The best independent guide to Mauritius
The best independent guide to Mauritius
The southern side of Mauritius is the most spectacular region of the island.
Found in this mountainous and densely forested region are many of the island’s finest tourist attractions and natural highlights.
This includes the Black River Gorges National Park, the Hindu pilgrimage site of Grand Bassin, and many beautiful lakes and volcanic mountains. Due to the semi-remoteness of the area there is almost no public transport and a tour of the region is either part of a group tour, with a private driver or uses a rental car.
This article will provide an independent guide to exploring the south of Mauritius as a day trip from Flic en Flac. The guide includes the highlights of the region, things to skip past in the tour, how best to organise the day trip, along with details of the main tourist sights.
Related articles: Introduction to Flic en Flac
Note: This guide has been written for tours from Flic en Flac, but much of the information will apply if you are heading from the north resort towns.
Seven Coloured Earth, the much-photographed exposed clay soils in seven colours. This is one of the famous sights of Mauritius, so you will want the photo but it’s a little overrated in our opinion.
The model ship factories, nice models but you are only taken there to buy one, so often is a waste of your tour time. There are three different factories within the Vacoas-Phoenix area.
Trou aux Cerfs, a volcanic crater in the town of Floreal, its just a deep hole with a good viewpoint over the centre of Mauritius. You will see much better later in the day. If you cut it from your private day tour you are not missing anything.
The Mare aux Vacoas is the largest lake on the island, but as it is also the primary reservoir for Mauritius, so bathing, fishing, water sports etc are all banned – its nice for a photo though!
Note: Through this article, all prices are given in Mauritius Rupees, for which the international currency code is Mur, and local currency symbol is “rs”.
The interactive map below displays the location of the main sights for a tour of southern Mauritius and a suggested tour route.
Key: 1) Trou aux Cerfs 2) Mare aux Vacoas lake 3) - Shiva and Durga Maa statues 4) Grand Bassin 5) Gorges Viewpoint 6) Chamarel Waterfall 7) Seven Coloured Earth 8) Rhumerie de Chamarel rum distillery 9) Chamarel Viewpoint
Optional sights 1) -Bois Cheri Tea Factory 2) Tamarin Salt Fields 3) Tamarin Bay
A private tour provides more flexibility but generally costs more (unless you are a group of 5 or more hiring a minibus). An organised tour has a more ridged structure and timings but does provide a great opportunity to meet fellow travellers.
Both sets of tours will have the guide stop at their preferred lunchtime restaurant (earning the tour company or tour guide commission) and slip in a couple of shopping opportunities (again for commission). It needs a determined private tour group to avoid the model boat factory and high-end tourist souvenir shops!
Personally, we would recommend a private tour for the flexibility it provides but this must always be balanced against holiday budgets. A private tour will not include any entrance fees, such as; 250rs for the 7 coloured earth geopark (Seven Coloured Earth and Chamarel Waterfall) or 400rs for a tour of the Rhumerie de Chamarel distillery.
Your hotel rep will be the most active at trying to find a private driver and guide, but they will be paying commission to the hotel and themselves, so it is often the most expensive option. Also in Flic en Flac most of the hotel rep drivers come from the Mautourco tour company (https://www.mautourco.com/), who we have used a few times and do provide decent tours. From a hotel expect to pay 5000rs/6600rs for taxi/minibus.
Note: Always confirm your driver is also a guide and will be showing you the sights, not just dropping you off at them!
Taxi drivers will be always pushing to provide private tours, and often are much cheaper than an organised tour company driver. Taxis may be much cheaper but as not guides may have lesser knowledge and always check language skills before confirming anything. Never agree to anything while on the transfer from the airport to accommodation, when tired from a long flight!
Note: If you choose to purchase a tour form the internet, always confirm that the group tour has a pickup from Flic en Flac or that the private tour starts from your hotel. Flic en Flac is only a small resort town and far from the major resorts to the north of the island.
Tipping: If the tour has been decent and there has been an effort from the guide a tip is usually expected. For a private tour 500rs-1,000rs would be typical or 250rs per person for a group tour.
The following section detail the major sights during a tour to the south of Mauritius.
The Chamarel Waterfall is a spectacular waterfall and the highest in Mauritius. The Saint Deors river cuts through the dense forest and at the transition from volcanic rock to weaker rocks the river has eroded a deep gorge, with a drop of 95m. After the Chamarel Waterfall the river is the Baie du Cap River.
The viewpoint at the car park provides good views of Chamarel Waterfall but there is a better vantage point at the top of the hill. It is possible to hike to the base and even swim in the pool (always check with the guide if it is safe to do so!), but often a tour only provides 30minutes here, just enough time for a photo.
The Grand Bassin is the most important Hindu location in Mauritius, at the focal point for Maha Shivaratri pilgrimage in February/March (4th night after the new moon). The Grand Bassin is a volcanic crater lake, which is often referred to as the Ganga Talao, as it contains waters from the Ganges River. At the southern side are colourful temples and statues of Hindu gods, and respectful tourists are welcomed into the temples.
Insight: Within the deep crater waters are giant eels…..
At the entrance to the Grand Bassin are two huge statues of Shiva and Durga Maa, and her lion. The wide avenue to the statues is to allow Maha Shivaratri pilgrimages to walk to the Grand Bassin.
Mauritius is a major sugar producing country and from these canes delicious sweet rums are fermented. The Rhumerie de Chamarel is the premium rum brand of Mauritius, who use sugar cane grown on their own plantations. A tour of their facilities including seeing the distillation process, the casks and barrels the rum is matured in, along with a chance to taste some superior rums.
Further information can be found on the Rhumerie de Chamarel website: https://www.rhumeriedechamarel.com/
Advice: you will feel tipsy and tired after rum tasting so try to plan it late in the day, or just before the long drive home…
Important warning: If you consider hiking within the Black River Gorges National Park or plan to climb one of the mountains, always take a guide. Every year ill-prepared tourists get lost in the forests or injure themselves scaling unsuitable mountain paths
Seven Coloured Earth is a section of exposed volcanic clay soils, which due to varying levels of aluminium and iron, have formed differing clay colours in close proximity. This was one of the first tourist attractions in Mauritius, and visitors tend to go there because they have seen the pictures and everyone goes. Also, at the Seven Coloured Earth are giant tortoises, which though impressive animals, don’t really do anything….
Every tour of south Mauritius should include the Seven Coloured Earth, as its one of the most famous sights of the island but don’t set expectations too high…..