Getaway to Reunion Island, Part 5: discovering the lava tunnels

Probably the most unusual part of our little adventure to Reunion Island: the lava tunnels!

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Piton de la Fournaise – the most active volcano of the region – source: fournaise.info

I am not going to go technical, mainly because I simply cannot remember what our guide told us, but basically all eruptions by the Piton de la Fournaise brings tunnels. Some can be walked in, others not – the ones we were in dates from the 2004 eruption. The lava cooled down super fast (because of its composition). The tunnels from 2007 are still too hot too start exploring, because the lava was very thick and it takes much longer to cool down.

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You have these signs for every lava flow

It was just super exciting. The access is at the moment is open, but there is quite a lot of vandalism happening (mostly people breaking off pieces of lava) and it is a shame. I wouldn’t venture down there on my own though: everything looks alike and if you don’t have small white stones you wouldn’t be able to find your way out again.

The hiking starts off the road and our guide Arthur explained us basics of the lava, the differences in between the volcanos, how and why and etc. He is very passionate and    knowledgeable. It was great spending a few hours with hi,. We went with a company specialised in these lava tours, Rando-volcan. They are blogging on WordPress and have some awesome pictures etc. The site is in French but there is google translate and it seems to be working fine! The cost was Eur 50/adult and Eur35/kid and they were well spend. They have longer excursions and in other places as well, but this is their main one.

That’s the little hole we went into and then you are in a complete other world. Very fascinating! Kiddos 2, who is 5, was not quite sure about it in the beginning but after a while he settled in and started to explore as well. I really enjoyed it.

One thing I do remember Arthur told us was that the lava will automatically stop if there is a tree trunk for exemple and work it’s way around it till the trunk would burn, so the hole you see on one of the picture is exactly that, a spot where there was a tree! Some of the tunnels are so high that you can walk others you need to crawl and a few are so low that you are ramping! I came out with holes in my tshirt everywhere, because of cause iIneed to go in the tiniest places – it is actually quite hard work, but much fun.

There are a few halls in the tunnels, when the sun is shinning and it is very hot outside some of these places get like a sauna, with steam and temperatures over 40 degrees, but otherwise it is actually quite a nice temperature, just very humid! No jumpers needed when we went – temperatures vary very little from summer to winter –  a bit like a cellar but I guess in the winter even 3 degrees with the humidity might be enough and a jumper would be needed.

In all we spend 2 and a half hour in the tunnels and if I remember well we only walked 1.5km – so progress is very slow. In case you wonder, in the case of an eruption while you are in there, there is plenty of time to get out before the lava reaches you.

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source: fournaise.info

The volcano is in eruption at the moment. It is a very ‘mellow’ volcano so everybody who can make it, drive up to the volcano to have a look. Next time we go to Reunion Island we will hike the volcano – but there was a couple of hours drive from where we were and then several hours hiking, so a bit too long day for the kiddos.


Special thanks to Arthur for being our guide and for taking some of the pictures in the post! As usual I am not sponsored to write this.

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