Mafate is one of the 3 cirques of the island. Resulting from the collapse of the slopes of the Piton des Neiges (the first volcano and highest point of the Reunion island) the area is only accessible by foot or by helicopter.
Because of the lack of passable tracks, the cirque is car-free and therefore the development of the area remained very basic. Even though they have running water, there is no power grid and the only way to have electricity there is either thanks to solar panels or with a generator.
Registered since 2010 as a part of the UNESCO world heritage site for its biodiversity and stunning landscapes, it is a hiking paradise with more than a 100kms of trails going through the area.
Named after the Malagasy word “Mahafaty” meaning lethal because of the difficulty to enter the cirque. It is composed of “ilet” small plateaux spread in the cirque.
Like the other cirques, the first inhabitants were “noirs marrons”, slaves on the run. After the abolition of slavery in 1848, they were joined by “petit blancs”, former masters who were ruined and left the coast to start anew inland.
Only a few paths give access to the Mafate cirque:
From Cilaos, through the col du Taïbit, from Salazie through the col des Bœufs, the col de Fourche or through Bord Martin. From the west coast, access is through la Rivière des Galets, Dos d’Âne or through Sans Souci and the canalisation des Orangers. The last access point is from le Maïdo.
You can admire stunning views over Mafate from the cirque edges, but like the majority of the outdoor activities on the island, the earlier in the day you get there, the better as clouds are frequently covering the hills from mid-morning and especially Mafate where clouds fills the caldera very quickly. Some point of views are easily accessible such as Maïdo, col des Bœufs or Dos d’Âne.