A trip to any corner of the Earth is incomplete without gaining knowledge about the past, the culture and the traditions of the place. The heritage and history of each country are unique and provides essential insights into the factors that shaped the development of that nation and its people. Museums serve as chroniclers of the landmark events that constitute this history and enable an ordinary person to travel back in time and relive these moments. This makes them the perfect haven for people with a fascination for the past.
If you are planning to visit the paradisiacal island of Mauritius on your next vacation, you should surely pay a visit to the nation's glorious history and heritage in its wide range of reputed museums that have conserved hundreds of years gone by inside their gates. A visit to the museums can help in breaking the monotony once you've seen all the beaches and favourite tourist spots. Also, they have troves of knowledge for you and your little ones that'll surely make your trip a notch more enriching and enlightening. Mauritius' population is inherently diverse and hails from several different continents such as Asia, Europe and of course, Africa. Moreover, its past has essential by the colonial rule of three nations (Netherlands, France and Great Britain) making Mauritian history an extremely intriguing topic to study.
Read on to get introduced to some of Mauritius' most enriching museums.
1. The Blue Penny Museum
This museum's enchanting avenues will lead you to some of its most prized possessions that throw light upon Mauritius' magnificent history. Constructed almost two decades ago in 2001, the museum comprises of five rooms designed with incredible attention to quality as evident from the works on display and the comprehensive descriptions accompanying them.
Visitors begin their journey in the first room with exhibits, maps and sculptures depicting the majestic maritime explorations of sailors in the fearsome Indian Ocean. The second room houses exhibit depicting the colonial rule in Mauritius and Mauritius' struggle to gain independence from its colonial masters. The third room is devoted to Mauritius' capital city - Port Louis. This room depicts Port Louis of the 18th and 19th centuries, illustrating the topography, before and now photos of the city, and development in general. Visitors shall then venture into the fourth room which documents Mauritius' postal history. Right from the beginning of postal services on the island under the Dutch to the stamp-making process, this room is undoubtedly a philatelist's delight. It also houses the two incredibly valuable stamps which lend this museum its name and were issued back in 1847 under the rule of the British. These stamps were bought for a whopping 2 million USD in 1993 by a consortium of Mauritian enterprises and brought back to Mauritius after 150 years. Finally, the last room houses the tale of Paul and Virginie - the protagonists of the romantic literature masterpiece penned by French author Jacques-Henri Bernardin, set on the island of Mauritius.
The museum's regular tour takes visitors around 45 minutes to an hour to complete. There also exist options for 'Privilege Visit' which includes a cocktail reception and customised guided tours adapted to the visitor's needs. History enthusiasts can choose the 'Expert Visit' option for a guided in-depth tour concentrating on specific parts of the exhibits.
Timings: Monday to Saturday - 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Closed on Saturdays and public holidays. (Museum closes at 2:00 PM on 24 December and 31 December) Address: Caudan Waterfront, Block A, Port Louis, Mauritius
2. The Natural History Museum of Port Louis
This museum in Port Louis is a haven for naturalists as it houses a wide array of exhibits illustrating Mauritius' diverse fauna and aquatic life. The entire museum is segregated into four galleries.
The first gallery houses exhibits of the countless bird species of the island, including several endangered ones. The birds share the gallery with the animals of the island such as stuffed wild boars, monkeys, lemurs, and many reptiles.
In the second gallery resides the abundant marine life, including an extensive collection of seashells and a giant seventy-kilogram clamshell. Also on display are several species of fish including sharks and cetaceans. The species can be found either hanging from the wall or safe inside glass cases. Other highlights include the skulls of a beaked whale and a sperm whale that were washed up off the Isle de la Passe.
The third gallery is dedicated to the memory of the now extinct flightless bird - the Dodo. Several bones and skeletons of dodos are available for visitors to see and appreciate, Also on display are videos depicting the excavation of dodo remnants.
The fourth section is dedicated to the geology, meteorology, corals, shrimps and turtles of the island.
Timings: Monday to Friday - 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Saturday - 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM. Closed on Sundays and public holidays. Address: La Chaussée, Port Louis, Mauritius
3. The Martello Tower Museum
This museum once used to be a Martello tower used by the British during their rule. With its thick walls, the British stayed safe from cannon fire inside these towers. The tower comprises of three floors; the ground floor was used as a store for supplies, ammunition and provisions. The first floor consists of rooms used by the British soldiers for cooking and sleeping. At the top is the roof, with a cannon and gun platform. Visitors can try to lift the cannon balls to get an idea of their immense weight!
The museum offers insights into the lives of British officers during the colonial period and contains several articles used by them such as pots, and an iron which was powered by coal. Also present is a model of the ship La Preneuse with lights installed in several parts which can be lit by pressing buttons to know about the different parts of the ship. On your way out you can choose to check out the souvenir shop to take back some books or models as a memento of your trip.
Timings: Tuesday to Saturday - 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM. Sundays and public holidays - 9:30 AM to 1:30 PM. Closed on Mondays. Address: La Preneuse, Black River.
4. The Robert Edward Hart Memorial Museum
This museum, housed inside a bungalow built entirely out of coral called La Nef was the house of Mauritian poet Robert Edward Hart. After Hart's original home was destroyed in a cyclone, this bungalow was built for him by his friends. As a token of his gratitude, he wrote a touching poem for them which you can find at the Museum's entrance. Also on display are several of Hart's original letters, speeches, plays, poetry, his violin, spectacles, awards and books.
Timings: Monday to Friday - 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM (closed on Tuesdays). Saturday - 9:00 AM to 12:00PM. Closed on Sundays and public holidays. Address: Savanne Road, Souillac, Mauritius
5. The Frederik Hendrik Museum in Vieux Grand Port
Opened for the public in May 1999, this museum is named after the stadtholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands who was in office from 1625 to 1647. The museum complex, surrounded by a lush tropical garden, contains exhibits of the artefacts found during archaeological excavations and many ruins. Ruins of the Governor's primary residence, a bakery, a store, and a prison cell erected by the French colonial rulers can be found within the premises. The ruins of Mauritius' first Catholic church built in 1737 by Mahé de La Bourdonnais can also be found in this area.
Timings: Monday to Saturday - 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM (closed on Wednesday). Sundays and Public holidays - 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM Address: Vieux Grand Port, Mauritius
6. The Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Memorial Centre for Culture
Devoted to the memory of Mauritius' first prime minister, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam who is also widely credited for charting Mauritius' path to independence, this museum houses his personal belongings that help visitors retrace his life. Several photographs documenting his life and decisions as a national leader are hung on the walls which will transport you to post-independence Mauritius. A lesser-known fact: this museum is built in the house from which Seewoosagur Ramgoolam used to practise medicine. A bronze statue of Mauritius' Father also resides in the front courtyard.
Timings: Monday to Friday - 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM (closed on Wednesdays). Saturday - 9:00 AM to 12:00PM. Closed on Sundays and public holidays. Address: 87, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Street, Plaine Verte, Port Louis.
7. The Mauritius Photography Museum
The brainchild of Mr Tristan Bréville, a passionate photographer, this discrete museum is a Mecca for shutterbugs. The museum houses a wide range of artefacts documenting the early days of Mauritian photography and cinematography. Beware! The sight of old cameras, lenses and movie projectors can cause passionate photographers to go weak in the knees. Some of the earliest and rarest daguerreotypes (pictures on metal or ceramic) are also available for visitors to see. Much to the amazement of visitors, 3D images which are several decades old are also exhibited. Put simply; photographers can spend hours here appreciating the equipment and pictures without a whiff of boredom.
Timings: Monday to Friday - 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM Address: Rue du Vieux Conseil, Port Louis
8. The Chateau Labourdonnais
An ancient colonial mansion in an old sugar estate is the perfect spot for witnessing Mauritius during the colonial period. The stunning mansion with its flowing front lawns makes for a spectacular sight and inspires awe at the lives of the Mauritian elite. Interactive kiosks demonstrate how the mansion was restored to its glorious past. Nearby are a fine-dining restaurant and a tasting bar where you can treat yourself to fine distilled rum, fruit jellies and juices. There is an extensive range of reading material for you to gather tonnes of knowledge about the residence and you can't help but be mesmerised by the grandeur of the place.
Timings: Every day from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Address: Riviere Du Rempart, Mauritius
This museum in Remy Ollier Street houses a vast collection of objects illuminating the Chinese immigration in Mauritius, such as photographs several decades old, models of the Chinatown district, old Chinese scales for weighing articles, old Chinese newspapers, calendars and printing equipment. 3% of the Mauritian population traces back its roots to China, and the Sino-Mauritians occupy essential positions in the society. If demographics and the migration of communities interests you, checking out this Museum sounds like a great idea!
Timings: Monday to Friday - 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Closed on weekends and public holidays. Address: Remy Ollier St, Port Louis, Mauritius
10. L'Aventure du Sucre
If you are the kind of a person with a sweet tooth, this is a museum that you can't afford to skip. One of Mauritius' most valuable cash crops is and has been sugarcane, and this museum, set in an old sugarcane factory will take you through the ages, highlighting the role sugar has played in shaping the history of Mauritius. The entire process of the preparation of sugar is well explained through text, photographs and videos. This museum is child-friendly, allowing its young visitors to enjoy and learn as much as the older ones. Through turning gears, pushing buttons, listening into pipes and watching films, the little ones will be encouraged to ask questions and find their answers. Souvenir seekers won't be disappointed by the comprehensive range of articles available for purchasing, such as exotic varieties of sugar, scented candles, t-shirts, bags and spices. The restaurant Le Fangourin is nearby, enabling visitors to conquer the hunger triggered by the tour of the sweet sugar museum.
Timings: Every day from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Address: B18 Pamplemousses MU 21001, B18, Pamplemousses, Mauritius
As evident, Mauritius' array of museums isn't esoteric but rather intended to intrigue a wide range of people having a multitude of interests and passions. There's something for everyone to learn and these museums will enable you to return from your vacations, wiser and more learned than when you arrived!