Most tourists visiting the Reunion Island drive up the Maïdo road to take in the stunning vistas on the Mafate Cirque from its viewpoint. However, there are more fun and adventurous ways to take in the scale of the ramparts and explore the various ecosystems along the volcanic slopes of the mountain, like rock climbing the Maïdo Peak or mountain biking back down to the coast.
Starting from the Maïdo viewpoint, we are mountain biking down all the way to the coast in Saint Gilles about 2,200 meters below exploring various ecosystems along its slopes. The endless set of trails will please from beginners to top racers competing against each other on the world famous Mégavalanche downhill mountain biking race (check it out through the eyes of a racer).
With both of my hands on the brakes of my steering wheel I take a deep breath before putting my feet on the pedals of my dual-suspension mountain bike. Slowly I release the pressure on the breaks. Instantly the wheels start rolling downhill following a dark and bumpy lava field that spreads out in front of me. After a bend, the view on the Indian Ocean opens up about 2,200 meters below from one of the Reunion Island’s most popular mountains.
Losing some altitude, the low vegetation of the top is soon replaced by a forest of the endemic highland tamarin trees while the rough volcanic rocks I had to manoeuvre around makes place for their roots. While I am extremely focused on the demanding single track, I do take in the mystical landscape with the moss hanging from the branches. With the steep gradient, I feel like going down a ladder with my mountain bike, and I am grateful for the dual suspension that makes it more comfortable and give me more control.
Pearls of sweat start to form on my forehead and I realize that the ambient temperature is warming up. With the influence of the winds, and the many temperature gradients that I am feeling now caused by the elevation, microclimates and specific ecosystems can be found all over the mountain. The single track is ever varied, and soon perfumed by the delicate scent of the beautiful (yet one of the world’s 100 worst invasive alien species!) ginger lily flowers that grow along the narrow trail. The vegetation changes to alien and invasive species, some with thorns I try to avoid. As our small group regularly crosses path with the less demanding forest track, our guide Gildas shows us the way. I must admit that the technicality of the trail forces me to carry my bike for a few meters at times.
As the kilometers fly by we get lower on the slopes of the Maïdo and closer to civilization. The humid forest has now made place for sugar cane plantations through which I pick up some serious speed as the tricky single track is now wider and less demanding.
We ooze our way back to Saint Gilles and as we are cooling down in the lagoon, I wish we could start at the top again! Beyond the adrenaline-packed downhill track, mountain biking down the Maïdo is fantastic way to take in some of the diverse ecosystems of the Reunion Island, whether you are a mountain biking enthusiast or a complete beginner!
Claire & Marcella
- No previous mountain biking experience is needed to have fun on the Maïdo.
- To live this mountain biking adventure, refer to Rando Réunion Passion. FYI, text and photos in this article are based on the technical route.
- To fully rest before and relax after this adrenaline-packed adventure, we recommend you to stay at the LUX Saint Gilles, the only 5-star hotel of the Reunion Island located at the foot of the road to the Maïdo.
- Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area! Here is a short tutorial to download it.