20N - Turtle Talk

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A few weeks ago I had a very dear friend visit from Australia. He had actually just spent the last few months working on a marine conservation project in a small Malagasy fishing village. So upon his arrival in Reunion, I knew just the place to take him! The wonderful Kélonia, in Saint Leu. Naturally, one would think that English is widely spoken in such a popular tourist haunt. Well, I decided to put this assumption to the test!

Now apart from basically pleasantries, my friend doesn’t speak a word of French. I thus pretended to do the same. So off we set to one of Reunion’s most well known tourist attractions to see how two undiscerning English speaking tourists were to be welcomed, and of course, to brush up on our knowledge of the island’s marine life. 

We approached the front desk and enquired about entrance costs and closing times. We were somewhat taken aback to be greeted by a receptionist whose English was limited to, “Me, English, no possible”. She then proceeded to make a large ‘X’ with both arms in front of her face to make sure she had got her point across. Flabbergasted, we pointed desperately to an audio guide to hire. “Pièce d’identité” was repeated several times. My friend had no idea what she was asking for, so I followed suit. “Passport” was then the next word uttered, (albeit with a very thick French accent) but my friend cottoned on to the fact that she was after proof of ID. Unfortunately for our friendly receptionist, my friend didn’t think to take his passport with him to the turtle museum. Eventually she gave up and waved us through, shaking her head almost as if it was OUR fault for not speaking French!

After the initial debacle, we continued out visit which was as informative and rewarding as ever. We were however very tempted to jump in the big basin to have a swim with the turtles as we thought to ourselves that nobody would be able to scream at us in English to get out!


Upon his arrival - à son arrivée

Haunt - lieu de prédilection

Assumption - supposition / hypothèse

Pleasantries - civilités

Thus - donc / ainsi

To set off - partir / s’en aller

Undiscerning - sans discernement

To brush up on - se remettre à niveau

Front desk - l’accueil

To be taken aback - être surpris / choqué

To get a point across - passer un message

Flabbergasted - étonné

To follow suit - suivre / en faire autant

To utter - dire

Albeit - quoique

To cotton on to the fact - piger

To give up - laisser tomber

Rewarding - gratifiant