An amazing “technical” heritage, in the sunshine of the islands…
Pearl farms in Polynesia, sugar cane plantations and refineries on the Reunion Island and in the Caribbean: there is an entire industrial and human history to be (re)discovered beyond the beach.
The colonial period, whether it was led by France or other countries, in addition to certain cultures that adapted to the climate, have had an impact on the destiny and the landscape of the Caribbean Islands and the Indian Ocean. These lands have seen the creation of large agricultural fields, the traffic of African slaves, and the birth of a Creole identity. Here, locals prepare precious spices such as vanilla, and basic goods such as sugarcane, for export. Today, a part of this agricultural activity still continues, and has kept the islands' history alive. As for the pearls of the Pacific Ocean, and the monoï oil, they illustrate yet another distinct part of the dream that is consistently associated with this destination of Tahiti.
Guadeloupe, kingdom of sugarcane and coffee
Sugarcane farming, and the sale of black people into slavery, have no doubt left their mark on the history of the Caribbean, and have also lead to a cultural mixture upon which the Creole identity is based. The discovery of this universe makes it possible to understand, for example, some of the oddities such as burning, a practice that is required prior to the harvest: the fields are first set on fire in order to strip the leaves off of the tall stalks, because the sugarcane leaves are dangerously sharp. In addition to the specialties that are derived from sugarcane (rhum blanc agricole [white rum], rhum arrangé [macerated rum], etc.), Guadeloupe is also known for its coffee.
Tribute to rum - Sugarcane is mostly grown in the northern and flat part of the Island otherwise known as Grande-Terre. Head to the Reymonenq Region in Sante-Rose Bellevue where you can visit the Rhum museum, a private farm where rum is produced.
- Coffee time - In the hillsides of the village of Vieux-Habitants, towering over the shores of "Sous-le-Vent" (islands off the western coastline of Basse-Terre) there is a small coffee culture, perhaps dating back as far as the year 1725. There are three areas where this activity takes place, where you may find a charming bed and breakfast to stay in.
- Check out this coffee plantation and museum: Cafe Chaulet
- And even more...
- A shop that sells items made from natural materials, such as coconut.
Reunion Island, between sugar and perfumes
Initially called Bourbon Island, this volcanic mountain, which emerges from the Indian Ocean, has gone from being a virgin land to the status of a trading post of the East India Company in the XVII century. Soon after, it became a prosperous colony through implementing and developing various productions, especially vanilla and sugarcane, and even vetiver oil. Some dynasties made their fortune off of this food industry activity; however, it is this activity that also forged the destiny of African slaves.
The Stella Matutina in Saint-Leu used to be a sugarcane refinery (dating back to 1855), and has now been converted into an ecomuseum. Even though the vanilla plantations have now dwindled down to just a small handful, there was a time when the island used to export record volumes of this precious dried vanilla bean.
Two stops in Saint-André
- The Bois-Rouge sugar refinery, Saint-André. This factory is used for grinding sugarcane in order to extract the sugar, and it operates during the “sugar refinery campaign", from June to September. It's open to the public Tuesday through Friday.
- The Savanna Distillery, Saint-André. This distillery produces various high quality rums, from old rums to vintage rums and more. You can visit during the harvest campaign, as well as during the pressing campaign.
Two other spots of interest
- The farming cooperative for Bourbon essential oils: It produces essential oils used to make perfumes from geranium, vetiver, and rose pepper. A visit to this co-op may give added value to a workshop on the “creation of a fragrance”.
Tahiti, land of flowers and pearls…
The pearl oyster
Scattered over thousands of square kilometers, right in the middle of the
Pacific Ocean, the atolls and the "Lagoon Islands" started pearl oyster farming more than a century ago. In fact, there is a local and unique species of this mollusk, that in about four years is able to secrete an amazing and beautiful mother-of-pearl drop. This mother-of-pearl was first exported as a raw material (used as buttons for blouses, piano keys, etc.), before it became a valuable piece of jewelry, judged according to its shape and density. White mother-of-pearls, or black mother-of-pearls (even more renowned), are always produced by numerous “pearl farms” near
Bora Bora, Tuamotu, Gambier and above all, Manihi, which is 500 km away from Tahiti. A visit to a farm, with the possibility of snorkeling over the "farming stations," makes it possible to also learn firsthand that the Japanese possess a unique talent for grafting these oysters in
order to assure the production of the mother-of-pearl without fail.
The Gardenia, a native shiny white flower, has become the symbol of the Tahitians, a beautiful accessory that is mainly worn as a necklace or crown. After being soaked in coconut milk, the raw material derived from a vegetable oil is also beneficial for the skin and hair. As an ointment and gentle beauty care, monoï remains a Polynesian specialty.
And in Guiana: The spatial conquest, European version…
The base for launching "Ariane" rockets belongs to the Guyana Space Center, which exists within the framework of a European program. It is located in Kourou, which is between the Atlantic and the Amazon, and it can be visited on specific conditions (space museum, installations). If the date happens to coincide, it is also possible to attend a rocket launch.