Imbued with traces left by the great men who helped to shape it, the landscape of Bel Ombre still tells a story of its own: a succession of agriculture, commerce, hotel development and maritime activities. Agrïa therefore decided to highlight this historical heritage by remodelling the natural park of d’Heritage Le Château. Nature lover and landscaper Bertrand d’Unienville was entrusted with the master plan of the landscaping of the estate, orbiting around its focal point: Le Château. Welcome to the making of this exciting project.
Plants, Mauritians, and the rest is history
As soon as the first settlers arrived in Mauritius, they developed strong ties with their surroundings, in hopes of growing subsistence crops. These ties later developed and evolved, enabling commercial, political and relationships, but also kindling a passion for esthetics. Indeed, it is important to remember that, during the 18th century, the island was an international botanical hub, sparking fascination and envy. Prominent botanical enthusiasts of the time, such as the Irishman Charles Telfair, and Frenchman (and ex-Intendant of the Isle de France) Pierre Poivre, helped the colony’s botanical diversity shine worldwide.
Plant lover Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, once stopped on the island, as part of his world tour, accompanied by botanist Philibert Commerson who, instead, chose to stay to conduct a census of the palm trees, and collect herbs. No wonder the island is home to the very first tropical botanical garden of the world, the Jardin de Pamplemousses.
The history of the island is therefore intrinsically linked to the life cycle of its prolific flora which includes endemic and foreign species, but also other species which have been over-exploited. This is why the vegetation that can be found on this island today, holds and tells stories from the past, giving us clues on the rich commercial and migratory history of the island.
Agrïa now wishes to reinforce this lasting relationship by opening the garden to the public through casual as well as guided tours. Such interaction between visitors, employees, and people living in the region will foster curiosity, inciting them to come and see the place for themselves. The final remodel will give the estate an even livelier feel. Finally, produce from the Bel Ombre Estate (organic fruits and vegetables, honey, palm, venison and pâtés) are already being sold to the public, contributing to the economic growth of the region. “Our objective is not to turn the estate into a museum, but rather to nurture the relationship between the public and the gardens”, explained Bertrand d’Unienville.
A tour of the park
Nestled halfway between the mountains and the lagoon, Heritage Le Château is an architectural and historical landmark in the region of Bel Ombre. Its 6.4-acre park currently consists of a French lawn, expertly designed by landscaper Laurence Aurejac-Rouzaud, who also gifted the park with a beautiful wooden deck offering dominant views on the surroundings, as well as an English garden, organic vegetable garden and a greenhouse.
Various collections will gradually be introduced to the park, to enrich the landscape, such as a spice garden, a glasshouse holding an exceptional botanical collection, a garden with fragrant plants, a “birds’ trail” consisting of indigenous herbs, a greenhouse consisting exclusively of flowers in memory of Charles Telfair and his wife Annabella, and an orchard among others… And the children will be delighted to discover a pheasant birdcage and tortoises under bushes.
Each stop along the way will provide a fantastic opportunity to feature an anecdote on the history of the island and its flora, or on the typical architecture of the agricultural activity of Mauritius. The guides will also give a nod to prominent historical figures of the region such as Bernardin de Saint Pierre, the author of Paul et Virginie.
Plants from the five continents
Our Mauritian flora is the culminating point of long voyages. Indeed, our own « chouchou», the Christophine named after Christopher Colombus, is of Mexican origin. Corn and cassava are also of American origin. Our grandmothers’ rose bushes come from Europe, while the fruit à pain which brings a soft, buttery and starchy texture to curry is from Australia. Finally, the hydrangeas, discovered here by Philibert Commerson, are actually of Japanese origin, whereas the emblematic flamboyant tree on all our postcards is an endemic plant of Madagascar.
Four new Green ventures
With sustainable development at the heart of its business strategy, Rogers, in collaboration with the ENL Group, commissioned the Boston Consulting Group, an international firm to assist in this endeavour. Together, the firms identified four growth areas in the sustainability sphere that could generate revenue:
Renewable energy: increase production of ‘green’ energy and become a commercial player in this field.
Nature-based solutions: these rely on ecosystems to address global challenges and carbon offsetting.
Regenerative agriculture: reduce environmental impact and provide consumers with healthy products.
Ecotourism: make the group's hotels examples of sustainability.
The first report focused on sustainable development
In 2020, the Rogers group’s first annual report focused exclusively on sustainability was released. In the absence of key performance indicators in this area specific to Mauritius, the group chose to adopt international guidelines such as those of the World Economic Forum and the Global Reporting Initiative. Rogers’ group teams have also developed a tool to calculate the carbon footprint of the group and its subsidiaries – a tool that can also be offered to other Mauritian companies, enabling them to develop strategies to reduce their own carbon footprints. Through this initiative, Rogers will also support the objective Mauritius has set itself – a 40% reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.