Reunion Island is a French Island situated in the Indian Ocean, close to Mauritius. As it is a small island, it is easy to visit the main tourist spots staying at the same hotel, thus making the trip less hectic. One of the most important touristic areas are situated near the lagoon, a 20km long beach with crystal clear water and a rich marine life.
Newly opened, Akoya is a rare five star property in the Reunion Island.
Not because the tourism infrastructure here is not very developed but because the island has tried to retain its raw charm and authenticity, which is quite difficult to find in today’s world. Situated in front of the Lagoon at La Saline-les Bains, Akoya has a unique Indian touch that made us immediately feel at home.
As you enter the property, you are welcomed by a beautiful turquoise gate – a piece of art that was shipped from Rajasthan. “As soon as I saw it during a holiday in India, I immediately visualised it at the entrance of our hotel. Akoya is maybe the only hotel in the island that has an Indian touch,” says Joel Narayanin, the Indian-origin owner of Akoya Hotel & Spa. “We have lost touch with India over the years. Our ancestors came from India as indentured labours to replace the slaves in the fields. Despite the assimilation policy of the French government obliging us to change our names and become Christians over the decades, we still follow the Hindu religion and the new generations want to develop more ties with India,” he adds. Speaking English can be a challenge for some French people, however the staff at Akoya speak English and even Hindi! The secret was unveiled by Narayanin who said that some of his employees came from Mauritius that is barely a 30-minute hop by air from the Reunion Island.
The difference between Mauritius and Reunion?
“Well certainly Mauritius has beautiful beaches, but we have unique landscapes and an active volcano. I think it is the best place for Indians looking for adventure activities, good food (including Indian food) and have an offbeat experience. Mauritius is overcrowded but here in Reunion, you have tranquillity to isolate yourself, but you can also go party to the rhythm of Creole music,” says Dharma Kullean, general manager of Akoya Hotel & Spa.
Each room is provided with modern equipment including a coffee machine and has a balcony that offers a view of either the lagoon or the garden. The materials used are eco-friendly and to prove it the hotel proudly displays a Green Globe International certificate. There are several activities you can do in and around the hotel. However, we preferred hanging around the property, walking on the beach and spending days discovering the island. The good thing is that you can drive yourself here or book a car with a driver through a tour operator prior to your visit for best prices. The hotel also has a spa that is well known in the island for its ayurvedic massages.
Besides the gym, the pool offers a beautiful view of the lagoon. You can see the sunset from there while sipping a nice cocktail. In the evening, you can enjoy a cultural spectacle with several local singers and dancers. “We sometimes also have an Indian theme with an Indian buffet! We recently hired an Indian cook to cater to the demand,” says Kullean. The cuisine at Akoya is quite refined just like the fine French cuisine. It’s also interesting to taste the local Creole cuisine that has many influences from India, notably with the spices and ‘carry’, as curry is referred to here. The Creole cuisine is generally composed of rice, lentils and one meat/ fish/vegetable curry.
Why not for your honeymoon ?
One night during dinner we met two couples from India. They were honeymooners on a visit to Reunion Island. “We chose Reunion for its adventure activities. We both love sports and nature and wanted to do something different and at the same time not going too far from India. It was just a five-and-a-half-hour flight for us; and, we are loving it,” said Preeti, a newly married accountant from Chennai.
“We have special offers for honeymooners, like suite room with Jacuzzi and champagne as well as a couple spa session and private dinner. The good thing about being a fivestar place is that we can customise everything. You ask for a special service and we provide it,” explains Kullean.
One week programme in Reunion Island from Akoya
Day 1 – Check-in at the hotel and enjoy the lagoon (swimming, snorkelling and kayaking) – a 5-minute walk from the hotel.
Day 2 – Go for a visit of the Cirque of Salazie, lunch at Hell-bourg and stop at Saint-André on the way back to see the Hindu temples – 1h30 from the hotel.
Day 3 – Explore the volcano and trek till the magma view point – 2h30 from the hotel.
Day 4 – Explore the lava tunnels and visit the church of Notre Dame des Laves, that survived a massive volcanic eruption in Sainte-Rose – 2h from the hotel.
Day 5 – Option 1: Go for Aqua-hiking or rafting activities at the River Langevin. Option 2: Trek for the day and picnic at the Mafate Cirque – 2h from the hotel.
Day 6 – Go for a helicopter tour or go for paragliding – 40 minutes from the hotel.
Day 7 – Back to India! Air Austral operates daily flights from Chennai. Other airlines from India’s main cities are also connected through Mauritius.
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