Reunion is an island and region of France in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar and 175 kilometers, or 109 miles, southwest of Mauritius. As of January, 2018, the island has a population of 865,826. It’s the most prosperous island in the Indian Ocean, having the highest GDP per capita in the region. Take a look below for 30 more interesting and fascinating facts about Reunion Island.
1. The island has been inhabited since the 17th century when people from France and Madagascar settled there.
2. Slavery was abolished on December 20, 1848, a date that’s celebrated every year on the island. After slavery was abolished, new slaves were brought in from Tamil Nadu, Southern Indian, among other places.
3. The island became an overseas department of France in 1946.
4. As in other places in France, the official language is French. However, the majority of the region’s population speaks Reunion Creole.
5. Like the other four overseas departments, it’s one of the 18 regions of France with a modified status of overseas region and an integral part of the Republic, with the same status as Metropolitan France.
6. Not much is known of Reunion’s history before the Portuguese arrived on the island in the early 16th century.
7. Arab traders called the island Dina Morgabin.
8. The island is possibly featured on a map from 1153 A.D. by Al Sharif el-Edrisi.
9. The island might also have been visited by Swahili or Austronesian, Ancient Indonesian-Malaysian, sailors on their journey to the west from the Malay Archipelago to Madagascar.
10. The terrain is a mix of coastal lowlands, with inland mountains and an active volcano.
11. Piton de la Fournaise is an active volcano on the eastern side of Reunion. The volcano has erupted on more than 100 occasions since 1640.
12. The climate of Reunion is tropical, although the precipitation levels vary wildly throughout the island. Despite its small size, the eastern side of the island can experience six times more rain than the western side.
13. Despite being located next to Africa in the Indian Ocean, Reunion is a Special Member State of the European Union, due to being a French overseas territory.
14. Reunion culture is a varied mix of other cultures, influenced by Africa, Europe, China and India. The local food and drink showcases a similar influence from each individual culture.
15. The capital is Saint-Denis and the island remained a French colony throughout most of its history, except for a brief occupation by the British from 1810 to 1815 and the Portuguese who found it.
16. The official currency of the country is the Euro.
17. The majority of the population is Catholic, followed closely by Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists.
18. Piton des Neiges is the highest point on the island at 10,069 feet.
19. The natural resources are fish, arable land and hydro-power. The sugarcane industry dominates the economy with other major industries including rum, handicrafts and flower oil extraction.
20. The main exports of Reunion include sugar, seafood, rum and vanilla. Imports include manufactured goods, beverages and food, tobacco, raw materials, machinery, transportation equipment and petroleum products.
21. Reunion Island is part of the Indian Ocean Commission.
22. Reunion sends seven deputies to the French National Assembly and three senators to the Senate.
23. Although diplomacy, military and French government matters are handled by Paris, Reunion is a member of La Francophonie, the Indian Ocean Commission, the International Trade Union Confederation, the Universal Postal Union, the Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa, and the World Federation of Trade Unions.
24. Since 2010, Reunion is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site that covers about 40% of the island’s area and coincides with the central zone of the Reunion National Park.
25. The first members of the “Bourbon” group of garden roses originated on the island from a spontaneous hybridization between Damask roses and Rosa chinensis, which had been brought there by the colonists. The first Bourbon roses were discovered on the island in 1817.
26. There are two music genres that originated in Reunion. The first is sega, which originated earlier and is also traditional in Mauritius, Rodrigues and Seychelles. The second is maloya, which originated in the 19th century and is only found in Reunion.
27. One of the most popular sports in Reunion is moringue. Moringue is a popular combat and dance type sport that’s similar to capoeira.
28. In 2005 and 2006, Reunion experienced an epidemic of chikungunya, which is a viral disease similar to dengue fever that was brought in from East Africa. The disease infected almost a third of the population because of its transmission through mosquitoes.
29. Professional soccer players that come from Reunion include Dimitri Payet, Florent Sinama Pongolle and Guillaume Hoarau.
30. Reunion has a number of contributions to worldwide professional surfing as it has been home to notable professional surfers include Jeremy Flores, Johanne Defay and Justine Mauvin.