Mauritius Coastal West
There is so much to say about the Western region of Mauritius , that we are forced to give priority to its southerly part, the area between Flic-en-Flac and Le Morne.
Hidden in the region between Port Louis and Tamarin lie two interesting spots: the Albion lighthouse and "Montagne Jacquot." These spots however, are very remote and best appreciated from a boat.
Before hotels where built there, Flic-en-Flac used to be a vast and untamed beach. The recent parcelling of land though has led to a wild and unrestricted growth of concrete houses of all kinds. A very unfortunate development took place in the once charming village and unfortunately it is not the only one of its kind in modern Mauritius. The beach in Flic-en-Flac may be best enjoyed from one of the hotels.
The southern part of the west differs dramatically from the rest of the island. Being inhabited mainly by the "Creole" population and with desert-like stretches of landscape, the West definitely feels like Africa .
Due to the presence of several rivers and streams, the western coast does not have many bright white beaches. The hinterland though, which is easily accessible, offers sights and sceneries of rare beauty. It is the combination of these two aspects that makes the west a worthwhile place to see.
More particularly, the following places are well worth seeing: Tamarin Bay , The Black River Gorges, the road to Chamarel, Le Morne Brabant and the historical Martello Tower at La Preneuse.
Tamarin Bay is well known for its surfing conditions and was one of the most famous "sweet spots" of the happy surfers in the late 60's and 70's. The discovery of more and more surf beaches around the world and the new luxurious image of Mauritius slowly killed the legend. But the surfing spirit is still alive, the waves are still rolling in and on "big days," Tamarin becomes very busy, and relives its glorious past.
BLACK RIVER GORGES
Black River Gorges is the largest and best accessible nature park of Mauritius . Its latest developments included the construction of a road leading straight into the park centre, making the area even more, if not too easily, accessible. Nevertheless, the park is big enough to allow hikes with a duration time of several hours in various directions.
The best way to visit the gorges is to be dropped at "le Petrin" (not far from Grand Bassin) walk down the paths and be collected in the parking area down the gorges. This would be a three hours walk instead of the almost five hours it takes to walk all the way down to the coastal road.
All hikes and walks can be made alone or as guided excursions, led by dedicated park rangers.
There are three ways to access Chamarel, but for the view, we recommend to start from the heights (Plaines Champagne road) and drive down towards the coast. The rich and wild vegetation along the roadside changes with every kilometre as you descend. The weather on top, being often cold and rainy, turns into sunny and warm after just a few kilometres. There are several parking places along the road where you may stop for a walk into the woods, to enjoy the view, for a visit to the village or for lunch. This drive is not only a must, but also the most convenient way from the centre of the island to the south or west coast.
LE MORNE BRABANT
Le Morne Brabant is an isolated rocky mountain forming a peninsula situated at the far southwest. The mountain itself is quite an intimidating sight, standing tall and dark against the mostly blue sky. Its reputation may add to the strong feelings it causes:
Le Morne Brabant is said once have been a hiding place for runaway slaves. The story does not tell how they got up there, but it is said that they constructed a wooden bridge to facilitate access to the summit. Once they had reached their hideout, the bridge was removed.
After the abolition of slavery, an expedition was sent out with the news of their freedom. Seeing that many people coming their way, alas they thought the expedition was for the purpose of capturing them again. So they jumped from the mountain cliff, preferring to die rather than being enslaved again.
In contradiction to the sad history of the mountain, the peninsula surrounding it is like a paradise in paradise. Crystal clear waters of the lagoon shimmering at the foot of imposing mountains such as Le Morne and "Piton de la Riviere Noire" the highest peak of Mauritius , make the landscape look like an enchanted kingdom. One of the first hotels of Mauritius was built on this peninsula as the first regular passenger flights reached Mauritius in 1947. Over the past years, the wild part of the peninsula had to yield to the erection of several other hotels. The wilderness has gone, but the site remains exclusive.
THE MARTELLO TOWERS
The Martello towers are famous worldwide, as they were built in various places along the English coast, in Canada , Jamaica , Sri Lanka etc. Mauritius alone counts five of them. They were built by the British between 1810 and 1846 for defence purposes against their main enemies, the French navy.
The irony in their history lies in the fact that the British were inspired by a similar tower at a place called the Martello point of Corsica, where only 38 men managed to keep away English invaders for many days. The name of Martello thus derives from the name of the Corsican stronghold. The Martello tower of La Preneuse has been restored in 1999 and is now accessible for guided visits.
The climate on the west coast is relatively dry and hot. In summer, the heat often becomes so unbearable that a walk of 100 meters under the sun or not represents a major decision to take. It is therefore recommended, to visit the west coast outside the peak season. A t-shirt (or less) is all you need to wear from November to March. A sweatshirt or something warmer may be necessary for the cooler winter evenings (June to August). On the hills around Caramel, you will need warm, long-sleeved clothes, as temperatures in the evening may drop considerably throughout the year.
Chamarel is unique, for it is Mauritius ' only mountain village. It is the place which inspired most Sega songs to be written. Quiet, pretty and tidy, Chamarel successfully merges with its surrounding vegetation.
Populated by a large Creole community, Chamarel is the cradle of their culture, the Creole heart of Mauritius .
Traditional but not conservative, the people of Chamarel successfully separated the wheat from the chaff of evolution. Warm and friendly, with a deep sense of hospitality, they have welcomed visitors and tourists for decades but contrarily to inhabitants of other regions, very few were ever tempted to follow their visitors' lifestyle.
The yearly Fancy Fair of Chamarel remains the most important event of the region and an occasion for the people to proudly share with others, the specialities of the village, namely the Curry No. 2 which is prepared with monkey meat. The usual main event in the working week is the Sunday mass.
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