Volcanoes, beaches and French accents in an Indian Ocean paradise

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The helicopter climbs steadily, keeping close to the mountainside, before passing over the peak. Suddenly, the earth below drops away by 5,000ft. My heart-rate soars.

The caldera of Mafate, created by millions of years of volcanic pressure, basks in the early morning sun. Its sibling, Salazie, to the east, is still covered by a silky blanket of cloud, while Cilaos is hiding behind another wall of sprawling rock straight ahead


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