While Mauritius is mostly about beaches and sunbathing and swimming in glittering azure water, there is a lot more to Mauritius than just its tropical touristy beaches. The island has a long history of colonisation, and apart from the heritage buildings and structures that remain as the vestiges of a colonial past, the ecosystem of the island – including flora and fauna – have a long history of conservation too. Mauritius is thus home to plenty of nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries, wherein flora and fauna – endemic or otherwise – are conserved in their natural habitats.
One such famous sanctuary in Mauritius is the Vallée de Ferney, located in the Grand Port District of Mauritius. Nestled at the foothills of the Bambou Mountains, the Vallée de Ferney is one of the last existing nature sanctuaries in Mauritius, which is what makes it a trendy tourist hotspot. Spread out over an area of around 200 hectares; the sanctuary acts as a reserve for some of the rarest or threatened plant species in the island. Most of these species are endemic to Mauritius and are the last few remaining rare species of the island.
Established in 2006 in partnership with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF), the Vallée de Ferney stands as a testament to the fight against commercialisation. Back in 2004, a highway was supposed to be constructed through the entire area where the nature reserve stands today, necessitating the clearing of the whole forest, which would put the plants and animals at risk. After a long fight with the authorities, the locals of the area managed to get the construction of the highway cancelled, and two years later, the Vallée de Ferney was built to commemorate the fight for conservation of the country’s indigenous flora and fauna.
Since the reserve is spread out over a subsequently large area, the walking trail through the entire park is relatively long. You can choose to walk the whole path on your own, taking a guide is recommended, because that way you’ll get to know a lot more about the different kinds of species that you’ll see on your way, as well as their history on the island. The very entrance to the reserve has on display a stone museum that outlines, in brief, the history of the sanctuary.
Throughout the entire trail, the most famous rare flora and fauna you will come across are the Mauritian kestrels (the kestrel is the most well-known species in reserve), and some rare ebony and nail wood trees. A few years back, the Mauritian kestrel had almost reached the point of extinction, but very careful conservation by the MWF and the National Park Conservation services saved the species from extinction, and the current count of kestrels all over the island stands at a healthy 400. Special feedings for the Mauritian kestrel are arranged at noon every day, which visitors to the park are welcome to see.
The landscape of the Vallée de Ferney in all its entirety consists mostly of rainforests that have been rehabilitated back into ecosystems fit for the conservation of many endemic endangered plant species, such as the Eugenia bojeri and the Pandanus iceryi. Due to increasing commercialisation and industrialisation all over Mauritius, very few of the island’s indigenous ecosystems still exist, and the Vallée de Ferney stands today as one of the last remaining nature sanctuaries across the entire country.
Unlike most other nature reserves on the island, though, prior bookings need to be made to visit the Vallée de Ferney, and while that might sound a little inconvenient, the sheer variety of flora and fauna you get to see once you enter the reserve more than makes up for it!
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