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Images from a scenic drive through the Black River Gorges National Park and short walk photo essays

Mauritius’s native forest is one of the most threaten floras of the world with less than 2% native forest left on the island, most of which is in the Black River Georges National Park. The National Parks and Conservation Services of Mauritius was established in 1994 to manage the park, which is home to over three-hundred species of flowing plants and nine species of birds.

The park has a visitor centre on the west side and information centre on the east, picnic areas and 60 kilometres of trails through hilly forest and heathland. Most of the trails are point-to-point, except for the Mare Longue Loop, Macchabee Loop Forest and Macchabee-Colophanes circular trails. For the point-to-point trails, a taxi would be a good transport option – allowing drop off at the trails and pickup at the end of the trail. My preference was to hire/rental car allowing us to visit the park several times during of our three-week stay.

Trails from the Visitor Centre subpage features three photo essays of walks that start and finish at the centre carpark. Photo essays of walks that start and finish at the Le Petrin Information Centre and Alexandra Falls feature below.

Access the Black River Gorges National park:

(1) Via the Chamarel-Plaine Champagne Road from Case Noyale on the west coast through the village of Chamarel and enter the park. The road runs through the centre of the park providing access to the Gorges Viewpoint and Alexandra Falls finishing at the Les Mares roundabout on the B102 in the east.

(2) At the Petrin Information Centre, this is located opposite the junction of the Grand Bassin Road and the north-south B102 road from Chamouny to Vacoas-Phoenix/Curepipe.

(3) From the Black River Visitor Centre which is a short drive along the Les Gorges Road from Grande Revere Noire village on the west coast.

There is a map of the park on the National Parks and Conservation Services web site and the same map is in the park brochure; however, I found this map confusing, not accurate or detailed for walking especially when it comes to the Macchabee Trail and the two viewpoints.

The image of the map displayed at the Gorges Viewpoint was more accurate and useful, but the best has to be Google Earth.

Trees shade the trails sometimes totally enclosing them, which helps with the temperature in a tropical climate but detracts from the enjoyment, as you only get a few panoramic views of the scenery. The average temperature in the national park is around 19 centigrade in winter and 24 centigrade in summer making it ideal for walking, at any time of year, along its 60km of trails. It can be wet, as the average annual rainfall is about 100cm in the west to 400cm in the east.

The wildlife seen on the walks is mainly birds, reptiles and flora.

Scenic Drive to Black River Gorges Viewpoint and Alexandra Falls

It’s a good idea to take a scenic drive through the park and look at the panoramas before starting any walks; the Chamarel-Plaine Champagne road runs through the park, effectively cutting into two parts. It’s a scenic drive from Case Noyale on the west coast through the village of Chamarel to the Black River Gorges viewpoint on the Plaine Champagne plateau at nearly 700 m.

Black River Gorges Viewpoint

The Black River and its tributaries run from the Plaine Champagne plateau northwest towards the sea. My panoramic image shows the Riviere Noire Falls that cascade from the plateau and a view across the magnificent gorges towards the mountains in the north and the northwest coast. The gorges are reputed to be one of the best places to see white-tailed tropicbirds (Phaethon lepturus).

Near the carpark are the starting points for the Black River Peak and Trochettia trails. Trees and shrubs enclose the Trochettia trail and when I started to walk, I found it muddy and not that pleasant so I turned back.

Alexandra Falls

A short drive to the east of the Black River Gorges viewpoint is Alexandra Falls on the Riviere des Galets that flow south to the sea from the Plaine Champagne plateau. There is viewing platform allowing an elevated view of the Cascade and panoramas of the south coast.

The view to the south shows the tree and shrub park landscape petering out after a kilometre or so and sugar cane fields bordering the town of Chamouny on the south coast.

Trails from Alexandra Falls

There are two trails from carpark at Alexandra Falls. The first is a strenuous path, down the escarpment to the cascades on the Riviere des Galets. As this trail looked difficult for my wife to walk, we decided to take the second easygoing trail that runs east to the north-south B102 Chamouny to Vacoas-Phoenix/Curepipe road near the start of the Savanne Trail.

This unnamed trail is wide and it’s a pleasant walk although trees and shrubs enclose some stretches and there were no viewpoints, little wildlife, just a few interesting trees.

Along the trail there are several trees with damaged bark, it was difficult to determine whether its disease, wild board or natural peeling. There was a fallen palm where it was re-growing at the base and top of the truck and a tree where re-growth had taken place in three places along its trunk.

There was a Cordyline Palm, I’m not sure if there are any endemic species, this one resembled Cordyline australis.

Trails from the Petrin Information Centre

The Macchabee Trail at the Petrin Information Centre (Elevation 665 m) runs west for 10 kilometres down to the Black River Visitor Centre (Elevation 100 m). The Macchabee Viewpoint (Elevation 570 m) is roughly 5 kilometres from Petrin and follows the ridge along a wide track, which is moderate going including the return. We reached the Mare Longue Loop turnoff (about 3 kilometres) when it began to rain heavily so we turned back. It’s a difficult walk from Macchabee Viewpoint (570 m) down to the Visitor Centre with an overall elevation change of around 470 m, strenuous in parts so probably best done as a point-to-point walk.

The walk west from Petrin is initially through the forest where Cattley (Chinese) guava (Psidium cattleianum) which is being cleared from the forest so you see piles of stems left along the trail. Psidium cattleianum, a native of Brazil and naturalised in Mauritius, is one of the worst invasive species shading out native flora. Another invasive species is the naturalised Travellers Palm or Tree (Ravenala madagascariensis), which is endemic to Madagascar, it’s not a true palm as it belongs to the Strelitziaceae family. There is a viewpoint about one kilometre or so from Petrin with vistas across the gorges. At the viewpoint, we saw a Fandia Tree Fern (Cyathea excelsa) which is native to Mauritius and Reunion.

Navigation

White-tailed tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus), Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius, 2014 Riviere Noire falls (cascade), Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius, 2014 Alexandra Falls, Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius, 2014 Riviere des Galets at Alexandra Falls, Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius, 2014 South Coast from Alexandra Falls Lookout, Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius, 2014 Alexandra Falls, Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius, 2014 Trail from Alexandra Falls, Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius, 2014 Tree Re-growth, Alexandra Falls Trail, Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius, 2014 Palm Re-growth, Alexandra Falls Trail, Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius, 2014 Cordyline Palm Tree, Alexandra Falls Trail, Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius, 2014 Trail from Alexandra Falls, Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius, 2014 Damaged Tree, Alexandra Falls Trail, Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius, 2014 Macchabee Trail from Petrin, Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius, 2014 Cattley guava (Psidium cattleianum), Macchabee Trail from Petrin, Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius, 2014 Fandia Tree Fern (Cyathea excelsa), Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius, 2014 Travellers Palm (Ravenala madagascariensis), Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius, 2014 Mauritius Ornate Day Gecko, Macchabee Trail from Petrin, Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius, 2014 Northerly view across the Black River Gorges from the viewpoint on the Chamarel Curepipe road, Mauritius, 2014 Pond at Curepipe Botanic Gardens, Mauritius Black River Gorges National Park Map, Mauritius, 2014 View over the gorges from the Macchabee Trail, Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius, 2014 View over the gorges from the Macchabee Trail, Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius, 2014