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La Réunion, is the westernmost island of the Mas- carenes, situated approximately 800 km east of Madagas- car; other Mascarene islands are Mauritius (150 km ENE of Réunion), and Rodrigues (600 km ENE of Mauritius). Réunion is a relatively young island with two high volcanic mountain ranges (the southeastern range bearing an active volcano), raising to an altitude of 3070m, and covering a total area of 2512 km2. Except for a few narrow fringing coral reefs in the west and southwest, nowhere further than 500 m from the shore, most shores are either rocky or covered with gravel, often exposed to high surf. As the island is basically a large volcano situated on a submarine hotspot, the island slopes are steeply descend- ing into the deep sea. Arab sailors formerly called the island Adna Al Maghribain (“Western Island”). The first Europeans to explore the Mascarenes were Portuguese in July 1500 (diogo dias); the group was named after Don PedRo Mas caRenhas, another Portuguese explorer who visited the islands in 1512–1516. The Portuguese found the island uninhabited, and named it Santa Apollonia, after Saint Apollonia. The island was then occupied by France, and later 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 muti- neers to the island from Madagascar. The convicts were returned to France several years later, and in 1649, the is- land was named Île Bourbon after the royal house. The island’s name was changed into Île de la Réunion in 1793, after the French Revolution, and then again to Île Bonaparte (1801–1810). After a French-British war in the Indian Ocean (1800–1810), Isle-de-France and Rodrigues (the former now named Mauritius) were given to Britain in 1814 (as a result of the Vienna Congress, 1814/1815, ending the Napoleonic wars), while the Île Bonaparte remained French (again named ‘Réunion’ since 1848). The latter became a French overseas department (Département d’outre mer) in 1946, and is since 2003 a French overseas region (Région d’outre mer), as an integral part of the Eu- ropean Union.