The South of Mauritius, is where it all began. The island’s history emanate from this peaceful village, “Vieux Grand Port” which has been the first port of Mauritius. The region received the first Dutch explorers’ camps in 1638. When in 1735, the well-known French Governor Francois Mahé de Labourdonnais decided to develop the actual port (Port-Louis) right on the opposite side of the island, as main harbour and administration centre, the South / Southeast did not lose any of its importance.
The southern part of the island remains the wildest and less developed region of Mauritius. Apart from Mahébourg and its surroundings, this region has remained untouched because of the absence of calm lagoons. The ‘deep south’ as it is sometimes called, is probably the unknown and forgotten side of coastal region of Mauritius with its high cliffs and raging seas.
Climate in the South
The South and South-east coasts face the Southeast trade winds, which prevails almost all year round. The region often gets too windy especially in winter where high-pressure cells pass by. On the other hand, this part of the island remains relatively fresh in summer. Beware of sunburns as the fresh breeze may lead you to think that you are not getting burnt until it’s too late. A T-Shirt or bathing suits is all you need in summer (November to March.) A sweatshirt is welcome in the evenings during the months of September, October, April and May. During winter, (June to September) it can get cool as early as 5 p.m. and warm clothes are necessary after sunset.
Particularities of the South of Mauritius
Driving along the South coast offers the possibility to alternate between sea and hill views; between sun bathing and trekking. The vegetation in the South / Southeast is the richest due to the high humidity prevailing all year round, and contains many native trees and plants.
Along the South coast, you’ll come across beautiful hotels and villas on the south-eastern and south western-coast where beautiful, peaceful and untouched lagoons remains to be unveiled. Those shallow lagoons with crystal clear water are suitable for bathing especially at high tides. The Southern coastline of Mauritius however counts some places where the open sea comes straight to the rocky cliffs of the island. In such places, mostly public, bathing is not recommended due to the strong sea currents and waves breaking on the shore. Those places are clearly marked by the authorities.
Places to visit in the South of Mauritius
The South of Mauritius has a lot to offer to you. Gris Gris and Le Souffleur, two natural spots along this coastline that offer some breathtaking sights. Souillac, a village named after the Vicompte of Souillac, where lies the Robert Edouard Hart Musuem. This Mauritian poet and painter has written extensively on the island especially on the Southern coast. Not far from Souillac you’ll stumble one Rochester Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls of Mauritius.
Arriving at Rivière des Anguilles, you can have a visit of the Vanilla Crocodile Park where you will be amazed by its crocodiles, imported from Madagascar, and other reptiles. One can also find other animals found in the forest of Mauritius like monkeys, wild boars, deer and tortoises. Le Val Nature Park is another place for nature fanatics. Situated in a more central area, it is a peaceful haven for fish, tortoise, birds and monkeys and is blessed with a superb tropical vegetation and climate. And to complete your day a trip to the beach of Pointe d’Esny is said to be the best spot for lazy summer days.
Here are some places among others that you should visit in the south of Mauritius:
Trou Aux Cerfs
Trou aux Cerfs, a volcano, which was active millions of years ago is located in Curepipe found in the centre of the island. The crater of Trou aux Cerfs is approximately 300 meters wide and 650 meter high.
Today the crater covered with silt, water and covering vegetation, is one of the many tourist attractions of Mauritius. When you reach the top of the volcano, you will see some gorgeous views of all over Mauritius in front of you. To the west you can gaze directly on the coast and the famous “Rempart Mountain” which is located just in front of Tamarin. Close by, the view goes directly on the three peaks of the “Les Trois Mamelles”.
In northwest direction you will get a glimpse of “Mont St Pierre” and a perfect overview of the cities of Mauritius such as Curepipe, Port Louis, Quatres-Bornes, Moka, Ebene, Réduit, Rose-Hill. You will even be able to see some of the coastal resorts.
Black River Gorges
The Black River Gorges National Park is the largest protected forest of Mauritius, providing over 50 km of trails. Enjoy a stroll through the rocky and luxuriously green mountain of Mauritius – a stark contrast to a coastal beach holiday.
This is an ideal area for those interested in taking walks in Mauritius. Numerous scenic hiking trails start from here, ranging from day excursions to a few shorter tours, such as on the Black River Peak. The drive through the Black River Gorges National Park is equally rewarding and spectacular. Take a break at panorama viewing areas, or enjoy picking up the guava fruit growing at the roadside.
For motorists, the most beautiful viewing area is the Black River Gorges Viewpoint (signposted), which on a clear day offers a view stretching from the gorge right to the coast. And if you are lucky during your trip, you may come across Mauritius’s rarer fauna: Java deer, wild boar, monkeys and birds.
Grand Bassin (Ganga Talao)
Grand Bassin is a lake situated 6km South East of Mare aux Vacoas in a secluded mountain area, deep in the heart of Mauritius. Grand Bassin with its Hindu temple is a holy lake for Mauritians of Hindu faith. The lake rests in the crater of an extinct volcano. It is said that the water inside the lake communicates with the waters of the holy Ganges of India. The Hindu community performs there a pilgrimage every year on the Maha Sivaratri (Shiva’s Great Night), on this day they honor the Lord Shiva. Beside the lake you will find a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and other Gods including Hanuman, Lakshmi, and others.
Beside Grand Bassin you will also get to see the massive statue of Lord Shiva. It is about 108 feet (33 meters) and is the highest known statue in Mauritius (and one of the 50 highest statues in the world). The sight of the Mangal Mahadev statue is quite impressive as it is a beautiful crafted very big statue.
Chamarel Seven Coloured Earth
The seven colored earth is a natural phenomenon and a prominent tourist attraction of Mauritius. The colours evolved through conversion of basaltic lava to clay minerals. It is a relatively small area, of sand dunes, of seven distinct colours (red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple and yellow). And what is more fascinating is the fact that if you mix the colored earth together, they’ll eventually settle into separate layers. Let yourself be puzzled as the colors play tricks on you and appear to be shadows…
Rhumerie de Chamarel
In the heart of a fertile valley, lies the Rhumerie de Chamarel, situated in the vicinity of the 7 Coloured Earths of Chamarel. If you want to taste the local Rhum it is the place to be. Exuding an inimitable sense of warmth and authenticity, the Rhumerie welcomes guests for an all-encompassing tourism experience ranging from a guided visit of the distillery and rum tasting to a tasty meal. Be led by the road leading to the Rhumerie and enjoy its beautiful lining of vast plantations of sugar cane growing side by side with pineapples and other tropical fruits.
Rochester Falls are waterfalls on the Savanne River. They are located near the southern coast of Mauritius around 2.5 kilometers from the village of Souillac. This area is full of natural beauties and interesting formations. The organ-pipe shaped basalt columns near the waterfalls and the signs of lava balls revealed from the way are really spectacular. The water of the Savanne River tumble from a height of 10m and the constant erosion has fashioned the basalt rock into upright columns of unique shapes forming a natural sculpture, carved within a hard rock, with angles frayed over time. The track leading down to the waterfalls is lined with banana, mango and litchi trees and also sugar cane fields. They all provide shade from the sun, and create a lovely and peaceful surrounding. You will get to enjoy the short track while admiring the charm of the waterfalls.
La Vanille Crocodile Park
The park houses various species of animals, reptiles and plants. It is set in a beautiful rain forested valley with natural freshwater springs, full of prawns and fish. As part of your visit to the Park, you will be guided through some unforgettable walks, and you will stroll through luxuriant greenery where banana trees, palm trees and giant bamboos provide shade for the crocodiles and the giant tortoises.
During your visit of the crocodile park you can also experience a firsthand unique encounter with the giant tortoises and turtles, and get a rare chance to feed, pet and play with them.
Also thousands of Nile crocodiles are found in the park and you can watch them in maximum safety.
It also offers a mini zoo of Mauritian fauna where you can find most of the Mauritian mammals and reptiles including skinks, phelsumas (geckos), giant tortoises, turtles, bats, deer, mongooses, monkeys, wild boars, as well as domestic livestock such as goats, fat-tailed sheep and donkeys.
A must see is the park’s rare collection of butterflies and other brightly-colored insects (with about 23 000 species), which is one of the biggest collection and most fascinating in the world.
Le Pont Naturel
Le Pont Naturel is located in the south of the island. To get there you need to orientate yourself in the direction of “Trois Boutiques” which is not far from the airport. The road goes through sugar cane fields. Le Pont Naturel is made up of lava rock and is a stunning sightseeing spot. The area is very rocky and you’ll see a lot of cliffs and wild waves breaking on them. Enjoy the serenity of this beautiful Natural Arch contemplating ballet waves.
Head to the untamed south coast to see unusual rock formations such as the blowhole at Le Souffleur, a natural rock bridge at Pont Naturel and at the wild clifftop of Gris Gris, near Souillac, a rock shaped like a witch.
Gris – Gris
The village of Gris-Gris is found at the Southern tip of Mauritius. The appeal of Gris-Gris lies in it scenery. The high cliffs here drop abruptly to the sea and the bracing winds of the Indian Ocean blow all year round. Gris-Gris is well known for its sea cliff and this is definitely a sight worth seeing. This part of the island is not surrounded by coral reefs and this is why thick waves crash directly on the cliffs. At the southern end of Gris-Gris you will have a great viewpoint on the cliffs and will see the squashing of waves against the flanks of the cliffs giving the impression that the rocks are crying.
Le Morne Brabant
Le Morne Brabant, a rugged mountain that juts into the Indian Ocean in the southwest of Mauritius was used as a shelter by runaway slaves, maroons, through the 18th and early years of the 19th centuries. Protected by the mountain’s isolated, wooded and almost inaccessible cliffs, the escaped slaves formed small settlements in the caves and on the summit of Le Morne.
Le Morne highlights the historical significance of slavery and indenture, two labour systems that shaped modern Mauritius. It is a unique conjunction in the Indian Ocean and abroad, and UNESCO has promoted a symbolic meeting of those two systems, to foster a better understanding among the descendants of both the slaves and indentured labourers in the colonial plantation system.
It remains one of the most beautiful spot of the island and also offers an unparalleled viewpoint over the south of the island and over the Indian Ocean.
A trip in the south of Mauritius is a must-do… Enjoy your trip vacationers!
Photo Credits: http://www.panoramio.com/user/820062/tags/Waterfall?photo_page=1