The island of Mauritius, full of resorts of all kinds, with miles of paradise coast, is best known as a perfect holiday destination for those who love the sea and sun. Beyond the segregated beaches just for hotel guests, there are also many beautiful ones easily accessible to the public (I've described them here) - if you wish to experience more local way of having fun. It's definitely better than staying at the hotel! Moreover, if you're bored with beaches, lying down, doing nothing and want some adventure - you can enjoy the nature, hiking trails, mountains and wilderness - Mauritius also offers amazing tropical National Parks filled with waterfalls, rivers, gorges and wildlife. Due to its size, it's very easy to travel in Mauritius - you can get from a beach to the mountains within a few hours!
Trip to Black River Gorges National Park
I was extremely lucky to be able to stay with a local family of my friend who were hospitable to the extreme and made sure I felt just like home in Mauritius. You can have a closer look at the more local way of life in Mauritius in my post about the capital - Port Louis and the surrounding area.
After visiting the best beaches and islets, the southern coast at Gris-Gris with dramatic black volcanic rock cliffs and spectacular Rochester Falls, it was finally the time for us to explore inland Mauritius. Our starting point was Port Louis, from there we headed down south-west towards the Black River Gorges National Park and the opposite side of the island.
If you don't drive, you can easily buy a tour in Port Louis or at one of the hotels. As always, I would advise that you go and do some research first - before making any decisions - to avoid overpaying. Having said that, in Mauritius, I didn't come across any con artists like in other exotic destinations - Morocco, Thailand or Cambodia.
Mountains at Curepipe
The whole distance from Port Lois to the Black River Gorges National Park, and further to the coast is only around 60 km (40 miles). We drove down through the central parts of the island to our destination and decided to come back along the western coastline.
Along the way, you'll be astonished how the landscape changes. I thought that the whole island will be similar - just like other tropical places - full of coconut forests etc. Mauritius is slightly different - the coast is obviously typical - but the inner regions located at higher altitude are a bit cooler. You can find here weirdly shaped but beautiful pointy peaks, pine trees, lakes and fields. Stop at the Trou aux Cerf hill (which is a dormant volcano) - you'll get an amazing view of the Curepipe town located at the foot of the Curepipe Point Mountain - another landmark (however less known) of Mauritius.
Ganga Talao (Grand Basin) and Mare vax Vacoas Reservoir
Moving further down south, we stopped at Mare vax Vacoas Reservoir - the largest reservoir in Mauritius. Here, you'll feel as if you were at any European lake rather than in a tropical country. Surrounded by pine trees, it might as well be situated somewhere in the northern hemisphere. It's a nice place for a picnic and if you are fed up with the heat - it's a cooler and fresher than the coastal areas.
Just beside the reservoir lies an important religious site - Ganga Talao. Also called Grand Basin, it's located at the crater lake full of thousands of fish. You can admire a 33 m (over 100 ft.) statue of Lord Shiva here as well as numerous temples and shrines. It's the most sacred place in Mauritius and the destination of many pilgrimages.
When you reach the hill - you can see all the way through the mountains to the coast with the distinctive, blue hue. On the trees, you'll also spot many monkeys relaxing and seeking shelter from the sun in the shade of the branches.
Black River Gorges National Park
The Black River Gorges National Park - largest in Mauritius - is located just a stone's throw away from Ganga Talao. It boasts lush green, rolling hills and mountains covered with rain forests and offers superb views over the entire area. It's home to many endemic species of plants and animals. Take a hike - there are many trails and viewpoints within the area. It was one of my favorite places on the island!
Chamarel is undoubtedly one of the most famous spots in Mauritius. It was our last stop before heading on towards the coast and back to Port Louis. Located at the westernmost outskirts of the Black River Gorges National Park, it gives you the opportunity to admire the natural phenomenon - "the seven colored earths" - the soil in there really has many different and unique hues ranging from red, purple to even bluish and greenish. You'll also find a spectacular Chamarel Waterfall just beside. I described the Chamarel area with many photos and detailed info here.
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