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Canyoning in La Réunion – an overview

Ever been tempted by the idea of abseiling down shimmering waterfalls in a narrow gorge? Read on.......

To the bewildered casual observer, canyoning may well appear to consist of ridiculously foolhardy actions such as jumping off rocks into swirling deep pools, abseiling down crashing waterfalls and toboganning down insane waterslides. To those in the know, it’s, erm, just like that actually...... but to be honest there are varying degrees of difficulty, actual and perceived craziness and of course, "aqueousness".

Getting ready to start the descent of the Grande Ravine, Ile de la Reunion, September 2009

Getting ready to start the descent of the Grande Ravine canyon and visit the lava cave part-way down, Ile de la Reunion, September 2009
(c) Mat & Niki Adlam-Stiles

Over the last few years this exciting sport has grown tremendously in popularity – particularly in France and hence also in La Réunion, both as a guided sport and one in which those who have the necessary equipment and experience can indulge to their heart's content.

Ranging from easy stuff that enables kids to have some real outdoor fun in reasonable safety to seemingly insane, even death-defying antics involving multi-day traverses of gorges and canyons so huge and impossibly high it’s difficult to grasp their scale, there really is something for everyone – even absolute beginners or those afraid of heights.

La Réunion often claims to be the birthplace of modern canyoning, and it's easy to see why. It has the great advantage of being wonderfully warm (and thus the water in the canyons not being icy-cold), and offers an incredible variety of canyoning venues. The advent of tourism on this little island that for many years was known to few other than the French has enabled a number of people – often locals and generally at least from mainland France if not – to set up and run viable businesses running guided canyoning trips, a valuable boost for the local economy which has certainly suffered in the past.

If you're an experienced canyoneer and have your own kit, there are a couple of guidebooks available, written by those who have descended the canyons of La Réunion themselves many times and whose expert knowledge of both the actual canyons and the island's sometimes unpredictable and extreme weather are invaluable aids to getting the most out of your canyoning trip. Canyoning experts such as Pascal Colas, Emeric “M’Ric” Beaucheron and Philippe Mothère, amongst others, have done sterling work in pioneering new routes, maintaining established ones, and enabling those who follow in their footsteps to enjoy to the full this addictive and energetic sport. One guidebook is "Le Paradis du Canyoning" by Pascal Colas, Edition Maison de la Montagne, 1995, which may now be difficult to track down a copy of; however, some rigging topos can be found on Pascal Colas' web site and also on the web site of Ligue Réunionnaise de Spéléologie et de Canyoning. another more recent guide is "Topo guide Réunion Madagascar 2009 - 73 Canyons dans l'Océan Indien" written by Emeric "M'Ric" Beaucheron & Co and available via Ricaric's web site

We were originally inspired to try canyoning in La Réunion by two quite unconnected events. The first was one of us discovering, quite by accident, the La Réunion pages of John Hart's riveting web site. The other was the desire to visit a lava cave on the island, where research soon led us to find that there was a certain lava cave - the Grotte de la Grande Ravine à Trois Bassins that could be combined with a tremendous abseil to make a rather interesting day out........

From the heady white-water cascades and amusing water chutes of the Trou Blanc or the Fleurs Jaunes to the awesome multi-pitch descents of Takamaka or the Trou de Fer, deep within the dripping and verdant rain forest, it's up to you to decide just how big an adrenalin rush you dare take...!

When we visited La Réunion in 2009, we undertook two superb guided canyoning trips, one to the Grande Ravine, a truly vertiginous but dry canyon (complete with a half-kilometre lava tube to visit part-way down the canyon) near St Gilles-les-Bains, and the other to the "très aquatique" Fleurs Jaunes in the breathtaking Cirque de Cilaos.

For those who love adventure in spectacular situations and are planning a trip to La Réunion, a canyoning trip is simply de rigeur.

Photo gallery - Fleurs Jaunes canyon
Photo gallery - a canyoning and caving adventure in the Grande Ravine
Video - Fleurs Jaunes canyon

The magnificent Fleurs Jaunes canyon - waterfall after waterfall cascading into deep plunge pools - Ile de la Reunion, September 2009

The magnificent Fleur Jaunes canyon - waterfall after waterfall cascading into deep plunge pools - Ile de la Reunion
(c) Mat & Niki Adlam-Stiles