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» 03 May 2010

One of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring natural spots in Mauritius is the Black River Gorges National Park. This World Heritage-designated site is home to the rarest flora and fauna found only on this island, making it a must-see destination for tourists and residents alike. Nature buff or not, the wondrous vistas afforded by a hike through the park are well worth the exercise.

About the Park

Black River Gorges is the only national park of Mauritius, located on the southwest portion of the island in a district of the same name. Surprisingly enough, this district receives the least amount of precipitation throughout the year, hence the name of “Black River”.

The park comprises over 6,500 hectares, a total of 3.5% of the island’s surface land. There’s enough to see here to make a whole day out of the trip, so plan accordingly. More than 300 species of plants and nine birds endemic in Mauritius can be spotted within the confines of the park. It is the only place where you will find a pink pigeon – a bird that was once facing extinction but is now strengthening in numbers due to its protected status. Birders will be ecstatic about all the unique species available for viewing.

The rare pink pigeon is joined by the island’s native kestrel, parakeet, bulbul, grey white-eye, fody, and olive white-eye. There are more than just avian species calling the park home. It is also the preferred habitat of Mauritius’s unique flying fox – actually a fruit bat – and macaque monkeys, wild pigs, and rusa deer. Aspiring botanists will surely be excited to identify Bois de Natte trees draped in orchids and fern fronds, Colophane Ebony, Tambalacoque, and Mauritius’s national flower, Trochetia, amongst the dense foliage of the Macchabee and Bel Ombre Forests. Wild sugarcane grows throughout, along with Chinese guava trees and numerous other plant species.

There are three ways you can view what the Black River Gorges Park has to offer: on foot, driving through, or via bus tour. The best way to experience this nature preserve is by hiking one or more of the trails that crisscross the park’s expanse. Le Pétrin Information Center provides maps for hiking or driving, and you can also hire a personal guide through the facility if you desire.

The most popular attraction in the park is the gorges. Created millions of years ago by volcano eruptions followed by rivers of water cutting through the landscape, rich red, brown, purple, violet, green, blue, and yellow hue colours the visible layers of earth. Plaine Champagne is one of the higher points on the island and a viewpoint near Chamarel provides a spectacular view of the gorges, the sea beyond, and Alexandra Falls. Throughout the park majestic waterfalls and deep, clear pools abound.

Getting There You can drive to the Black River Gorges National Park via La Marie from the town of Curepipe and Mare aux Vacoas from Vacoas. At the visitor’s center, a boardwalk leading to the dwarf rain forest and a conservation area fenced off from visitors are viewable. The hiking trails, ranging from 7 km to
828 meters long, can also be accessed from the boardwalk. Camping areas are provided within the park with drive-in access from the coast road. Be aware that due to the slightly higher elevation of the Black River Gorge plateau, the temperatures will be lower than that of the surrounding plains which make up the majority of the island’s topography.

There are no food or drink facilities available within the park itself, although there is a small café located along its edge featuring spectacular views of the surrounding green valley. Remember to take plenty of water
and a few snacks along on a hike. Binoculars, insect repellant, sturdy shoes, and wet weather gear are also recommended. There are picnic areas within the park’s confines if you want to bring along your own food and enjoy a repast amongst the natural beauty.

The Pétrin Information Center is open Monday through Saturday while the visitor’s center operates daily from 9 am to 3 pm during the week and from 9 am to 4 pm over the weekend. September through January are recommended as the best months to visit as that is when the numerous flowering foliage show off their magnificent colors.

If you have not visited the Black River Gorges National Park, then you have not truly experienced the unique plant and animal life and awe-inspiring geographical features of the island. No matter if you prefer riding in the comfort of your own vehicle or taking an up close look at nature on foot, the spectacular scenery is not to be missed.

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