South/ South-East (Mauritius)

South/ South-East (Mauritius)

Things to do - general

The south reveals a dramatically different landscape from the rest of the island: one typified by high cliffs – in places – that are battered by waves. These are created where the protective barrier of coral reef that surrounds Mauritius falls away on the seabed, so leaving the coastline exposed to a punishing Indian Ocean.

But the south is not singularly about cliffs and rough waters. Further round the coastline, heading westwards, are an array of beautiful beaches and top-rate hotels and resorts, in up-and-coming areas such as Bel Ombre.

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Culture & history

9th Century
Arabs discovered Mauritius.


16th Century
The Portuguese visited Mauritius.


1598
The Dutch who were the first to colonise Mauritius, named it after their ruler, Prince Maurice Van Nassau. Ebony forests were destroyed by overexploitation and the dodo was exterminated. It later became the symbol of endangered animal species and conservation worldwide.



1710
The Dutch left Mauritius.


1715
The French took possession of the island and re-named it ‘Île de France’.


1721
Governor Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais founded Port Louis, which later became the capital. He turned the island into a prosperous French colony and a port of call on the sea journey from Europe to the Far-East round the Cape of Good Hope. He established Port Louis as a naval base and built roads and bridges. Among his other achievements are the building of the Government House, the Line Barracks, and Château de Mon Plaisir at Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens. Nowadays, Labourdonnais’ statue stands guard, facing Port Louis harbour.



1810
A major naval battle took place in Grand Port on the south-east coast of the island in this year. It was the only naval battle won by Napoleon, and is thus duly engraved on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. However, three months later, the British launched a surprise attack from the north of the island and the French governor General Charles Decaen surrendered.


1814
The 1814 Treaty of Paris ratified the cession of Mauritius and its dependencies, Rodrigues and Seychelles, to the British. Réunion Island, which was also captured by the British, was returned to France. The island took its former name of Mauritius, and English became the official language. However, according to the Treaty of Paris, the population was to keep its language, its religion and its laws. This is the reason why French is still widely spoken, despite the fact that the British ruled the island for 158 years.


1835
The British Abolished Slavery. As the newly freed slaves refused to work in the plantations, indentured labourers were brought in from India. Chinese and Muslim traders were also attracted to these shores – hence the melting pot which now constitutes the population of Mauritius.



1968
Mauritius gained its independence. Sir Seewosagur Ramgoolam became the first Prime Minister. Mauritius still forms part of the British Commonwealth and follows the Westminster pattern of Government.


1992
Mauritius became a Republic.

Geography

Located off the South West coast of the Indian Ocean, at approximately 230 km from Reunion Island and 860 km from Madagascar, Mauritius has a surface area of 1872 square kilometers with a central plateau rising at 600 metres above sea level and 330 km of coastline.
Of volcanic origin, Mauritius is the second largest island of the Mascareignes Archipelago.



Sheltered from the open sea by the world’s third largest coral reed, Mauritius offers natural, secured, crystal clear lagoons and golden sandy beaches.




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Sports

There are several beautiful beaches in this part of Mauritius, including Blue Bay – popular with families – and Gris Gris: one of the few areas of Mauritian coastline that is not shielded by coral reef and is therefore the best point from which to observe dramatic waves crashing against the rocks.

Tourist places

In and Around Mahébourg


There are many interesting sights to observe in and around Mahébourg, including the fascinating National History Museum – just south of the town – and the Naval Museum, which houses the bell retrieve from the shipwrecked St Géran, as well as other interesting nautical memorabilia.



Of all of Mauritius’ markets, the market in Mahebourg is probably the least touristic and most traditional, offering great bargains on items including spices, clothes and children’s toys. While here, try some of the traditional food that’s available, including biryanis and kulfi.



Dutch Ruins and Frederik Hendrik Museum, Vieux Grand Port


At Vieux Grand Port, the oldest settlement in Mauritius, visitors can observe the ruins of the first Dutch fortifications. Those who are interested in Mauritius’ history will also enjoy the on-site Frederik Hendrik Museum, which retraces the occupation of Mauritius using visuals and excavated objects.



La Nef, Robert Edward Hart Museum


Although the primary reason most people visit La Nef is to learn about the Mauritian-Irish poet Robert Edward Hart, the building the museum is housed in is visually intriguing in its own right on account of it being covered in shells and coral. This, together with Hart’s fine writings and the fact that the museum is free to visit, makes it well worth a diversion.



Île aux Aigrettes, Nature Reserve


Imagine yourself 400 years ago, landing on Mauritius’ shores for the very first time. Forests unfold endlessly in front of you. Pigeons, parrots and fruit bats fly past in great numbers. Giant tortoises and flightless dodos roam up to investigate why you’re here.



Although precious little remains of the island’s original flora and fauna, there is one place you can get to see some of the most endangered species in all their glory: on Île aux Aigrettes. Here, visitors will find the last remnants of the dry, ebony forest that once grew in abundance across the main island. They will also see some of the work the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation has been undertaking to replant and reintroduce endangered vegetation, birds and reptiles, including rare orchids and the famous pink pigeon. Guided tours are held daily.



La Vanille Reserve Mascareignes, Rivière Des Anguilles


There are few little boys in the world who aren’t fascinated by crocodiles. And at La Vanille, near the southern tip of Mauritius, they – and everyone else in the family – can learn everything they’ve ever wanted to know about these prehistoric-looking creatures. More than 2000 crocodiles reside here, alongside 1000 turtles and an astounding 23,000 species of butterflies and insects.



Open every day from 9:30am to 6pm, entry fees are notably cheaper at weekends for both adults and children.

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