Photo by Melody

The Anse des Cascades: Waterfall Coves

By Jean-Jacques Segalen (jjacquesJuly 18, 2014

Should I translate the title for you? All right, we are strolling today through the "waterfalls cove," a very nice spot on Reunion where I happened to spend a few days recently.

Gardening picture

  This cove or little bay is set on the eastern coast of Reunion Island, which means the wet part. It is found between Piton Sainte-Rose and the lava road, a very typical and spectacular part of the island. This natural setting is very much favored by locals who flock by during weekends for picnics and enjoying the scenery. As its name implies, waterfalls are to be admired here, there are two main ones and several smaller ones all falling along a high cliff dominating the area. As water is abundant all year round, the vegetation is particularly lush: ferns and New Guinea impatiens ornate the ground while tall trees keep stand in front of the waves. Part of this area is a palm tree forest, with coconut (Cocos nucifera) and barbel palms (Acanthophoenix rubra) interlaced plus a few hurricane palms (Dictyosperma album). Some of those palm trees have developed an amazing basis making them look like elephant feet, probably a reaction against the usual strong winds.

    Ocean, boats and rainbow!
      Waterfalls amongst trees


  Close to the shore, one can admire many screw pines (Pandanus utilis) which even grow in thickets in places. This plant displays spectacular stilt roots while the mature fruits look like medieval skull-breakers, strange look indeed!

    Waterfalls and bamboos       Soft water meets sea water

  There is also a small harbor for local fishermen--actually more a landing slope made of concrete which allow fishing boats to reach the sea and come back on dry land. The sea, more properly the Indian Ocean, is pretty rough here as trade winds blow quite hard, added to the strong swell they produce large waves. This access was the only one during the early colonization (circa year 1750) as the land was covered by very lush vegetation and roadbuilding would take too long with only hands and basic tools. In those early times the area was a prosperous one, growing corn, rice, cloves, mangoes, bananas and so on. Sugarcane overtook the fields as it did on most of the island and nowadays clove trees are only found in secluded abandoned lands or in ravines.

 Coconut trees seen from above    Inflated palm tree foot


  As we are on the east coast, rain can be a daily event hence supplying the waterfalls with endless water.  This bonanza was used during the nineteenth century to provide water for surrounding villages and sugarcane process plants. The remains of an old water pump can still be seen on the site, and water was driven by a duct to a paddle wheel which then put the pump in motion.

 Ocean and lush vegetation
 Screw pines and palm trees

  Besides sugarcane, one can see banana fields, vanilla grown on natural props scattered throughout the forest, citrus, palm trees for cabbage and of course fish brought fresh from the water by fishermen. Tourism consists mostly of locals during week-ends but foreigners with a good guide happen to stop by. A shore trail which snails between rocks and trees also passes by and allows people to enjoy amazing views of the ocean and the volcano slopes.

    Rainy place I told you!
 Amazing roots of Terminalia


  As mentioned above the area has been inhabited by man for quite a time, therefore deforestation happened early and 80% of the plants found here are exotic (coming from abroad) but there nonetheless exist some relics of primary forest. Ironwood (Sideroxylon borbonicum), rampart wood (Agauria salicifolia) and wild manioc (Scaveola taccata) can still be seen by the keen botanist and are highly protected by local authorities.

    Pandanus stilt roots
   Fish boat and restaurant


  The fauna is quite poor and consists mainly of lizards and birds. The spectacular white-tailed tropicbird (Phaeton lepturus) with its long white tail feathers often flies over the cove while the noisy spot-backed weaver (Ploceus cucullatus spilonotus) roams the ground for left over from picnickers. If you come in winter time (mostly July/August) and are luck enough you can also spot sperm whales swimming not far from the coast as they travel north for mating.

    Water pump ruins
    Paddle wheel

  One last warning if you decide to choose Anse des cascades for the day, make sure you have an umbrella or a good raincoat. The place is lush and green because it does rain quite often and when it does it tends to be pretty heavy! If things turn too wet, there is a restaurant where you can stay dry while enjoying good local food and rum!

  About Jean-Jacques Segalen  
Jean-Jacques SegalenI am a Parisian born professional horticulturist specialized in tropical seeds producing, living on Reunion island (just between Mauritius and Madagascar) since 24 years . I spend a lot of time gathering seeds in the wild, the ones I do not grow that is. Also a dedicated Tai-Chi practitioner and fully certified arborist-tree surgeon Just released my first book on tropical plants and fruits, check it out at

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