The tiny island of La Réunion is like a piece of France that was cut away and placed in the middle of the Indian Ocean. There are outdoor cafe's serving croissants, French speakers, some of the most spellbinding natural environments, and over 40% of the entire island is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. At the crossroads of European, African and Asian cultures, La Réunion is a true melting pot.
La Réunion is one of the world's top canyoning destinations, thanks to its high rainfall and diverse terrain made up of waterfalls, mountains, and volcanic craters. Canyoning is an extreme adventure sport with its roots in caving, based on rappelling steep and narrow canyons, carved out by years of river flow and flash floods. I consider myself a water person. Growing up on the beach I could swim before I could walk. Yet, fast-moving icy water is far less appealing than gentle waves lapping against sun-kissed beaches. But when I found myself in Réunion Island, the capital of canyoning, I knew it was time to get out of my comfort zone.
The day started with a 40-minute hike into the canyon with outstanding panoramic vistas of Salazei Cirque. Trou Blanc is blessed with abundant high water which creates a long succession of natural water slides.
We donned wetsuits, harnesses, helmets, and jumped into the frigid river. Easy enough at first clambering over rocks and wading through the river.
When we arrived at the first drop, my stomach sunk. The Trou Blanc is extremely steep with very sheer drops that are obscured by the bending canyon walls of the route. When I saw what I had signed up for, I knew I couldn’t turn back. There was no way I could swim upriver and we were far too deep in the canyon to climb up the sides. The only way out was through. Even if it meant rapelling down waterfalls.
We arranged a series of hanging ropes along the canyon wall on an overhanging rock. Being my first time canyoning or even rapelling I was baffled when the guide attached my harness and handed me ropes. Over the sound of a raging waterfall, the guide explained in broken French/English how to lower myself down. Knowing there wasn’t much room for error, I left my fears at the top of the waterfall and began the descent. It was exhilarating to feel the icy water pound against my body as the ropes strategically slid through my calloused hands. When I made it to base of the waterfall, I knew I was hooked.
As the canyon narrowed, we descended waterfall slides lovingly named by the canyoning community as "the washing machine" and "the particle accelerator."
We rapelled, slid down waterfalls like water slides, and jumped off cliffs. It was exhilarating, unpredictable, and dangerous - but I would do it again in a heartbeat. After all, life begins at the end of your comfort zone, so what are you waiting for?!
Edited by Eliana Arian