Located in St Gilles les Bains, the Garden of Eden is an oasis, which can be found in the savanna of the west coast of Reunion Island. As the name suggests itself, the Garden of Eden is true paradise due to its heavenly beauty.
This garden is the realization of a long cherished dream by Philippe Kaufmant, the creator of this beautiful space. Originally, from Lorraine, Philippe Kaufmant was born in Quimper on 02 June 1941. Bubbling with imagination, the young Philippe dreamt of travelling. Curious about everything, fond of ideals and adventures, a poet in his hours, with all the ardor of his youth, he wants to give himself the means to realize his dreams. He studied agricultural engineering in Rennes and then specialized in tropical agronomy. At 24, he is ready to discover the world! He first went on a study tour to Cuba where he was part of the first small group of students invited by Fidel Castro.
However, Africa attracted him and his professional life began in Chad, within the framework of the Cooperation where he performed his military service like VAT. Combining work in the cotton plantations and discoveries which are most often adventurous, he kept an imperishable memory of this country and the happiness of living in the tropics will never leave him.
After a short stay in Paris, he was hired by the Swiss firm Ciba-Geigy. There, he was responsible for the zone of Madagascar-Réunion-Mauritius for 10 years, using his agronomic skills to improve crop yield. Piloting himself a small plane for his professional and private trips, he discovered Madagascar in its most remote corners. He was amazed by the landscapes and by the biodiversity of the fauna and flora which was already threatened.
In Reunion Island, he discovered a large amount of flora which he admired during his tropical journeys. He was also seduced by the ethnic diversity that prevails among inhabitants who lived harmoniously.
It was there that he decided to set foot – Reunion Island. In 1977, rejecting a promotion in South America, he moved to Reunion to live and carry out several projects he had in mind. Staying at Grand Tampon, he selected varieties of strawberries best adapted to the region and grown them on a large scale. Then, with a view to achieve creativity and diversification, he produced asparagus, melons, oyster mushrooms; all cultures that had made his reputation on Reunion Island, that of an enterprising, creative and competent man.
But he still had a dream to achieve, the one that has held him most passionately for years, the most imaginative, the most poetic one. He made it come true in the Garden of Eden, an enchanting place that he left to his two children and to all nature lovers.
It took years of perseverance for his project to be carried out effectively: constantly on the lookout for new plants, he created his own nursery in the late 1980s from species collected from his friends and in 1990. He modelled it into a space with reliefs, colors, verticality of the trees and poetry of the flower just hatched.
The Garden of Eden was inaugurated in 1991. The vegetation was maintained with great care by the gardeners of the place which quickly became luxuriant. In 1689 the Marquis de Quesne published in Amsterdam, a collection of a few memoirs serving as instruction for the establishment in the Isle of Eden”, where he rented the Island of Bourbon, calling it “the Garden of Eden”. Hence the name of this Garden.
Reunion Island with its mountains, its circuses, the deserted littoral zones or very watered, has a great botanical diversity. Endemic or indigenous plants of which some were brought back by the different ethnic groups that came to populate the Island, found their place here.
Giving an overview of this richness by making a selection of plants and trees for their rarity, for their beauty but also to preserve the botanical heritage bequeathed by the different flows of settlement of this small country, Philippe Kaufmant wanted to show them through the Garden of Eden.
For him it would have been an ethnobotanical landscaped garden.
Designing a garden for sure requires reflection, a deep knowledge of plants and a lot of personality to be able to convey its sense of aesthetics. The Garden of Eden was born from a sandy and rocky plain, where only a few coconut trees and bamboo trees stood. It took a good deal of anticipation to imagine the future landscape scenes that welcome visitors today!
Philippe Kaufmant wanted to make the Garden of Eden a garden that was at the same time intimate and bushy: visitors discovered the scenes one after the other (freshness of the bamboos, the infinite bridge above the rushes, the immobile beauty of the eternity of a lotus flower …), and could easily isolate themselves (the benches are sheltered from the gaze, under the ylang-ylang or the liana of Mysore, in the path hidden behind the pond). These are the principles of English-style gardens (as opposed to French-style gardens, whose perspective and geometry are perceived at a glance); Bushy tropical. It is natural in these climates to take advantage of the vegetable exuberance, the broad leaves of dreams, the profusion of porcelain roses and the height of the yuccas …
In this garden there are sacred, malefic, aphrodisiac and anaphrodisiac plants, medicinal plants, plants for eating, drinking, weaving or dyeing, paper plants, baskets, carpentry, pirogues and Hedges … To promote this richness of the vegetable world, the route of the Garden of Eden takes the walker of a spicy hill to a medicinal clover, from a food zone to a kiosk built of natural materials and Rosat geraniums at a dye mound … The labeling of plants, the numerous explanatory panels scattered along the route, as well as the many comments contained in the guide lent to visitors, also allowed to deepen this ethnological approach.
After a last farewell to Africa where he climbed Kilimanjaro with botanist friends, Philippe left the world on February 19, 1992, carrying for the eternity the display of his last dream realized. The song of the birds and the perfume of the flowers will continue for a long time to speak of him.
Opening Hours and Prices
Opened every day from 10 am to 6 pm
(Except Christmas and New Year’s Day)
- Adult: 8 €
- Student (-25 years): 6 €
- Child (4 to 12 years): 4 €
- Guided tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays supplement 2 €.