Black River Gorges: A Must-visit National Park in Mauritius
June 15 2018
June 15 2018
Today Mauritius is renowned for being a vibrant holiday destination that is popular with families and couples alike, and with an incredible choice of luxury resorts, beautiful natural surrounds and sublime beaches (among many other things), it’s really not difficult to understand why. One of the most fascinating things about this small emerald gem, is that it was only in the 16th century that it became inhabited, and before this time it was said to be covered in a thick blanket of lush vegetation and filled with sensational and unusual plant life and magical creatures (many of which are sadly either very rare or extinct today).
But this Jurassic Park-like scenery hasn’t been completely overrun by sugar cane plantations and well developed areas—it still exists in certain places on the island today, specifically in the national parks. While there are many national parks in Mauritius that are well worth visiting, if you only have time for one, then it should definitely be the Black River Gorges National Park, here’s why:
It was declared a national park in 1994
This magnificent park, which is located in the southwest of the island, hasn’t always been a protected reserve. Instead, it was known as prime hunting grounds and was only given its national park status in 1994. They decided to name it a national park after scientists realised the rainforest here was home to nine species of rare and exotic endemic birds, over 300 species of flowering plants and a notable population of the remarkable giant fruit bats in what is considered one of the rarest forests in the world.
Three of the exotic endemic birds on the island—the Mauritius kestrel, the echo parakeet and the pink pigeon—are some of the rarest birds on the globe. These birds have chosen this rainforest as their natural habitat making it an especially important park on the island. The good news for visitors and hikers that enjoy birdwatching is that this is the place to try and spot these wondrous birds in real life!
It boasts a variety of excellent hiking trails
The Black River Gorges National Park is the biggest national park in Mauritius at approximately 6754 hectares and it covers around 2% of the island. Naturally, this sensational area offers over 60km of exciting hiking trails that twist and turn through thick rainforests and lush landscapes, many of which offer stunning views as rewards for challenging hikes or take adventurers to hidden waterfalls and past a thriving river. This absolutely outstanding park is definitely best enjoyed on foot where the breathtaking scenery that unfurls along volcanic mountains can be properly experienced and enjoyed.
The hiking trails in the park cater for different levels of fitness and ability, so it is advisable to do your research to ensure that you are on a path that matches both your fitness level and the amount of time you would like to spend hiking in the park. The best way to go about this is to hire the services of a trusted Black River Gorges guide (head to the visitor centre and they will be able to assist you with this).
Visitors can spot more than beautiful, rare birds
Many people head to Black River Gorges National Park in search of some of the world’s rarest birds, but these are not the only fascinating creatures that can be found in this park. Wild boar, macaque monkeys, deer and of course the giant fruit bats (which are a truly remarkable sight) can be spotted here as well, carrying on with their daily lives amongst the gorgeous age-old ebony trees and lush tropical vegetation.
The reserve plays a significant role in conservation
The Black River Gorges National Park is not only beautiful, it plays an incredibly important role in conservation and it’s managed by none other than the National Parks and Conservation Service in Mauritius. It sadly represents the last remaining portion of the sensational Mauritian rainforests and, as we already mentioned, is home to some incredibly important flora and fauna as well, making it essential that it is well preserved.
There are four field stations in Black River Gorges National Park which are used for research and conservation projects which are carried out by both the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation as well as the National Parks and Conservation Service. As it mentions on the National Parks and Conservation Service’s website, “The Park is managed mainly for the conservation of endemic flora and fauna, dissemination of and creation of public awareness, education and the provision of leisure to both local and foreign visitors.” If there’s one place you should leave the stunning Mauritian beaches for, this should be it.
It has sensational vistas
If you are not an avid hiker or don’t have the time to explore the trails in Black River Gorges National Park, then fear not, you can still enjoy the spectacular views at the park’s viewpoints. The park is a wonderful experience for visitors and locals alike and at the main viewpoint, there is even a small market where Mauritians sell some of the local products or specifically Mauritian trinkets and nicknacks.
What’s more is you can even embrace the viewpoints to the full by packing a delicious picnic and enjoying it with one of the best views in Mauritius. You will probably have a few unexpected visitors (the macaque monkeys love to pop into the picnic spots for obvious reasons) but it’s important not to feed them. If you plan on enjoying a picnic here, you will be pleased to hear that there is no shortage of picnic spots, with wooden picnic tables having been placed in strategic positions all around the park itself.
The park has great facilities all-round for a comfortable visitor experience but still manages to maintain the integrity of the area. There are public bathrooms as well as two visitor information centres, so if you have any questions, feel free to ask them at the information centres and make sure that you treat the park—and its gorgeous flora and fauna—with the respect it deserves.
It’s well worth a full day visit
If you are tempted to head to the Black River Gorges National Park while on a trip to Mauritius than we highly recommend taking a full day to enjoy it. That way, you will be able to go on one of the many hikes (the Black River Peak Trail is a wonderful option for seasoned hikers and will take you to the highest peak of the island), have ample time to explore the park and enjoy a wonderful picnic with a view—it’s honestly a stunning place to experience. If you find that you have some time left over, you can explore the surrounding areas, such as Chamarel and all its natural wonders.
If you are looking to head to Mauritius to embrace all of its wonderful natural (and manmade) sites then there’s no better home base than one of the stunning Sun Resorts. These four- and five-star hotels offer everything you could possibly want—from unique signature experiences to complimentary non-motorised water sports and more—for the holiday of a lifetime.