Caving in Réunion: all you need to know about this essential activity

It is criss-crossed by numerous lava tunnels caused by volcanic eruptions, Réunion is a fantastic playground for caving. Would you like to go caving on the island? Here's everything you need to prepare!

Réunion, a volcanic island ideal for caving

L'Geological history of Réunion Island dates back around 4 million years, when the first volcanic eruptions took place. The birth of the island is in fact the result of volcanic activity associated with an underwater hot spot, where magma from the Earth's mantle has risen to the surface. Over time, successive eruptions have added layers of lava and volcanic ash to the emerged land, forming imposing mountains and varied landscapes.

Réunion is now mainly made up of two major volcanoes: Piton des Neigesa dormant volcano and the island's highest point, and the Piton de la Fournaiseone of the world's most active volcanoes.

All these successive eruptions, which are still regular today, have created the " lava tunnels "or lava caves "These are some of the best places in the world to practice caving in Réunion.

What caves and lava tunnels are worth exploring on Réunion?

Réunion has a wealth of fascinating caves and caverns to visitThese caves offer visitors a glimpse of the island's geological wealth. The caves are made of basalt, a volcanic material.

Some caves, created by the Piton des Neiges, date back hundreds of thousands of years, such as the Tortoise Cave (estimated to be 450,000 years old) or the Eperon tunneldating back 350,000 years (currently open to visitors with a guide).

The lava tunnels created by the Piton de la Fournaise are more recent. Several of them are open to guided tours, including the Lemon Galet tunnelthe Caverne Gendarme and the 2004 flow (Sainte-Rose tunnel).

If you're a beginner looking for a supervised caving activity, these are the tunnels the guides will take you to.

But you should know that caving in Réunion is not just about lava tunnels. Seasoned professionals can also explore other types of cavities such as underground canyons, magma chambers or even ancient craters...

It is estimated that only 10% of the caves have been explored by speleologists, which just goes to show how rich the island's underground resources are!

Where are the different lava tunnels on Réunion?

The Lava tunnels on Réunion are mainly to be found in the areas around Piton de la Fournaise, in the south-east of the island. Several communes surround this volcanic area and are home to the main lava tunnels open to caving:

Sainte-Rose : This commune is located close to the east coast of the island, where some of the lava flows from Piton de la Fournaise have reached the sea. The most popular caves are the result of the lava flow caused by the 2004 eruption.

Village du Tremblet : Between the village and the eastern rampart of the Piton de la Fournaise volcano lies the Citron Galet lava tunnel, created in 1800.

Saint-Philippe : Also located in the south-east of the island, this commune is to the south of Sainte-Rose. From here, you can access the Caverne Gendarme, a lava tunnel dating back to 1776, the entrance to which is accessible from the Saint-Philippe rainforest.

Eperon - Saint-Gilles-Les-Hauts : To the west of the island, you can explore the Bassin Bleu lava tunnel, created by a lava flow from the Piton des Neiges volcano 450,000 years ago (no less!), a flow that was responsible for the creation of the island itself.

What can you see in the lava caves?

interior 2004 lava tunnel la reunion

In the lava tunnels of La Réunion, visitors can expect to see a a variety of geological formations sculpted by volcanic activity. Here are some of the things you can discover in these tunnels :

Solidified lava walls Lava tunnels are formed by the cooling and solidification of lava from previous volcanic eruptions. The walls of the tunnels often have a variety of textures and colours, reflecting the different flows of lava that have flowed.

Lava stalactites and stalagmites : In some parts of the tunnels, lava stalactites and stalagmites can form from lava drops dripping from the ceiling or lava deposits accumulating on the floor. These mineral formations add to the aesthetic and geological interest of the tunnels.

Galleries and passageways : Lava tunnels can form a complex network of galleries and underground passages, offering visitors the chance to explore varied and sometimes labyrinthine environments.

Caving conditions on Réunion Island

  • Do you have to be sporty to take up this activity?

There are many lava tunnels, each with its own level or levels of difficulty. It's up to you to choose the cave and route that suits you best! However, there are you need to be in good physical condition and not claustrophobic for this activity. But if you're not a great sportsman or woman, don't worry, the accompanied tour of most of the lava tunnels is accessible to as many people as possible. Some passages require you to get down on all fours, bend over or even squeeze through, but if you don't want to take this type of route, your instructor-guide will be able to suggest other, easier passages.

  • Is it possible to go caving as a family on Réunion Island?

It is entirely possible to caving with childrenThe children will be supervised by an instructor-guide. We recommend a minimum age of 6 for this discovery activity, so that children can move around independently. However, this age depends above all on the child's ability (and desire) to keep their balance, bend over and move forward in passages that are sometimes narrow and dark.

If you have any doubts about doing this activity with your child, don't hesitate to ask your instructor guide for advice before booking. He or she will be able to explain the activity in detail.

  • What safety measures and equipment are required for this activity?

The lava tunnels can be long and winding. Inside, there is no access to the mobile network, let alone the Internet. To ensure your safety, We strongly advise you to be accompanied by a qualified caving guide.who knows the lava tunnel to explore. The guide will provide you with all the equipment you need: helmet, headlamp, kneepads and gloves. We advise you to bring suitable clothing (trousers, as the walls can be abrasive, a rain jacket, change of clothes in a small bag) and water, depending on the length of the route.

Ready to try your hand at caving on Reunion Island? We'll take you there!


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Profundo, by Jocelyn Michel

(Sole trader)

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