Mark Twain once wrote that: ‘You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius’. Many travellers think that they have arrived in heaven when they visit this exotic and beautiful island which boasts so many attractions. One of these attractions is the quiet village of Chamarel, the only mountain village in Mauritius, and the scenic countryside which surrounds it.
The village derives its name from Charles de Chamarel who owned a plantation there in the 18th century. He entertained the great explorer, Matthew Flinders, during his time in captivity in Mauritius during the Napoleonic wars. Chamarel is mainly famous for the natural wonders of the coloured earths and the majestic waterfall, Chamarel Cascade. However, there are also beaches and rainforests nearby with interesting wildlife. The Le Chamarel restaurant is also worth visiting.
The Coloured Earths of Chamarel
Undulating dunes of earth in rainbow-like colours greet travellers who visit the coloured earths near the village of Chamarel. These consist of layers of earth in seven different colours – red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple and yellow. The best time to see the site is at sunrise when the rolling earths glisten in the sun against their beautiful backdrop of dense forest. It is no wonder that tourists love to take photographs of the sight!
It is believed that the earths were formed by the uneven cooking of molten rocks. These contained mineral-rich volcanic ash which blended into the seven different colours. The colours never erode. Apparently this is the only place on earth which has earths of these striped layers. It is a strange natural phenomenon.
Tourists pay a small charge to see the coloured earths from a viewing platform. The sight is protected by a wooden fence. It is a good idea to buy a souvenir of the sight. The soil can be bought in test tubes which are sold at the location and in many of the village shops.
No visit to Chamarel is complete without seeing the spectacular waterfall nearby. This is the highest waterfall in Mauritius and falls from a height of hundreds of feet. The waterfall plunges from the River St Denis into the River du Cap. Green forests and rolling hills surround the waterfall. The Chamarel Cascade can be seen from wooden walkways. The sight amazes many tourists who like to photograph the water falling over the steep precipice.
The Black River Gorges National Park
Glorious vistas and waterfalls abound at the Black River Gorges National Park which is also near Chamarel. This huge area of dense forests and heathland has hiking and mountain bike trails. Be sure to check what the weather forecast is before going on one of these trails. The park is also a popular place for enjoying picnics.
The best time to see the park is the flowering season between September and January when it is full of brightly-coloured flowers. Look out for the rare tambalacoque tree and the trochetia. The trochetia is the national flower of Mauritius. There are many different species of this tall shrub. These species have delicate, bell-shaped flowers in different colours.
Lots of exotic birds and animals populate the park. These include the Mauritius kestrel, the Mauritius parakeet, and the famous pink pigeon. If you want to see the famous birds properly, it is a good idea to take binoculars. Monkeys, Mauritian f lying bats, and deer can also be found in the park. The wild macaque monkeys will apparently pose for photographs and beg for food. However, it is not advisable to feed them.
Le Chamarel Restaurant
The best place to eat is probably Le Chamarel Restaurant, a couple of miles away from Chamarel. This boasts delicious native Mauritian cuisine as well as a selection of other foods, such as European food. It is only open for lunch although private events can be booked here. Dinner for groups of over 50 people is available on request.
It is worth dining here for the views alone so ask for a table with a view. Situated high in the Black River Mountains, Le Chamarel Restaurant has breathtaking views over the Indian Ocean. The restaurant overlooks green hills, forests, and wide sandy beaches.
The only local coffee, Café Chamarel, is also available here. This comes from a small plantation nearby. This coffee was originally brought to Mauritius by members of the French East India Company.
If you are visiting Mauritius, be sure to spend some time in Chamarel and enjoy the surrounding scenery. The area abounds in scenic attractions, such as the coloured earths, and there are many things to do, such as enjoying fine dining or going on one of the many walking trails. Nature-lovers will be especially delighted by the scenery and wildlife.