There are different ways to experience the National park. The best one in my view is by hiking. But you can also just drive to a couple of viewpoints.
I personally visited Black River Gorges twice by now. Firstly I went there with Solis as part of our “Kouler Samarel” south tour. We drove the beautiful “Plaine Champange Road”, which goes straight through the national park, and stopped at the “Gorges Viewpoint”. From here we got a very nice view on the tropical-forest and a waterfall. With a bit of luck you are going to encounter Monkeys. I personally was not lucky that day, but we were there at the hottest time of the day, so I assume the monkeys were doing a siesta in some shadowy trees nearby.
My second trip into the national park was without any guidance. I and two of my friends from Germany drove up “Les Gorges Road” west of Grand Riviere Noir. The road brought us deep into the National Park and ended at a roomy parking lot with a visitor center and some other facilities. To get there we had to pass a gate and a relating sign which said it would get closed at 6pm. Also, we passed a couple of “Private Property – Do not enter” signs which we chose to ignore as they probably weren’t meant for us.
It already had drippedhere and there on our way to the national park entrance gate, but as soon as we entered the park it seriously started to rain. Runnels started to form on the street and the wipers of our rental car had to work overtime. We reached the parking lot and decided to wait for the weather to clear up. 20 minutes and a sandwich later the rain got less and we decided to go. After all, we were Germans so we are used to rain. And at least we had Mauritian temperatures!
We had a look at the Visitor Center, which is equipped with information about flora and fauna in the park and a map of the different trails. We wanted to do a loop trail which was not too long, so we chose to do the “Colophane Trail”. The trail would lead us deep into the national park, up a mountain, to the so called kiosk and back down to the parking lot.
As soon as we started walking the rain strengthened again. But the forest pulled us in anyway. The trees formed a roof high above us, shielding us from the worst of the rain. The black river rippled in the background, still clearly perceptible over the sound of the rain in the trees. We had to cross the river a couple of times. The trails in the park are generally well made, as are the bridges. Inconveniently, the river had risen a bit too high and was now flooding the bridges. This meant we would start our hike with wet feed. As we expected to get very wet anyway, we thought “whatever” and went our way. A group of well equipped, but completely soaked (and kind of grumpy looking) hikers hurried the other way back to the parking lot. At the next cross-way we followed the signs for the Colophane trail to the right. The trail led us out of the valley with its old and high trees and up a mountain side to an area which was more dominated by lower trees, shrubs and an occasional eucalyptus or palm tree. Here the trail was partly made from tarmac and very easy to use even in the wet. After ascending for a little while the trees opened up for the first time and we found ourselves low above the treetops of the valley. Flying foxes occasionally passed by and left us impressed. Neither me nor my friend had seen one of these monsters flying during the day, yet.
Going further through the forest we found a viewpoint which amazed us with its colors. We went down a trail dominated by dark greed shrubs and trees. As they opened up we faced a wide clearing with bright green grass and an erosion side which exposed soil in a powerful red. The sky above us was still grey though, as the weather still altered between miserable and horrible rain. Still, we did not really care about the rain, we were creating memories.
On our way further up we found lots of Chinese guava, which were a welcome snack. By now the trail was not made from tarmac anymore and at parts it had turned into a river. It was slippery, but not too steep. We really felt like we were in a rain-forest!
A couple of kilometers, jumps over streams and stops to pick guava later we reached the top of the mountain. Here I saw a monkey sitting in a tree looking rather miserable and wet. It did not really feel like company though. As soon as it saw us, it was gone in seconds.
Finally the weather turned better. Spots of blue became visible and as soon as we reached the kiosk, the sky was blue and we had the most amazing view. In front of us the forest was stretching over hillsides and down to the coast where we could see Black River Bay.
Apparently we were not the only ones being excited about the sun coming out. A swallow circled around us and flew straight at us only to make sharp turns a few meters in front of us.
Our way down was way steeper but shorter than the way up. Luckily the rain kept away so that the descent was doable. We could see that during the worst rain this trail must have basically been a waterfall. That would have been a pain to get down that.
At that point we realized that we had taken 4 hours to get to the Kiosk. As a result we had to get back to the car in maximum two hours to get out before the gate closed. We did not really know how much shorter the way back was, so we had to speed up a bit.
We reached the car park 5 hours after starting our hike. We were wet, but amazed. Black River Gorges is simply a stunning place, even in the rain!