Mauritius evokes images of blue water, white sandy beaches, sunshine, and relaxation. It is all that, but if you go beyond the coast, I would highly recommend a day trip to the Black River Gorges National Park.
The largest national park in Mauritius showcases the volcanic origins of the island spectacularly with dense forests, several waterfalls, and deep gorges.
This national park is home to ‘Seven Coloured Earth‘ – a prominent tourist attraction and the dense forest gives way to a fertile valley that has sugarcane and tropical fruit plantations. We ended the day trip with a visit to one of the oldest rum distilleries in Mauritius.
I definitely recommend you to put a trip to Black River Georges National Park in your itinerary. It added a variety to our itinerary beyond the beach experience that draws folks to this tropical island. And from Mauritius, we extended our trip to Reunion island, a remote Indian Ocean island that lies between Mauritius and Madagascar. Do read about my account of a helicopter ride over Reunion Island, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Drive to Black River Gorges National Park
There are guided day tours to this park, and your resort/hotel can easily arrange one for you. But we preferred to rent a car and self-drive, replete with whimsical stops and a relaxed itinerary within the national park.
We stayed at The Westin Turtle Bay Resort in the northern part of the island and took the highway M2 to drive south. Driving for a little over an hour and we entered a green paradise, the opposite of the blue turquoise waters that Mauritius is known for. We went on a weekday and that turned out to be a wise decision, very few local cars and not overly crowded with tourists as well. Although the main activity here is hiking, we didn’t do any trek.
I would put down the scenic drive within the Black River Gorges National Park as one of the recommended things to do in Mauritius. Here are some of the key stops from our day trip –
Alexandra Falls is listed as one of the iconic waterfalls in Mauritius. It is located 700 meters above sea level. We had the falls put on GoogleMaps, and the signpost on the road led us to a large, mostly empty parking lot. A short walk down a pretty pathway got us to the viewpoint.
I must admit that the lush valley, panoramic views were more impressive than the actual waterfall in the distance. The clear view right to the beach and the ocean, beyond the verdant greenery, was striking. If you are carrying a picnic, there are benches and tables to enjoy that in the outdoors.
Seven Coloured Earth
Seven Coloured Earth, also known as Chamarel Coloured Earth, this is the most prominent natural attraction of Mauritius. And a large number of tourists come to Black River Gorges National Park just to view this natural phenomenon. It is a small area of sand dunes that have the earth of 7 distinct colors – red, brown, purple, blue, violet, green, yellow.
The unique part is that even if the earth is mixed together, because of the iron and aluminum components that repel, it would eventually settle into different layers.
The dunes are protected by a fence, though there are a couple of lookout points to see the attraction up-close. There is a curio shop that sells small test-tubes filled with the colored earth and a refreshment stall. We did enjoy the giant tortoises on the premises.
A short distance away from the seven Coloured Earth park lie the tallest single-drop waterfall in Mauritius. At about 100 meters of height and set amidst lush vegetation, I found these waterfalls far more striking than Alexandra Falls. You can even take a moderate-to-challenging hike to go to the base of Chamarel waterfalls, if so inclined.
The Rhumerie de Chamarel
Capping the day trip to the Black River Georges National Park with a visit to one of the oldest rum distilleries on the island – The Rhumerie de Chamarel. This is a short distance away from the Chamarel Coloured Earth and the Chamarel Falls. We went to this eco-friendly estate that still cultivates its own sugarcane and produces some of the finest rums in Mauritius in the late afternoon.
You can take a guided tour of the rum facility and the rum-making process followed by the distillery. We had a look around the main building and headed to the upscale restaurant that is housed on the estate ground. They also do afternoon tea if you are in the mood. Do visit the store to buy rum and spices, if so inclined before you leave the estate.
Like I mentioned before, several hues of green are not what comes to mind when you think of Mauritius. But do make a day trip to Black River Georges National Park a part of your Mauritius itinerary.
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Which is your favorite experience in Mauritius beyond its white sandy beaches? Share with us in the comments below.
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