The island is 63 kilometres long and 45 kilometres wide and is located above a hotspot in the Earth's crust, being created within the last 3 million years. Mauritius, formed between 7 and 10 millions years ago, is the oldest of the existing volcanic islands.
It is hard to believe that such a remote island is an outermost region of the European Union and, as an overseas department of France, is part of the Eurozone.
The airport is located in the capital, Saint-Denis in the north of the island. The landscape of the south-east is dominated by lava fields from many eruptions, some very recent, from the highly active volcano Piton de la Fournaise, which is over 530,000 years old. It is one of the world's most active volcanoes, with over 150 recorded eruptions since the 17th century, the most recent being only 5 months ago.
|The N1 highway cutting through the lava fields|
|Notre-Dame des Laves|
For our first 2 days we stayed in the island's main tourist area, in the north-west, with its lagoon and white coral beaches, similar to those on Mauritius, where we stayed 21 years ago after Minerals Engineering '93 in Cape Town. After a day lazing by the beach and hotel pool extreme boredom set in, so we checked out earlier than planned and headed inland to the much more interesting and cooler interior.
|The coral beach at St.-Gilles des Bains|
|The road to Cilaos|
|Cilaos: the town in a volcanic caldera|
|The Piton de Neiges dominates the town at dusk|
|At the base of the caldera|