first world progress, traffic and many traces of the very evident french/ Euro influences. Yet it still has managed to keep it’s small island feel. From the moment you arrive there is something special about Reunion.
The evenings have a soft warmth about them, even though this is Winter time, this is apparently the dry season, which is a really pleasant surprise. The water this time of the year is a super warm 20-25 degrees. Perfect for boardies & a thin vest top, yet many are more than content just with boardshorts.
Arriving in the evening and getting an airport transfer was my first shock to the realization that this little island was deinitely part of France, as I got stung a hefty 85Euro’s to get to the other side of the island & St. Leu, where I was to be staying for most of the trip. My advice, which I will clearly remember for next time, is that you can rent an older car for the entire week, for about the same amount you pay for an airport transfer!
As you arrive in St. Leu, the wave is right there to greet you as you arrive into this very quiet & quaint little town of St.Leu.
If you are stying at the Dodo Spot it is literally across the road from this phenominal wave. Access to the wave is easy, the paddle out the same, but the wave itself is even more special. It changes it’s moods on a day to day basis and seems to have a different mood for every hour of the day & tidal range.
The only thing that is consistent, is the wave itself. It breaks all the time and through pretty much all conditions. It starts out at the back slightly slower and in order to get through to the punchy inside bowl, you better not waste any time or you’ll be quickly reminded you’ve made a serious mistake as the wave starts lurching infront of you, with shallow coral becomming clearly visible the further you move onto the inside.
The unique and surpprising aspect of the inside bowl is that by the time you get there the wave can almost have doubled in size and it suddenly has a whole lot of power and bite to it too.
The outside is fun and workable and once you get to the inside bowl you better make sure your timing is right, as it’s fast and furious with a warping & wraping shallow barrel section which is punchy with a quick wall to work with before the wave quickly dissipates into the channel 100 metres from shore.
The wave is super consistent and on many average size swells, it is world class.
The local contingent can get heavy, but if you show respect, always have a friendly smile and try speak a little French, they are all normally pretty cool.
However,be prepared to have bodyboarders and numerous locals paddling around and past you at most times of the day, without you slipping a word.
The best times of the day to get waves out at St.Leu are early mornings, I called “the golden hours”, as people don’t seem to get up and in the water here before eight am.
Six till eight is golden time..You can be the only guy in the water almost every morning if you in at six and then four or five others will follow suit within the hour, which is unreal.
If this was Supers at JBay, there would be twenty five guys on it at first light.
During the day the crowds filter in quick and thick, but the good news is that if you have a car, when you finished your early morning sesh.
You can relax and have a coffee at the little rustic coffee bar/shop overlooking the break as it peels mythodically down this world class point.
Content after an hour or two of epic uncrowded St. Leu, you jump in your rent a car, grab your map and head out exploring.
This is when the true diversity and many hidden treasures of this magical little Indian Ocean island jewel are truely revealed.
The island is littered with so many other suf spots of all various levels, that barely have anyone surfing on them.
There are live and solidified lava flows, cascading tropical waterfalls, crystal clear mystical pools.
Live steaming craters, breathtaking hikes, mystical little hidden villages only accessible by foot.
Churches which have parted lava flows, stunning, picture perfect white sand beaches with overhanging palm trees, buffered only by the tuquoise blue of warm Indian ocean.
Glassy picturesque lagoons, ancient, peaceful little local fishing villages and consistent, world class, crystal clear, warm water waves.
…and truly, if you looking for anything else, you might have to wait till you’ve died and gone to Heaven!
Reunion is an phenomenal option for South African’s thinking of taking an exotic holiday which is not too expensive, but pretty close to home.
Whether you taking your girlfriend, or just going with a couple of your mates, it’s a quick flight from JHB and you in a remote tropical Island 5 hours from home, with crystal clear coral reefs, under tropical warm blue skies and luke warm water, with world class surf.
The best part is many people think it is very expensive and the surf very crowded and that’s where everyone’s got it all wong!
Reunion, you can really do relatively cheap & if you have the correct inside info, from saving on taxi’s from the airport and renting a cheap car, staying in bright sunshiney little lodges, right in front of world class perfection that are even cheap by RSA standards.
Eating local food at cosy little spots and saving on eating out, by shoping at the local supermarket.
Reunion can be a cheaper option than Indo, except you get many 1st world services, roads, resuarants & a really pleasant mix of French & island culture.
So, next time when you thinking of an exotic holiday/surf destination for the next trip, don’t forget this little prize jewel of the Indian Ocean.
Sometimes you need to just take a chance and go somewhere different and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find.
Paradise is often closer than you think and only a short flight away!