Volcanoes on Réunion: what's the 3rd one?

L'Reunion Island is renowned for its spectacular scenery and rich natural heritage. Among the emblems of this French island, volcanoes play an important role. They bear witness to the tumultuous geological history that has shaped this heavenly piece of land. Did you know that Réunion Island is actually made up of 3 major volcanoes Piton des Neiges, Piton de la Fournaise, and a lesser-known but just as important volcano?

The volcanic origins of Réunion Island

The history of Réunion began around 3 million years ago. The the formation of the island is closely linked to underwater volcanic activity caused by a hot spot in the Indian Ocean. This hot spot gave rise to an undersea mountain range, one of the peaks of which emerged to form what we know today as the Reunion Island.

The emergence and growth of the island

Around 3 million years ago, a group of successive eruptions of underwater volcanoes formed the basis of what would become Réunion. The accumulation of lava over time gradually formed a volcanic island, marked by periods of intense activity interspersed with calmer phases. The the first volcanoes were massive and their imposing stature rivalled that of the other volcanoes in the region.

The climatic and geological influences that have shaped Réunion

The island's evolution has been influenced not only by thevolcanic activitybut also by climatic forces such as trade winds. These constant easterly winds have sculpted the landforms and contributed to the diversity of landscapes we see today. Various geological and climatological factors have thus combined to shape the current topography of Reunion Island, made up of cirques, peaks and steep ramparts.

Piton des Neiges: Réunion's oldest volcano

cirque mafate piton des neiges reunion island

Piton des Neiges is Réunion's oldest volcanoculminating at an altitude of 3,070 metres. It is also the the highest point on the island and in the Mascarene Islands (a volcanic archipelago comprising Réunion, Mauritius and Rodrigues). Contrary to what its name suggests, this summit is not permanently covered in snow, but it can be partially snow-covered during the southern winter.

A sleeping volcano

This imposing giant, now considered to be offwas active for almost two million years. Its last eruptions were around 20,000 years ago. Since then, theerosion has greatly altered its appearancecarving out majestic cirques such as the Mafate, Salazie and Cilaos cirquesThese are the island's must-see attractions.

Hiking and exploring

The Piton des Neiges is one of the popular destinations for hiking enthusiasts. Reaching its summit offers breathtaking views over the whole island and, on a clear day, as far as neighbouring Mauritius. The trekking routes around this massif allow you to discover exceptional biodiversity and explore historic trails once used by the island's first inhabitants and explorers.

- Cirque de Mafate: Accessible only on foot or by helicopter, this isolated cirque is a paradise for experienced hikers.

- Cirque de Salazie: Renowned for its lush vegetation and impressive waterfalls.

- Cirque de Cilaos: Renowned for its thermal springs and varied hiking trails.

Piton de la Fournaise: a spectacular active volcano

Piton de la Fournaise is probably the Réunion's most famous volcano. Located in the south-east of the island, it is one of the world's most active volcanoes and its frequent eruptions attract many visitors every year.

Recent volcanic activity

Piton de la Fournaise is erupts almost every year. The lava flows transform the landscape on a regular basis, offering breathtaking natural spectacles and new tunnels open to visitors. Scientists are closely monitoring its activity thanks to a network of sensors installed around the main crater.

top view of the piton de la fournaise crater on Réunion Island

Access and observation

Le the summit of Piton de la Fournaise is accessible via a road leading to the Pas de Bellecombe viewpoint, from where a number of footpaths take you up close to the various eruption zones. The ascent to the Dolomieu crater is an adventure not to be missed, offering breathtaking panoramic views.

1 Pas de Bellecombe: The first essential viewpoint offering a direct view of the site.

2 Formica Leo: An attractive little crater on the way to the summit.

3 Dolomieu Crater: The ultimate goal of the ascent, the crater's gigantic size and lunar-like floor make it a real eye-catcher.

Réunion's "third volcano

As well as Piton des Neiges and Piton de la Fournaise, Réunion Island was once home to a third volcano little known to the public, called Trade winds volcano ". Originally known as Proto-Fournaise, this ancient volcano was the foundation of the Piton de la Fournaise massif, located in the south-east of the island.

Contemporary with the Piton des NeigesThe Alizées volcano collapsed as a result of extensive landslides. The magma chamber of this imposing edifice has been found thanks to dredging carried out under the Grand Brûlé, along with rocks dating back 3.8 million years in the Rivière des Remparts, providing tangible evidence of its existence.

The studies are still in progress about this ancient volcano, and data such as the dating of the volcano are not official. Other rocks dating back 9 million years have also been found.

By exploring these fascinating stories, we can better understand how each volcano has left its mark on Réunion IslandThis unique environment combines beauty and natural history.

From visible traces to buried legends, volcanoes together tell the story of a long history. a geological saga spanning millions of years. For those curious to learn more, the Cité du Volcan museum remains a mine of information for understanding the island's volcanic origins.

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Profundo, by Jocelyn Michel

(Sole trader)

SIRET : 419 831 920 00048

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