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Black River Gorges

 
 
 

Located in the southwestern part of Mauritius, the Black River Gorges National Park covers an area of around 25 square miles. It was proclaimed as national park in 1994 and is managed by the National Parks and Conservation Service. At only about 25 square miles, the national park does not seem to be quite large especially when you compare it to other parks in African countries. In spite of its relatively small size, Black River Gorges plays major part in the country’s conservation efforts. The park is home to endemic plants and animals and the last defense to protect Mauritian forest. Many of the animals and plants that you see here are not found anywhere else on the planet.

Covering 2% of the island’s total land area, Black River Gorges is the biggest national park in the country. It is difficult to overstate the importance of the national park to the country because it protects a lot of native plant and animal species, and it also acts as one of the best tourism destinations.

Wildlife

Before Black River Gorges became a national park, it had been a prime hunting ground. After scientists identified more than 300 species of flowering plant, nine endemic bird species, and more than 4000 giant fruit bats, the hunting ground was put to an end.

Most of the Mauritius’ remaining rainforest is within the park’s territory. There was a time when the forest had to endure some non-native plants and animals for examples Chinese guava, privet, wild pigs, and rusa deer. Introduction of new species (both flora and fauna) did not seem to contribute to the forest’ diversity; as a matter of fact, some new species were found invasive that they have degraded the forest itself. Several areas of the forest have now been fenced off and invasive species have been eradicated to prevent further destruction. The plan is working well because native plants and animals are becoming more common in the forest including but not limited to Mauritian flying fox and the entire island’s native bird species such as pink pigeon, Mauritius bulbul, Mauritius parakeet, Mauritius olive white-eye, Mauritius fody, Mauritius kestrel, Mauritius grey white-eye, and Mauritius cuckoo-shrike.

Activities

In its 25 square miles area, Black River Gorges offers 40 miles long of hiking trail. The following 8 different routes are the some of the most popular in the national park:

TRAIL

PATHWAY

LENGTH

Machabee Forest Loop Trail

Pétrin-Machabée-Pétrin

8.5 miles

Machabee Trail

Pétrin-Black River Lower Gorges

6 miles

Mare Longue Loop Trail

Pétrin-Mare Longue-Pétrin

7.5 miles

Parakeet Trail

Plaine Champagne-Black River Lower Gorges

5 miles

Black River Peak Trail

Gorette-Black River Peak-Gorette

5.5 miles

Paille EN Queue Trail

Alexandra – Plaine Champagne

2 miles

Savanne Trail

Plaine Paul – Piton Savanne – Plaine Paul

3.5 miles

Cascade DES Gallets Trail

Alexandra Falls – Cascade des Gallets – Alexandra Falls

2 miles

Any trail leads to all parts of the park from the shady path of Black River Gorges itself to the cloud-shrouded ridge on the Black River Peak. This is a national park where you only have the option to do walking safari, but the good thing is that you can really explore the plants in close-up view and take very good look at the animals wandering in the forest at the same time. There are no lions or crocodiles here, so you are relatively safe as long as you treat the wildlife with respect. Savanne Trail is probably the easiest one of them all and the distance is not overly demanding either.
If you can make time to visit the southwestern Mauritius, you might as well embark on a day trip and stop by these beautiful places. Some of these places are actually outside the perimeter of the national park.

  • Rivière Noire District: this is the place where you can challenge yourself to not be surprised as you see high mountain peaks, nature reserves, and volcanic formation that are all combined into single scenery. Population is small, which makes the outdoor adventure even better. Experienced guide will tell you about the history of the place as well as plant and animals you see along the way.
  • Chamarel Waterfall: as you pass through the village of Chamarel, ask your guide to take you to the waterfall. It is the highest waterfall in the island plunging its way down from about 330 feet away. On the background, the waterfall is decorated by the views of mountains and forests.
  • Seven Colored Earth: now after the waterfall and you think that you have seen it all, there is another place with an interesting name that will blow you away: the Seven Colored Earth. It is a geological formation of volcanic rocks that cooled down at different temperatures. As a result, they now emit different colors including red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple and yellow colors. This is not a fairy land, but pretty close to that.
  • La Rhumerie de Chamarel: because you think you are in a fairy land, it is probably better if you immerse yourself in that imagination even deeper. La Rhumerie de Chamarel has enough rum and lunch to prepare you for the next stop. If you climb high enough, you will reach probably the best view point over the Black River Gorges National Park.
  • Savanne: the secluded Grand Bassin Lake is located in this district. The lake is a sacred place for the Mauritian Hindus.

Before you return to your hotel, please make time to visit the Shop of Ship Model where you can see and actually purchase miniaturized models of ships. Various sailors who visited the land introduced the art of modeling ships. Certain models take months to create.

When to Visit

Black River Gorges is good for all-year round visit. The forest is comprised of basically two different areas including damp rainy upland forest and drier lowland forest. Annual precipitation level in the uplands reach to about 4000mm, but the lowland only has about 1000mm annual rainfall. Different precipitation level affects the type of vegetation as well, so don’t be surprised to see completely different types of diversity in the same forest. Temperature range is also different depending on elevations:

  • Upland forest: it can go down to about 17°C during winter and only reach up to 21°C in the summer
  • Lowland forest: at an average of 21°C in the winter and can go up to 27° during summer

 

Despite the differences in temperature, Black River Gorges never reaches the point where it can be too uncomfortable for a visit.

Black River Gorges National Park is managed by the NPCS (National Parks and Conservation Service). The national park with all the endemic species, trails, and majestic views of its ecosystem delivers an excellent representation of what Mauritius actually is. The island is not just for your getaway beach resorts; this is the place where you can learn, respect, and admire an isolated ecosystem inhabited by endemic species and indigenous people. It is not your typical tourism destination; it is an entirely different world which co-exists with the world we all familiar with.

 
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