If you are in Grand Port, Mauritius and you come across a beautiful – well-architectured stone like structure, here's everything you need to know about it. If you didn't realise, the Dutch first colonised Mauritius in the year 1638. So, a monument in Grand Port, popularly known as Dutch First Landing, marks the site where the Dutch first set foot on the island.
What Exactly is the Dutch First Landing Monument?
To know what the structure is all about and what makes it significant, we need to talk about some history. It was 9th September 1598 when Vice-Admiral Wybrandt van Warwyck and Admiral Cornelius Van Neck commanded eight Dutch ships to a major seaport in Indonesia, called Bantam. It is said that the ship contained exotic trading products from Europe. But a sheer mishap lead the Dutch to Mauritius. Mauritius was never on their radar, but fate had a different story to tell.
A violent storm on August 28, 1598, made them disband their fleets and this is how they ended up at the shore of Mauritius. Five out of the eight ships – the Zeeland, the Geldria, the Vriesland, the Geldria, and the Amsterdam managed to reach the south-eastern shore of the country.
On board the Amsterdam ship was Vice-Admiral van Warwyck, who ordered two of his officers – Hendrick Dircsz Jolinck and Hans Hendricksz Bower, to look around the island for a proper shelter as they had decided to anchor their ships. It is interesting to know that the discovery lead to what is known as present-day Grand Port (earlier called Warwick Haven by the Dutch)
The landing of Jolinck, Bower and their crew members then marked the arrival of the first Dutch in Mauritian islands. More ships were moored in the bay on September 20, and most of their crew landed.
Just like everyone gets fascinated by Mauritius' breathtaking beauty in the present time, the Dutch felt the same back then, when Mauritius was still uninhabited. They figured the island to be an extremely safe and useful stopover for Dutch ships sailing across the Indian Ocean.
It was on that date that the island got its name, in honour of Prince of Orange, stadtholder of the United Provinces of Netherlands, and Maurice of Nassau. Subsequently, several other places were named after important leaders of the fleet.
Ile aux Aigrettes (Aigrettes islet) in the present day was first named Eylandt Heemskerk, in honour of a merchant on the Geldria –Jacob van Heemskerk. Present day Ile de la Passe was first given the name of the captain of the Amsterdam ship, Cornelius Jansz Fortuyn.
Since then, Mauritius was declared a Dutch island. The island remained uninhabited for the next forty years and was visited only by the Dutch ships travelling to other countries, stopping over at Mauritius for resting and filling their deck up with fresh supplies.
The First Dutch Landing Monument was built in the year 1948. The monument was erected and unveiled by the Societe de L'Histoire de L'Ile Maurice.
Best time to Visit
As the monument is built on a public space, out on the streets, there aren't any specific time boundaries for you to visit them. But try to visit the place till the sun is up, as it won't be visible later in the day.
There are no entry charges. Feel free to hang out in the area, click pictures and visit the nearby museum (The Fredrik Hendrik Museum) to know more about the history of Mauritius, especially the Dutch and French colonial settlements. F.Y.I the entry to the museum is also free of cost.
The compelling history of Mauritius is fascinating to know about, and there’s no place better than Vieux Grand Port – the area which brims in history – to satiate your thirst for knowledge.
A private vehicle is the best way to explore around Grand Port. Most tour operators in the area can hook you up with a full-day or half-day visit any part of the region. Those who don't wish to rent a vehicle, public transport is always an option available. Although less convenient, buses do run between Centre de Flacq and Mahébourg in every 20 minutes or so.