The Best Inland Activities on the Island of Mauritius
Mauritius is primarily known as a country of lush beaches, coconut trees and turquoise seas. Whilst it certainly does tick the traditional “tropical island paradise” boxes, it is also awash with many cultural activities and startling locations to discover further inland. Whether you want to immerse yourself in the rainforest of Black River Gorges National Park or stare in wonder at the Chamarel Waterfalls, there is far more to do in Mauritius than just tanning yourself on a beach. For those looking to be a little more adventurous and explorative whilst on their holidays, here are the best inland activities and locations on the island of Mauritius.
Black River Gorges National Park
Founded in 1994 following an investigation into the area’s wildlife, it’s hard to overstate the importance of this national park. Covering a large portion of Mauritius’ total land surface, it is the last bastion for many of Mauritius’ native flora and fauna, particularly endangered birds such as the Pink Pigeon, Echo Parakeet and the Mauritian Kestrel.
Whether you’d like to hike up the Black River Mountain (the tallest peak on the island) or delve into the depths of the endemic forest, the park holds over 50 kilometres worth of trails to follow and makes for a superb day out. Indeed, discovering as much of the park as possible may take you more than just a single day; there is no shortage of wildlife for you to spot and the views from the mountains are breathtaking.
If you’re visiting during the Guava season, you will be encouraged to pick this fruit up when you find it on the winding roads and pathways. Not only will you be getting a tasty snack, you will also be helping the island out by preventing the spread of an invasive species. The Black River Gorges National Park is one of the most fascinating and incredible places on the island and is simply a must for anyone taking a trip to Mauritius.
Chamarel Waterfalls (and Geopark)
We’re going to cheat slightly here and include two nearby locations in one entry. First in line are the magnificent Chamarel Waterfalls. Undoubtedly the most famous waterfall on the island, these stunning falls drop nearly 100m from a backdrop of luscious forest and great mountains. Viewable either from an upper deck located at the Chamarel Seven Coloured Earth Geopark (which we’ll come to in a minute) or from the very bottom of the falls via a designated trail, these falls have always been one of the most popular sights on the island.
If you choose the lower route, be sure to take some swimwear as you can take a dip in the shallow river waters.Once your eyes have feasted on them, be sure to head over to the nearby Seven Coloured Earth Geopark if you’re not there already. The park features a unique geological structure of sand dunes that shine in almost every colour. It’s a sight you won’t find anywhere else on the planet and it’s certainly not to be missed.
La Vanille Nature Park
La Vanille Nature Park is home to over 100 Nile Crocodiles, as well as Donkeys, Peacocks and Tortoises. What’s more, there is an Insectarium if you’re a fan of bugs and two museums. One is dedicated to fossils and features displays of Ammonites and Whale skeletons, whilst the other explores this history of one of the most famous extinct birds of all-time; the Dodo, which was native to Mauritius. Add to that the Interactive Farm and Nature Reserve and it all equates to a brilliant day out for all the family.
Domaine de l'Etoile
Literally translating to “Field of the Stars”, Domaine de l’Etoile is a nature reserve on the Eastern side of the island featuring an activity centre. Get your boots on and go for a hike or become the next Robin Hood after a lesson of Archery. Quad bikes and buggies are also available for the petrolheads and those who love an adrenaline rush can have a go on the ziplines. With so much to do, Domaine de l’Etoile certainly needs an entire day devoted to it, but it’ll be one of the best days of your holiday.
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden
This botanical garden is a haven of tropical flora. Featuring giant water lilies, spices, sugar canes and over 85 species of palm tree, among other plants from across the globe, it is one of the most luscious places in the northern section of the island. Situated close to the capital city of Port Louis, it offers people staying at that end of the island a chance to see a huge range of plants without having to travel very far.
In fact, the gardens here are so beautiful that even the likes of Princess Margaret, Indira Ghandi and Francois Mitterrand decided they were worth a visit, each of them planting endemic trees in the gardens whilst they were there. These gardens, among the oldest in the tropics, are a fascinating experience for anyone with even a passing interest in nature.
This place is technically on the coast, but as it’s not a beach day, it’s going in this list. Visiting this depot is a gripping step back into the past, but one that shaped where we are today. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this may just be the most important place in human history that can be found on the island. In 1834, the British Empire abolished slavery and following this historical moment, a new way forward was born.
Though the movement of indentured labourers in place of slaves began that same year, this complex was not built until 1849, as the numbers of migrants arriving to work in Mauritius continued to rise. Between 1849 and 1923, an estimated 450,000 workers from India alone had passed through the immigration depot, a migration effort that modern day Mauritius now lends much of its culture to.
Though it’s true that this wasn’t the first movement of indentured labour, a movement on this scale was hitherto unknown. Aapravasi Ghat has had a huge impact, not just on Mauritius but on the whole world, and this makes it one of the most fascinating places to visit on the island.
The Moka mountain range includes two of the three tallest peaks on the island, Pieter Both and Le Pouce. Forming a semi-circle shape around Port Louis, Le Pouce – literally ‘The Thumb’ – in particular, has become a popular hike for tourists looking for stunning views of the island. Witness the capital in all its glory in one direction and see the forests and mountains in the other – either way, the effort it took to get there will all be worth it. It is undoubtedly one of the greatest points from which to view the island, and a great walk to boot.
Mauritius Glass Gallery
Situated on the southern half of the island, the Mauritius Glass Gallery showcases a stunning selection of glass art that truly makes you gaze in wonder. The glass, all 100% recycled, is blown into a myriad of different shapes and stained with colours from across the entire spectrum to form not only beautiful pieces of art, but also useful glass objects such as lampshades and vases.
During your visit, you can watch a demonstration of the glass-blowing process to learn how it all comes together and even have an imprint of your hand or foot made into a glass structure. Glass art is found here in all of its glory and the gallery is well worth a visit during your stay in Mauritius.
Many websites refer to Mauritius as a “volcanic” island. In the modern day, this is actually inaccurate as any volcanic activity on the island ceased long ago. However, its extinct volcanoes remain and one of them houses a crater lake known as Grand Bassin. Located 550 metres above sea level, it is a place of great significance for Hindus, with temples and statues to Gods such as Ganesh, Ganga, Hanuman and most prominently, Shiva.
Its alternate name is ‘Ganga Talao’, translating to “Lake of Ganga” due to its symbolic connection with the river Ganga (or Ganges). Every year, during the annual Hindu festival of Maha Shivarati, Hindus on the island will make a pilgrimage to Ganga Talao from their homes, often completely barefoot, with no other mode of transport to aid them.
A visit to Grand Bassin doesn’t just offer you a superb view. The spirituality is present in the very atmosphere and really enables you to understand why people feel such a connection to it.
Port Louis Central Market
There is simply no better place on the island in which to soak up the local cultures than the central market of the country’s capital Port Louis. “Cultures” is not a typo either; the overall culture of Mauritius has been shaped and sculpted by so many different regions from around the world. The French had a huge influence of course, as did the British, but it was the arrival of 450,000 indentured labourers from India that arguably had the biggest impact.
Two-thirds of the population can now trace their ancestry back to India and Hinduism is the country’s most-practiced religion, making it the only African country to have Hinduism as its main religion. The central market is more than just a market. It is a hub for everything that Mauritian culture has to offer. Local cuisine? There’s a food court. Artistry? Head to the craft market.
You can also purchase a cheap lottery ticket at the entrance, which helps keep the stalls running. It’s hustle, it’s bustle, and given that there’s no better way to learn about a culture than by immersing yourself in it, the central market of Port Louis is a must for your trip to Mauritius.
In 1810, the Grand Port was the location for a huge naval battle between the French, who owned Mauritius (then the Isle de France) at the time, and the British, whose trading routes were being disrupted by the French. In an attempt to fix this, British Admiral Samuel Pym ordered an attack on the French ships, hoping to capture the port for the British. However, it went horribly wrong. The waters around the port are home to a coral reef and only experienced local pilots knew how to navigate them. Without the command of an experienced pilot, the first British ship ran aground within minutes and it was the beginning of a massacre.
In the end, one ship was destroyed, two were set on fire and the fourth surrendered. It was the largest defeat that the British suffered during the Napoleonic Wars. Today, Grand Port holds a monument to those lost in the battle. Looking out onto the waters allows you to visualise the battle in front of you, taking you back in time to when Mauritius wasn’t the peaceful land it is now. It’s a fantastic place to soak in the rich history of the island and learn more about how its culture and people came to be today.
La Rhumerie de Chamarel is one of the few remaining distilleries in the country to grow its own sugarcane. Located in the same vicinity as the Seven Coloured Earth Geopark, the factory offers guests a guided tour of the Rhumerie, featuring a full explanation of how they cultivate the ingredients and create their signature rums. In addition, the factory is a small glimpse into Mauritius’ sugar industry, something that dates back as far as 1639 when the first Dutch settlers introduced in order to make a beverage called Arrack.
Sugar continued to be the island’s main industry right up until the end of British rule in 1968. Since then, sugar has declined as other sectors such as tourism and textiles have grown, but it remains an important part of the nation’s DNA. A visit to this Rum Factory will allow you to immerse yourself in one of Mauritius’ most famous exports, and it’s likely that your taste buds won’t object to the trip either.
These are just some of the excellent places you can visit on the island of Mauritius that isn’t a beach, but there are so many more. This was little more than a sneak peek into the rich culture and diverse landscapes that are present in Mauritius and it would be a waste not to absorb as much of it as possible during your stay there. Make your trip more than a holiday – make it an experience.