Arabian sailors used to call this island Dina Morgabin (“Western island”).The Portuguese discovered the uninhabited island in 1513.The island was then occupied by the French. In 1642, the King of France Louis XIII named it Île Bourbon. It was renamed Réunion during the French Revolution.
From the 17th to the 19th centuries, French immigration supplemented by influxes of Africans, Chinese, Malays, and Malabar Indians gave the island its ethnic mix. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 cost the island its importance as a stopover on the East Indies trade route.
Réunion became an overseas departement of France on March 19, 1946.
The island is 39 miles (63 kilometers) long, is 28 miles (45 kilometers) wide, and covers 970 square miles (2150 square kilometers). The island is similar to the big island of Hawaii because both are located above hot spots in the Earth`s crust.
Piton de la Fournaise, a shield volcano on the eastern end of Réunion Island, rises more than 8565 feet (2611 meters) above sea level and is sometimes called a sister to Hawaiian volcanoes because of the similarity of climate and volcanic nature, has erupted more than 100 times since 1640 and is under constant monitoring. It most recently erupted on January 9, 2004.
Piton des Neiges volcano, the highest point on the island at 10069 feet (3070 meters) above sea level, is west of Piton de la Fournaise volcano. Collapsed calderas and canyons are southwest of the mountain. Like Mauna Kea on the big island of Hawaii, Piton des Neiges is extinct.
The slopes of both volcanoes are heavily forested. Cultivated land and cities like the capital city of Saint-Denis are concentrated on the surrounding coastal lowlands.
Sugar is the chief agricultural product and export. Tourism is also an important source of income.
The territory traditionally had a large gap in income and standard of living between the wealthier communities of European and Indian descent, and the poorer African and other communities. This gap is closing with time. Metropolitan France provides substantial financial support to Réunion.
Some fishermen of Réunion also derive a certain amount of revenue from shark fishing.There is also many minerals in the mountains of the island, zinc, uranium, copper, silicon, are a few that can be found.
Réunion contains most of the same ethnic populations as Mauritius: Malabars or Tamil, Indians, Vietnamese, African, Malagasy, Chinese and ethnic French - but in different proportions. Creoles, of mixed origins, make up the majority, about 90% of the population. Whites make up approximately one-quarter of the population, Indians make up 21% and people of Chinese or Vietnamese ancestry most of the remainder.
The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism (86% of the population in 1995), with Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism also represented.
Reunion has a very similar culture, ethnic makeup, language and traditions to those of Mauritius and the Seychelles.