After a shaky start of our Southwest Mauritius Tour, we were finally beginning to relax. The first two sights didn’t live up to the hype, but our stop at Grand Bassin was just enough culture and beauty to put us back in the right mindset. And, quite frankly, the last items on the itinerary were the ones we were most looking forward to on our Southwest Mauritius Nature Tour.
Southwest Mauritius Nature Tour
Stop 4: Alexandra Falls
We sensed that we were leaving the crowds behind as we entered the Black River Gorges National Park. The traffic thinned, we were surrounded by forest and we could see monkeys playing on the roadside. We were the solitary car on the long, tree-lined entrance to the Alexandra Falls Viewpoint. A short walking path led us over a small creek to a raised viewing platform. Two waterfalls were visible, so we’re not sure which one was the actual Alexander Falls, but the more breath taking scene was the one to the south, across the valley and out to sea.
Since we were both craving a little nature exploration, instead of heading back to the car, we followed a path to the top of the closest waterfall. Seeing that the path continued on beyond the waterfall, we hop-scotched our way across the water using stones as steps. The path was wide and mostly flat as it curved along the edge, eventually taking us to the top of the second waterfall where we had impeccable views.
Stop 5: Black River Gorges Lookout Point
One of the most popular stops in the park is the Black River Gorges Lookout Point and we seemed to arrive at the same time as every other tour bus in town. It was lunchtime and we had brought along a few sandwiches, but we weren’t interested in eating among the crowds. After a few moments of taking in the phenomenal view that stretched for miles – all the way to Flic en Flac, as a matter of fact – we found a trailhead to the right of the platform.
Slightly more challenging than the previous trail, we wound our way deeper into the forest until we felt quite alone. We picnicked on large boulders in the middle of a creek that flowed into a cascading waterfall, which was visible from the lookout point. Our little jaunt was just enough to satisfy our hunger for a bit of nature.
As we made our way back to the car, we spotted a family of four wild monkeys playing in the trees. Our leftover pear core from lunch just happened to slip out of my hand, attracting the attention of a young, feisty monkey. We watched as they playfully swung from the branches and entertained the growing audience.
Stop 6: The 7 Colored Earth at Chamarel
We were entering the most highly touted part of the tour, The 7 Colored Earth at Chamarel, which is why they probably saved it for last. For an entry fee of $6.50 USD each, we gained access to a waterfall, a geological display of colored earth and six giant tortoises.
Water pours over the edge of the cliff in two separate streams where volcanic lava once flowed. At 100 meters high, the falling water is a remarkable sight. There is an upper and lower platform for viewing and a bevy of bird activity.
The 7 Colored Earth
For all the buildup, the 7 Colored Earth was just really a relatively small pile of dirt. But in scientific terms, it has its merit. We only had one small sign to explain the phenomenon of why the soil exhibits a rainbow of colors and, since it has been a long time since I studied anything scientific, here is what it said, verbatim:
The “7 Coloured Earth” dunes, which can reach up to 15 meters thick, contain traces of ancient activity of geoclimatic events. The basalt from the intermediate period lava flow (3-1.7 million years) has been leached by the hot and humid climate, leading to gullied clay. This profound and ultimate decomposition has left on-site iron and aluminum oxides. Iron and aluminum repel each other and gather spontaneously in colourful stripes.
Yep, should’ve paid more attention in science class.
Long ago, tortoises were plentiful on Mauritius, but an 18th century belief that they had the power to fight scurvy resulted in them becoming extinct. The tortoises at the 7 Colored Earth were brought from Aldabra. The enormous reptiles live to be 150 years old and grow to one meter in length. Of the six, only two were active, stretching their long necks and munching on grass, only slowly, and with great effort, moving about their area.
Stop 7: Lookout Point
As we zigzagged down switchbacks toward the coastal road home we made one last stop at a lookout point over the western coast and out to the Indian Ocean. We had a panoramic view from Le Morne to just south of Flic en Flac.
Final thoughts on our Southwest Mauritius Nature Tour:
Once we got used to the chaotic driving habits of Mauritians, my stomach dropped out of my throat and back into my belly and I was actually able to find pleasure in the drive. The points of interest provided insight and a new perspective to an island most known for its beaches. But, just as interesting were the small towns and villages we passed along the way. We saw fresh fruits and veggies sold from roadside trucks and farmers out tending to their crops. We drove through massive fields of pineapples (I had no idea they grew in the ground!) and passed salt evaporation pools. We witnessed high end neighborhoods and communities of seaside shanties.
My only regret of the day is not clearly understanding the meaning of a ‘private driving tour.’ Had my expectations been set at the correct level from the get-go, it may have provided a better start to the day. In any event, it was well worth the cost ($80 USD) to experience more of the island than just the sand and sea.
We want to know: Have you been on a Southwest Mauritius Nature Tour? What were the highlights for you? Have you ever been on a tour that differed from your expectations? Tell us in the comments!
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