Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius Overview
Being the only and largest in the island nation of Mauritius, the Black River Gorges National Park is the sanctuary for the diversified wildlife and tropical rainforests. It is the central attraction of the tourists with an unparalleled love for nature and those who have a zeal for adventure treks.
Background and Location
Prior to 1994, it was nothing more than hunting grounds. Later, it was officially declared by the President of the Republic of Mauritius as a National Park and has been available for public exploration since then. It is located on the highlands of Champagne plain in the south-western part of Mauritius. It encompasses an area of 6700 hectares of lowland forests, lands of heath and more forests further uphill, constituting 5% of the island nation. The climate is the park varies on moving from the eastern side to the west; from damp rainy forestland to relatively much drier lowlands. The park offers some dramatic views and terrains between mountain ranges and numerous waterfalls along the way.
Flora and Fauna
The Black River Gorges National Park is inhibited by more than 300 different plant species, 9 endemic bird species and nearly a population of 4000 giant fruit bats. The rich biodiversity of the park also includes some of the endangered bird species like the Echo Parakeet, the Pink Pigeon and the Mauritius Kestrel and other endemic birds like the Grey White-Eye, the Cuckoo-Shrike, the Olive White-Eye, and the Mauritius Fody along with the Mauritius Bulbul also inhibit this park. The tourists also get to enjoy the sight of Macaque monkeys, Wild boars and Deer wandering amidst the premises. Organisations like Nation Park and Conversation Service by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, a national level NGO work together towards the preservation of the rich wildlife of the park.
The true experience of the Black River Gorges National Park begins as we approach deeper into the inland from the coast. There are four main entrances to the park:
The Black River entrance
Case Noyale from the west coast
La Marie entrance from Plaine Wilhems
Chamouny entrance in the south
The Black River route provides the best entrance into the park driving through the coastal roads that head towards Tamarin from Port Louis. Following that, on arriving La Prenouse, a curvy road leads into the park. After crossing a small bridge and passing by a clear lake, a large parking area with a small information centre is revealed.
If the tourists prefer to walk their way into the park, the main road heading towards Le Morne should be taken. At a distance of 2 kilometres, there is a first gate from which, it will take a half an hour walk to reach the parking lot.
Other optional entrances are via Chamarel from Case Noyale and via Les Mares via Chemin Grenier.
Hiking and Trekking
Boasting a total length of 60 kilometres of pathways, the largest in Mauritius, Black River Gorges National Park is a paradise for hiking and trekking lovers and it won't be incorrect to say it is the main activity there. The hiking and trekking are well maintained and signed properly in order to provide the travellers with all the directional assistance required. Some of the worth exploring trails are:
Macchabees Trail (10 kilometres): It heads towards the information centre at Petrin, en route of which lies some amazing views. It shortens the distance to the first viewpoint by about one and half hour. The western coast of Mauritius looks phenomenal from the highlands and with some luck, rare species of birds can be spotted from the viewpoint as well.
Parakeet Trail (8 kms): It leads to the mesmerizing waterfalls in Plaine Champagne and there are two ways to go forth this trail. One can either choose to begin from the information centre at Black River or by taking the Plaine Champagne road which diverges from Chamarel.
Black River Peak Trail (9 kms): It is a combination of easy-going and exhausting uphill paths leading to Mauritius' the highest peak at a whopping 828 metres above sea level. Starting from the Champagne Plain Roads, it continues further from Chamarel, 500 metres after crossing the Black River Gorges view-point.
Bel Ombre (18 kms): This trail is best suited for bird watchers, as it leads to the southern border of the park where endemic and exotic birds gather in the rainforests. At a distance of 14 kilometres, the path leads to the village of Bel Ombre.
Nearby Accommodation and Information Centres
Places like Le Morne and Flic en Flac Beach are the closest to the Black River Gorges National Park, which is half a day or a day's trip. Tourists can also opt to stay at Chamarel which is a famous Mauritian village for its restaurants. All these places provide a range of comfortable hotels and resorts like the Lux at Le Morne, the Aanari Hotel and Spa at Flic en Flac beach and the La Vieille Cheminee at Chamarel.
There are two information centres in the park - one at Petrin and the other at Black River. The hikers and trekkers can buy a map for RS 50 for a better understanding of the park's layout. The opening hours for the centres are:
Petrin Information Centre: Monday to Friday - 8:00 AM to 3:30 PM Saturday - 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM Phone: +230 258 0058/ +230 507 0128
Black River Gorges Visitor Centre: Monday to Sunday - 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Phone: +230 258 0057
Further contact information: National Park and Conservation Service Ministry of Agro Industry, Food Production and Security