Monday, 6 July 2020

From the Archives- Mauritius, Réunion and Madagascar

It's fair to say that MEI is just ticking over at the moment, waiting to move up through the gears next year as we enter the strange new world of the 'new normal'. Our life basically revolves around international conferences, not only MEI Conferences, but reporting on other events around the world. Next month, for instance, Jon would have been in Australia, reporting on the AusIMM's Mill Ops conference, and I would have been presenting a lunchtime lecture at the Conference of Metallurgists in Toronto.
Although many conferences have opted to go online, we have avoided that for the foreseeable future, preferring to postpone events, biding our time until the days when people are free to travel again, albeit probably in a more restricted manner. Digital conferences are fine, but in my opinion they are a poor substitute for the real thing - face to face meetings, and socialising with the uncertainty of what serendipity might have to offer. The reaction to my posting We'll Meet Again last month suggests that other professionals are also looking forward to getting together again.
Apart from meeting people, we are much aware of how privileged we are to have a life in the minerals industry, and the opportunity that it gives us of travelling the world to see amazing things, and to experience different cultures. So while real travel is on hold, I thought I might delve into the archives and reminisce about some of the great places that we have visited before or after conferences. 
Our next MEI Conference is likely to be Comminution '21 next April, running parallel with the IMPC, both in Cape Town, so a good place to start delving is the first Cape Town conference that I was involved with, 27 years ago, Minerals Engineering '93, organised with CSM Associates, a few years before MEI was even thought of (see also MEI Blog 27 October 2010).  
Visiting Rhodes Memorial, Cape Town, after Minerals Engineering '93,
with Kirsty Walker, Terry & Pauline Veasey and Rob Wilson,
delegates from University of Birmingham
Barbara at Cape Town Waterfront with Ann Ralston, Sabina Crozier,
Carmel Beniuk and Pauline Veasey
Barbara and I knew little of the Western Cape at that time, so opted for a holiday on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius after the event, as this was only a few hours flight from Johannesburg. Mauritius is the oldest of the three volcanic Mascarene Islands, being formed between 7 and 10 million years ago.  It is a beautiful tropical island but probably particularly attractive to those who enjoy watersports.

In 2014, after Process Mineralogy '14, we spent a week on Réunion, a French island about 200 kilometres southwest of Mauritius (MEI Blog 30 November 2014). The largest of the Mascarene islands, Réunion was formed less than 3 million years ago. 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 6 years ago. 
Like Mauritius, Réunion is also a beautiful island, catering for watersports, but with some great hiking in the cooler interior. We spent three nights at Cilaos, a town situated in one of the calderas of the massive Piton de Neiges dormant volcano with impressive trails in its interior.
St. Gilles des Baines coral beach and reef
The long and winding road to the island's interior
Cilaos, situated in one of the calderas of the massive dormant volcano, Piton de Neiges
Hiking in the Cilaos caldera
A comparison of Mauritius and Réunion must, of course, be very subjective, but for those who like to sizzle in a hot tropical sun, Mauritius might be the better place for you, with its superior beaches, food and water sports facilities. But if hard hiking is your thing, then Réunion could well be added to your list of places to visit. The massive Piton de Neiges forms two thirds of the island and there are very many hiking trails within its three Cirques. We visited only one of these, and only scratched the surface of the hiking available, so it is not surprising that many people repeatedly return to this fascinating volcanic island.
But my recommendation by far would go to Madagascar, between mainland Africa and the Mascarenes, where we spent a wonderful week after Flotation '11. Madagascar is the 4th largest island in the world, and we visited four of its small islands, Nosy Sakatia, Nosy Be, Nosy Komba and Nosy Iranja.
Our first 4 nights were at Sakatia, known for its orchids and splendid diving on its coral reefs. 
From Sakatia we visited neighbouring islands Nosy Komba and Nosy Be.
Nosy Be

Nosy Komba
Nosy Komba is particularly famous for its population of lemurs, which are protected as they are considered sacred by the island’s inhabitants. 
Our final 2 nights were spent at Nosy Iranja, two small coral islands connected by a sand bar at low tide. This tropical paradise is home to the luxurious Iranja Lodge and boasts absolute tranquility- during our stay around 30 staff attended to us and one other couple!
Nosy Iranja is famed for its Hawksbill Turtles, which come ashore to lay their eggs in the sand, and we were lucky to see the tiny turtles hatch then race off to the sea (YouTube).
Our two days at Iranja flew by, and our exceptional brief visit to Madagascar ended with a one and a half hour speedboat trip back to Nosy Be, and our flight back to Johannesburg.

We strongly recommend Madagascar as a great place to unwind after an MEI Conference in Cape Town. Our itinerary was arranged by our South African agent Rene Simpson, who can arrange a seamless holiday for you (


  1. Barry, MEI is not"ticking"--gathering new energy at a new Starting Line to make all of us to learn new developments/more bonding between our professionals etc etc.
    I fully endorse(once I already did) your views on Conferences--physical participation is "a must" for professional and personal growth.
    The other details given of your experiences radiate positive energy and makes one to look forward to a more pleasant ,prosperous and productive future.

  2. Your pictures and travel accounts make me want to travel again. A trip to Reunion, organized by the Mineralogical Association of South Africa (MINSA), was a memorable experience. We missed an eruption of the active volcano, Piton de la Fournaise by just a few weeks. What an amazing island.

    1. That must have been 2014 Hanna? The volcano has erupted 5 months before our visit. We drove through some amazing lava fields

    2. And I hope my travel accounts inspire people to travel again when possible. And conferences provide the perfect opportunity!


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