During your visit to Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius, do not miss to visit its Natural History Museum. This state museum is not only the oldest local museum but also the oldest in southern Africa. It preserves the richest zoological collection of the Indian Ocean, including the famous “Mauritian Dodo”.
The Natural History Museum of Mauritius is one of the island’s museums presenting various artifacts that reflect the history, art and culture of the island. The Museum of Natural History in Mauritius is located on the ground floor of the Mauritius Institute building, just across from the Jardin de la Compagnie in the centre of the city of Port Louis.
HISTORY OF THE MUSEUM
This national museum, or natural history museum of Port Louis, was formerly called “Desjardins Museum” which paid tribute to Julien Desjardins, a Mauritian naturalist whose collections were ceded to the museum in 1840. This is also the date of creation of the museum, but it only opened its doors 2 years later, in 1842.
The museum is nowadays located on the ground floor of the Mauritius Institute Building, between the Government Hotel and the Jardin de la Compagnie. This exceptional building was built by the British architect Mann between 1880 and 1884. The Mauritius Building Institute is indeed a replica of the central part of the National Museum of Colombo, Sri Lanka. It took 3 years of renovation at the museum to equip it with 3 theme rooms, the last of which was inaugurated at the end of 2012.
If you wish to take a tour, it is best to inquire beforehand at the headquarters of the Tourist Office. Entrance fees are approximately 5 Euros for adults and 3 Euros for children.
This building, inaugurated in 1884, welcomed the collections left by F. Lienard de Lamivoye and Julien Desjardins. The Museum of Natural History is the oldest museum in Mauritius and is also among the oldest in southern Africa. It also contains a large collection of books, one of which was donated by the great bibliophile, Sir Virgile Naz. The Mauritius Institute is a central place for education about the fauna and flora of Mauritius.
The collection of the Natural History Museum dates from the early 1800’s and contains unique and rare specimens of the fauna of Mauritius and the surrounding islets. The original collection comes from the Musée Desjardins which was opened in 1842. It mainly includes the fauna and sea birds of the Mascarene archipelago. The museum also presents collections, studies and recordings of various types of fauna and flora endemic to Mauritius and the Mascarene Islands. Over the years, the Museum of Natural History has become a centre for documentation and exchange in the different areas and natural history of the Mascarene region.
You can contemplate a rich collection of native and endemic birds from Mauritius, including the Rodrigues Solitaire, an iconic bird of Rodrigues Island.
The museum also houses geological specimens, works of art, as well as research documents. As an example, we invite you to discover the writings of paleo botanist Louis Charles Joseph Gaston de Saporta.
Birds, Terrestrial Mammals and Reptiles.
The National Dodo of Mauritius and the Solitaire of Rodrigues are of course in the spotlight. The discovery of the two entire skeletons dates to the very beginning of the 20th century.
The skeleton of the Dodo discovered around 1904 by Louis Etienne Thirioux was considered as a unique piece because it was intact and well preserved. Another specimen was however sold at the beginning of the century and taken to South Africa. In 2012, the Museum of Durban found in archive, the second skeleton in excellent condition. A revolution that revives scientific studies and the dreams of some to revive the legend of the Dodo.
The Solitaire, meanwhile, was the emblematic bird of Rodrigues Island, the only skeleton was discovered in 1900 in the heart of the Potato Cavern Rodrigues Island and bought by the curator of the Museum of Natural History of Rodrigues Port Louis.
The rich collection of endemic and indigenous birds of Mauritius and Mascareignes is now housed in new windows presenting an environmental framework of the Indian Ocean Flora. The Museum is home to the land mammals of Mauritius, the Java deer, Tangue, Roussette Noire …
The numerous reptiles, lizards, snakes and Geyco are also represented.
Marine Life and Flora
Life-sized fish, dolphins, sharks, rays … sea turtles, crabs, sea stars and sea urchins, not to mention a rich collection of seashells, including several species of great rarity for the delight of collectors. An amazing collection of corals and sea fans completes the diversity of marine flora.
Butterflies and Insects and Geology
The third room of the Museum of Port Louis present on the one hand a collection of insects and butterflies. In addition to the insectarium, a wing exposes the different rocks of the Republic of Mauritius, a universe dedicated to Geology with a simulation of volcanic eruption. The local flora will also be exhibiting endemic woods and medicinal plants from Mauritius and Rodrigues.
The skeleton of the dodo
“Dodo” or Dronte Mauritius is one of the great endemic birds of Mauritius. Discovered in 1580, its species died out less than a century later. The almost complete reconstructions of “Dodo” are only found in seven museums in the four corners of the globe. The most beautiful and authentic reconstruction has been discovered near the mountain of Le Pouce. You can admire it under a bell at the Museum of Natural History Port Louis, where it has been since 1900.