La Reunion / Ile de la Reunion
La Réunion [literally, "The meeting"] was granted the status of French department in 1946. The island is a mono-departmental region, with a General Council and a Regional Council and has 24 municipalities. It also enjoys the status of an ultra-peripheral European region (RUP).
Reunion, the largest island in the Mascarene Archipelago, is situated in the Indian 0cean about 450 miles east of the Malagasy Republic. It covers an area of 969 square miles and had an estimated population of 363,000 in 1962.
France maintains a naval base, Pointe des Galets, on its island départment of La Réunion, east of Madagascar. The base hosts three patrol vessels, a transport ship and a frigate. This helps to ensure that there is a constant French naval base in the Southern Indian Ocean, as well as in close proximity to the sea lines of communication off the southern and eastern coasts of Africa.
The volcanic island called Reunion Island appeared out of the ocean three million years ago. The Piton de la Fournaise [“Peak of the Furnace”], one of the most active volcanoes in the world, shapes the landscape and even gains ground on the ocean itself during certain lava flows. It has its place among the most active volcanoes on the planet, with an average of one eruption every nine months.
An astonishing lunar landscape, the floor shaped by hardened lava flows, the earth covered in orange and brown scorch marks: climbing up the Piton de la Fournaise reveals strange, stunning, but very accessible scenery. The Plaine des Sables, the Pas de Bellecombe mountain pass, craters and lava flows are just some of the magical places you will never forget. When you get to the base of the volcano, the scenery of the Savage South creates a visual spectacle, with craggy basalt cliffs, the green of lush vegetation and the deep blue of the Indian Ocean.
Across the south of the island, the successive lava flows from Piton de la Fournaise have come down to the oceans, creating black sandy beaches with fine, hot sand when the sun is at its highest. The beaches form an exceptional landscape, surrounded by arid plant life and enough to inspire poetry. The most famous of the beaches is the Etang-Salé, a fishing village and an immense stretch of sand where locals meet up on weekends for picnics.
Reunion, like all other French Overseas Departments, is under the authority of a Prefect; he is appointed by the French Minister of the Interior and assisted by the General Council, an assembly of 36 members elected by popular ballot. Three deputies and two senators represent Reunion in the French Parliament.
The basis of the economy is agriculture, and most of the island's revenue is derived from the production of sugarcane. Next in importance are geranium, vetiver, and other plants used for making perfume. Main exports include sugar, rum, vanilla, and vetiver and geranium oils. The people also were engaged in the cultivation of food crops, stockraising, and fishing. The principal industries are sugar refining, rum distilling, and the processing of essential oils; other enterprises are small scale and of minor importance.
Located in the Mascarene Archipelago, Reunion Island – a French overseas department – offers travellers the exoticism of a tropical island in the Indian Ocean. At the crossroads of European, African and Asian cultures, Reunion is a true melting pot. Land combining white sand beaches, coral reefs, tropical forests and imposing mountains, Reunion is a land of choice for tourism. It saw its circuses, pitons and ramparts to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010, which made it possible to further boost the tourism sector.
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