Tuesday, 9 am. We are ready to begin our hike in Bel Ombre Nature Reserve’s 1,300 hectares of wilderness. On this particular morning, Bel Ombre’s microclimate is capricious, but a little bit of mud is nothing in comparison with the natural treasures that await us in this vast Nature Reserve. Let the adventure begin!
Meet with Nitish
Nitish meets us at the entrance of the reserve. He will be our guide for the day. This young man has worked in close proximity to nature for a number of years, and his smile says it all – he wouldn’t have it any other way. Trained by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, our ranger is impatient to help us discover the exceptional fauna and flora of this ecosystem. Time to start our two and a half hour hike.
First Stop: L’Exemple Waterfall
The path to our first stop follows a trail along the Jacotet river. We climb up a narrow, wooded passage that leads us to the L’Exemple waterfall. The more daring among us jump straight in, while others stay on dry land to learn about the restoration projects done around the river bank. In the past few months, close to 300 native trees have been planted. This action symbolises the first step towards the creation of an ecological corridor between the Black River Gorges National Park and the coastal region of Bel Ombre – two distinct biodiversity spheres. The main objective of the project is to facilitate the migration of animals between these two zones.
Let’s get lost in the woods
Wandering on through the forest, we take an educational break to learn about the hundreds of native species that grow within the reserve. To our right, we have dense and resilient ebony trees; their wood was used in the past to make black piano keys and luxury
furniture. To our left, the “Bois de natte”, a Labourdonnaisia species known as matting wood, is commonly used in the construction of colonial houses. Directly in front of us, we see the “Bois de canne” (cane wood), once prized for making walking sticks. Other native species also abound, such as the “vacoa” (Pandanus) or the ‘sang-de-dragon”(Dragon’s Blood tree) – a strange tree that appears to bleed when its bark is scratched.
Crossing the Dalsing Plains
On the way to the viewpoint that overlooks both the nature reserve and the biosphere reserve of the Black River-Bel Ombre gorges, we cross the Dalsing Plains. The roar of a Rusa deer pierces the silence and a fawn bleats in reply. It’s probably not the response the deer was hoping for! Introduced from Java in 1639 by a Dutch governor, there were initially only a dozen such deer on the island. Today, nearly 3000 of them live on the reserve. The rich fauna of both the reserve and the nearby biosphere is made up of a diverse range of species. Boar, pheasants, the Mauritian Flying Fox, monkeys, the Mauritius parakeet, kestrels, the Mauritius fody, the Paradise flycatcher, the Mauritius Olive white eye… all are to be found if you look around!
The old chimney, a trace of Mauritius’ past
We make a historical detour before we stop for lunch. A beautiful monument takes us back through time. The old chimney is the only remaining trace of the Frederica Sugar Factory, and dates back to the 19th century. Access to sugar cane fields was difficult in this isolated region, with its hilly terrain. Consequently, the factory had to close down in 1874.
Picnic at the Frédérica waterfall
After our efforts, time to relax! Beside the Frédérica waterfalls, there is a rest area, created by Nomadic Resorts, an award-winning design agency. We find ourselves in a magical place, a fairyland of sorts in the middle of nature! Having warmed up by the campfire, we gather around a rustic table, surrounded by Chinese bamboo trees. Aarti, our chef for the day, is ready to greet us. Ten years of experience have made her a specialist in Creole and Indian cuisine. On the menu: Chicken curry (or potato curry for vegetarians), Fish vindaye, “Kutcha de fruits de cythère” (local pickled plums), homemade chillies, and green salad. For those who are still hungry, or have a sweet tooth, a delicious caramel flan or a creamy coconut milk sago completes the feast.
We’ve reached the end of the path, but the day isn’t over yet. This little corner of heaven invites visitors to immerse themselves in dreams and relaxation. Go for a swim, enjoy a game of cards, play Mölkky or dominoes, take a nap in the hammock… the rest of the afternoon is yours to enjoy!