After the sandy beaches of Blue Bay, Le Chaland and La Cambuse, the coast becomes more and more wild and rocky, and the climate more and more breezy. There is nothing between the shores of Antarctica and Mauritius and although the harsh winds soften considerably before they hit Mauritian shores, their impact is still strong. The high plateau abruptly breaks off and its remains are crisscrossed with streams and rivulets tumbling down green slopes to be swallowed up by the ocean: the south is the most dramatic part of Mauritius. Its green fields which are moderately flat around l’Escalier, become steeper and steeper towards Riviere des Anguilles and around the backdrop of the Savanne Mountain Range around Chemin Grenier and Chamouny.
Rain is frequent in this part of the island and so are the cascading waters that travel down the picturesque landscape, deeply cutting into the soft soil and thus forming canyons where hiking, canyoning and other nature activities thrive. The coastline is dominated by black basalt rocks, providing breathtaking scenery and great views, especially around the region of Souillac. There the most famous part of the coastline is located at Gris Gris, and has served as an inspiration for generations of artists; amongst them native poet Sir E. Hart whose house, which has been turned into a museum, is perched on top of the cliff. So steep and wild is the coast, that the road cannot follow it and meanders further inland, thus forcing the visitor to pass by tiny villages such as Trois Boutiques, Malakoff or Benares, where time seems to be standing still. As some of the names indicate, many of the people living there are descendants of the indentured labourers once brought in from India.
On one side, the high plateau is linked to the South by the road that descends through Chemin Grenier, which is the main village in this region and lies on the slopes of Mount Savanne, in this area you will find the spectacular ‘Vallee des Couleurs’, the 23 coloured earth nature park and the ‘Domaine de Chazal’ nature park with an array of activities available like ziplining and river trekking. Souillac is certainly the southernmost point of Mauritius and located at the mouth of two small rivers. It is also the historically most interesting port in this part of the island; where big ships once anchored to take up the sugar cane from the fertile fields and noblemen and pirates lay buried in the ancient churchyard side by side.
Around the bend, the coast becomes friendlier, with spots of sand turning into beaches; and 5 star hotels starting to pop up. The area around Bel Ombre is especially pretty, and wonderful for picnics by the ocean as its grassy slopes reach right down to the beaches. Shortly before Baie du Cap, the mountains approach the ocean again, creating dramatic scenery such as Maconde, where the winding road seems to be glued onto the cliff by sheer magic. Once around the edge, the stunning view of the angular peninsula with Le Morne Brabant Mountain in its centre greets the astonished visitor; prelude to the western part of Mauritius. In the shade of Le Morne, picturesque Creole villages lay scattered and silhouetted against the sparkling and pristine waters of the vast lagoon.
The special thing about this little village is that there is absolutely nothing unusual about it; other than it being the gateway to Le Bouchon, a nature site where a steep coastline forms interesting rock formations such as the bridge-like “Pont Naturel”. L’Escalier itself is a typical Mauritian small-town with a police station, a post office, a library and a rather large fire station. Its name meaning “steps”, it is unknown where those might ever have lead to, maybe down to the River Tabac, which is separated from the village by a steep cliff and a really picturesque sight to see.
Rivière des Anguilles
The main attraction of small and sleepy Riviere des Anguilles is La Vanille Crocodile Park, where the imported carnivorous beasts can be seen in all kinds of growing states, before being put into a steak or made into a wallet. The open-air turtle area which forms a part of the large and nicely set park is definitely the outstanding example on Mauritius and the happy turtles are well worth visiting.
For visitors that want to enjoy a stay in nature, may well consider a couple of nights at Andrea Lodges, to explore the spectacular scenery.
A few steps back in time are offered at the Domaine du St Aubin, where colonial times have been nicely preserved and old time rum making has been revived along with the cultivation of vanilla and anthurium. Rum tasting and a stroll through the premises as well as a delightful meal in truly historical surroundings delight any visitor. St Aubin is now also offering a guesthouse experience.
Souillac, named after its namesake in France with whom it shares brotherly ties, is the real centre of the wild South and once was one of the important places on the island. Traces of its old grandeur may still be found at the church, cemetery and old train depot, which has nowadays been turned into restaurant Le Batelage, at a once thriving harbour site, where sugar cane trains huffed and puffed, loading their sweet freight onto eagerly waiting ships. Behind the last houses of Souillac and hidden in the sugar cane fields, the black basalt cliffs of Rochester Falls form a spectacular background for pictures and films. Not a recommended site to see in the rain though, as the road can get rather slippery. Other interesting sites in Souillac include the steep cliffs of Gris Gris with their famous ‘crying rock’ and the home-turned museum of island poet Robert Edward Hart.
At St Felix, sugar cane is still grown, but the mill that threshed and ground it is now out of service. So the main attraction in this part of the island is famous destination spa “Shanti Maurice”, a legendary wellness hotel of grand reputation, where those in need of a detox, rest or leisure time may enjoy the best Ayurveda treatments available beyond the borders of India.
A bit up the mountainside and just above St Felix, Chemin Grenier is a veritable small town with a weekly market and many shops, banks and a postal office. Lovely nature park “Terre a 23 colours” with its cascading waters and multicoloured earth as well as the mystical and seemingly bottomless tiny lake “Bassin Bleu” are just a few minutes away further up Savanne Mountain.
The public beach at Riambel is popular with locals at weekends and public holidays, but on all other days it is usually deserted and a great place to relax and enjoy the tranquillity amidst the sound of the waves. Swimming, especially for beginners is not advised here due to the year round strong current, but it is a great place to sunbathe or enjoy to a paddle in the warm waters by the shore.
Small and mountainous, perched by the side of Galets River, Chamouny must be passed on the way to the 23 coloured earth park - ‘La Vallee des Couleurs’, and “Bassin Bleu”, a tiny and seemingly bottomless lake, from which the road continues into the national park and onto the central plateau. In the valley of Chamouny, lies the Domaine De Chazal, an eco-park where you can enjoy bat watching, river trekking, ziplining and more.
What was once a small fishermen’s village has now turned into a hotel-town: scenic Bel Ombre hosts prestigious hotels such as the five star Le Telfair Spa and Resort, Outrigger Resort Mauritius Beach Resort, Heritage Awali Golf and Spa Resort and Tamassa Resort, historical chateau and 18 hole golf course as well as nature site Valriche. An Integrated Resort Scheme with the same name Valriche has also been establish
Once dreaded by anyone travelling over its narrow and bumpy road which got flooded regularly, Maconde was nevertheless a stunning nature sight. The road narrowing and twisting around its huge protruding boulder with the sightseeing platform, is still an adventurous stretch of the road, although the new bridge takes away some of this unique landmark’s originality, it was still voted one of the most beautiful coastal drives by a French magazine in 2015.
Across the lagoon from Le Morne Village, Ilot Fourneau with its sandy beach can be reached by boat within a few minutes and is a secluded spot for romantic weddings or leisurely picnics.
Histories have been written and books published about this national monument which is listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site since 2008. Le Morne Brabant, the first part of its name means “the mourning” and its history is forever entwined with the dark times of slavery. It is said to having been the main hiding place for runaway slaves in the past, some of them jumping to their death rather than being enslaved again which they erroneously believed was going to happen when soldiers came to tell them that slavery had been abolished.
Today Le Morne Brabant is a landmark and hosts an annual ceremony on “Abolition of Slavery Day”. Remnants have been found which are believed to be a shelter of slaves high up on the mountain side; excavations are on the way and a museum in the planning stages. Geographically, the huge basalt rock rises square and straight 556 metres out of the Indian Ocean, creating its very own peninsula, and a microclimate of its own. It is surely an impressive sight to behold and hosts many endangered species, amongst which the Trochetia Boutoniana, Mauritius’ national flower is especially worth mentioning.
Guided tours around the area and even to the top of the mountain can be booked locally. The area around Le Morne is well known for its white sandy beaches, luxury hotels such as Le Paradis BeachComber Golf and Spa Resort, St. Regis Mauritius Resort, Dinarobin BeachComber Resort and tourist resorts such as Riu Le Morne and Riu Creole, and excellent wind- and kitesurfing conditions. Legendary surf spot “Oneye” is also situated off the coast of Le Morne. Swimmers should stay close to the beach and only in the designated areas, as strong currents are known to prevail. The waters around Le Morne are a veritable treasure cove for divers and anglers alike.
Baie du Cap
This small village on the south coast is known for its natural beauty, and is found on the road between Mahebourg and Le Morne. The Baie du Cap lagoon is a popular spot for kitesurfing due to the flat surface and wind direction. The Matthew Flinders monument and the Travassa monument are also found in the town.
Le Paradis Hotel and Dinarobin - Helipad
The helipad of Le Paradis and Dinarobin Hotel is situated on the South Coast of the island at Le Morne Brabant which is famous because of its monumental mountain which was used in the past as a shelter by runaway slaves. Le Morne is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site where tourists are sure to have a peaceful holiday in Mauritius.