Black River Gorges is the largest national park in Mauritius, with the wide expanse of dense forest and highlands making up for roughly 5% of the entire Indian Ocean island nation. For many, the significance of Black River Gorges is its part in maintaining the rich diversity of wildlife that makes Mauritius what it is. As well as this, the area provides nature lovers with some of the best hiking and bird-watching opportunities in the entire world.
Famed for not just its unique wildlife, the gorge also offers countless vistas, waterfalls, and spectacular views, making it an absolute must-visit experience on a trip to Mauritius. Join us now as we delve into the ins and outs of this utterly striking and colourful place.
A bit of background
The Black River Gorges National Park is located in the highlands of south-western Mauritius. The climate here is significantly cooler in comparison to the rest of the island, and the park actually covers an area roughly 6,700 hectares, which includes drier lowland forests, marshy heathlands, and humid forests further upland.
It’s important to state the importance of the park in terms of it being the last refuge for many native and endangered species, as well as one of the rarest forests in the world, and host to some of the most breath-taking views you could hope for.
The wide, beautiful gorge from which the park gets its name dramatically curves between a series of stunning mountain ranges, as countless waterfalls tumble from the hillsides. Again, you will not likely see as stunning a view as this anywhere else on the island, or - as many Mauritians would argue – anywhere else in the world.
How to get there
In order to truly experience Black River Gorges National Park (which we whole-heartedly implore you to do), make your way inland from the coast, even if for just a day. There are four main entrances to the park: La Marie in Plaine Wilhems, and Chamouny in the south; and the Black River and Case Noyale entrances on the west coast.
As mentioned, the park is home to over 300 native plants, and nine species of birds that are only found in Mauritius. Due to its status as a national park, the area protects the island’s remaining rainforest, where animals including the Mauritian flying fox, wild boar, deer and macaque monkeys can be found.
Amongst the rare and precious birdlife inhabiting the area are the fascinating Mauritius kestrel, parakeet, cuckoo-shrike, and pink pigeon, as well as the incredibly rare olive white-eye and grey white-eye. However, you need to be especially keen and patient to stand a chance at spotting many of these enigmatic little creatures.
Tips for walks & hiking trails
For those wanting to get a hands on experience of Black River Gorges, there are many established walking paths and hiking trails that offer the chance. Routes such as those starting in Black River itself range from 4-10km in length, and it’s a (relatively) easy 2-hour walk to Black River Peak, which is Mauritius’ highest point, offering simply amazing views.
The park is open all year round, and the Black River Visitor Centre is open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, here you can get further advice and help with finding the best views and spots for bird-watching. The staff are extremely welcoming, and there are also refreshments available.
Depending on where you are in the park, there is plenty to see and do. On the edge of the park near Chamarel is the 83m high Chamarel waterfall, and the bizarre ‘Seven Coloured Earth’ geological curiosity that is comprised of seven different types of clay, all varying fascinatingly in colour. There is also the Grand Basin Lake, which is a sacred site for the local Hindu community of Mauritius, and in March and April you can also seek a guide to help you pick your own guavas to feast on.
We couldn’t recommend Mauritius and the Black River Gorges National Park highly enough. The enigmatic mix of naturally beautiful landscapes, dense rainforests and fascinating wildlife combine to create one of the world’s most precious and magnificent places. Book today and see for yourself, and we guarantee you’ll find it a truly unforgettable experience.