As the island nation of Mauritius celebrates its 50th year of independence this year (in 2018) it’s unusual not to wonder about the long colonial history of the country. Talking to the locals made me realise, how most of them are from different indigenous groups with ancestors who had traveled to Mauritius at some point in time. The diverse communities with their colorful heritage, culture and customs make Mauritius a fascinating destination for history lovers. Inspired by the stories, we drove through the island in search of historical monuments and ruins to create our Ultimate Mauritius Map for History Lovers.
Mauritius is believed to have been discovered by Arabs, Malays, Portuguese before it was visited by Dutch settlers in the early seventeenth century. The island, thousands of miles away from nearest civilization, was a tropical shelter for ebony forests and wild animals like dodos and giant tortoises.
The Dutch first landed in Grand Port and the monument commemorating their first steps is called Dutch Landing. The Dutch settled finally around 1638 and introduced sugarcane farming along with rice, tobacco and indigo crops. They built the Fort Frederik Hendrik as the base of administration officials close to the Dutch Landing. The ruins of this fort can be visited along with the museum which has exhibits that were excavated from this site in Vieux Grand Port.
After the Dutch abandoned the island in 1710 due to frequent cyclones, the French took control of the island in 1715. They also built important landmarks like the Governor house, Pamplemousses Garden, Chateaus, fortifications etc which forged the architectural landscape of the island.
Next up on our Mauritius map is the Mahebourg naval museum, which is another interesting place to understand the history of the country. Also known as the Gheude Castle, it was owned by the de Robillard family. This chateau is also significant as it housed the two injured commanders of the French and English navies for treatment after the Battle of Vieux Grand Port. The exhibits shed light on the military and naval history of the Dutch, French and the British.
The house also shares the story about the extinction of Dodo birds and giant tortoises due to consumption by the Dutch and French. Yet another reminder of how human actions can destroy nature’s treasures.
The trail through the southern part of the island has some beautiful chateaus and plantation houses. Rhumerie de Chamarel is a winery and offers rum tasting along with the tour of the property. The Bois Cheri tea plantation dates back to end of 19th century and is the first tea plantation in the island. The colonial house in Bois Cheri is the second part of the Tour “La Route du Thé” ( This tour is a full day tour and links the remaining colonial houses of the island starting at Curepipe and ending at St Aubin).
An important highlight in South Mauritius is the Slave Trade Monument, just beneath the Le Morne Brabant mountain. Recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site, the mountain is a symbol of the struggle of freedom against slavery as it was inhabited by the escaped slaves and marooners, in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Surrounded by an astounding optical illusion of a falling waterfall, this mountain has a dark history. It is believed that after the abolition of slavery in 1834, a group of policemen had gone to the mountains to announce that the slaves were free now. However, the slaves mistook this as an attempt to arrest them and valuing their freedom more than the life of slavery they jumped off the mountain ending their lives. The Slave Trade monument narrates the story of this unfortunate tragedy and stands as a witness to the history of slave trade.
The abolishment of slavery also created grounds for “The Great Experiment” by the British to demonstrate the superiority of ‘free’ over slave labour in its plantation colonies. As a result, thousands of indentured labourers were brought to Mauritius, from India, Eastern Africa, Madagascar, China and Southeast Asia to work on the island’s sugar estates.
Apravasi Ghat in Port Louis is a UNESCO world heritage site and has the remains of the immigration depot that was the receiving center for the indentured labourers in Mauritius. Despite of the harsh living and working conditions, the experiment was a success. It led the other colonial powers to adopt this system resulting in movement of about two million people as indentured labourers.
There are some other prominent historical buildings in and around Port Louis and you can read this article to know more about them. The British also built a military fort on top of the hill, overlooking the port to protect the city from its enemies. The citadel fort or Adelaide fort is a must visit to capture stunning panoramic views of the city and the ocean beyond.
The Dutch, French and British rule has left many monuments through the country, some famous while some forgotten. We have tried to cover most of them in our Mauritius map that can be used for a one or two-day road trip around the island.