Since the island was populated, Mauritius changed a lot. Much of the Rain-forest which ones dominated the landscape had to make place for farmland. However, you can still experience the original Mauritius in the Black River Gorges National Park!
The National Park
Black River Gorges National Park can be found the South West of the island. The park is 6,574 ha in size and therefore covers about 3.5% of whole Mauritius. The actual national park only exists since 1994. Since this time, the Government (in form of the National Parks and Conservation Services) takes an active conservation approach to manage the park.
National Parks distinguish between active and passive conservation. Herby the difference lays in the grade of activity the management undertakes to protect biodiversity and endemic species. Active conservation encompasses active treatments like forest thinning or population control, whereas passive conservation lets nature go its course with only minimizing the human impact.
Black River Gorges focuses on active control because their ecosystem faces the same problem as the rest of the island: A large amount of invasive flora and fauna species. In order to protect the endemic plants, invasive plants have to be controlled wherever they get the upper hand. The most obvious of the invasive plants to find on a hike through the park might be Eucalyptus and Chinese guava. They often can be found in the more elevated parts of the hillsides. Also because of these invasive plants, the endemic plants in the Mauritian forest are seen as some of the most threatened in the world. According to Mauritian-wildlife.org around 200 of the 315 endemic plants are threatened and around 70 already wherelost. Nevertheless, you will also find a lot of traces for conservation activities like fencing, tree thinning or destructed termite nests. All this is done to improve the conditions and decrease the competition for the rare endemic plants.
Of course the national park is the place on the island which shows the biggest biodiversity. Of the approximately 700 plant species on Mauritius you can find around 310 in this 65km2 area. Within the park there are diverse micro climates with different annual rainfall and therefore different types of forests. With the right knowledge or a knowledgeable guide you can discover a lot of plants which will be hard (if not impossible) to find anywhere else in the world.
Also in terms of wildlife the park has much to offer. Especially for birding the opportunities are unique and many. Pink pigeon, Mauritius Bulbul or Mauritius Parakeet can be seen. If you want to find out a bit more about birding on Mauritius, have a look at THIS blog.
If you are more of a mammal fan you should look out for the Mauritian flying fox (a giant fruit bat) or macaque monkeys. Flying foxes can be spotted easily from the distance. Even though they actually night active and mostly settle down at sunrise, in the Black River Gorges they frequently can be spotted during the day. Macaque monkeys will be found sitting in the trees having a lookout. At spots which are more crowded with tourists the are also looking for bananas and other food.
When you are on Mauritius the Black River Gorges National Park is definitely worth a visit! It offers endless and unique hiking opportunities and stunning views. Also, it is very easy to access from the east, west or south.
Stay tuned for my story about 3 Germans discovering the park in pouring rain and thunder next week!