First Published on January 18, 2017
Can you guess what could be my “one thing” to see in Mauritius? If your answer is “Beaches”, then you would actually be wrong. It was the 7-colored earth at Chamarel. I had come across Chamarel during my initial research on Mauritius and that would actually, date back to over 10 years. I was quite fascinated with the pictures that I had seen and the descriptions that I had read or heard from people. 7 distinct colors of earth in one single place was indeed a rare, natural phenomenon – one that I had heard of only in Mauritius. Beaches in Mauritius was an obvious thing to do but visiting Chamarel was something that I was determined to do. Here goes my account of my first and only visit to Chamarel to see the 7 colors of the earth.
Contrary to my belief that the Nature park with the 7 colored earth was called Chamarel, it is actually a village in Mauritius. As I understood from the locals, it is one of the many villages of Riviera Noire District of Mauritius and was named after its French owner – Charles Antoine de Chazal de Chamarel, who owned the entire village. The village is quite self-sufficient and relies on agriculture for its means. You will find many coffee and sugarcane plantations along the way.
Chamarel has more than just the seven-colored earth as attractions. Chamarel is also, known for a nature park, a waterfall, an ancient church and a fun entertainment center called Curious corner. The village also, has a few hotels and resorts for many travelers come here for adventure sports like mountain biking, zip lines and ropeways. Essentially, it is one key tourist area in Mauritius that offers you something beyond its beaches.
A pit stop at Varangue Sur Morne
We set off for Chamarel from Grand Baie in North Mauritius. The drive to the place was quite smooth but long as Chamarel is located in a hilly region down South Mauritius. As your landscape changes from the beaches to hilly terrains, you will also, witness a distinct drop in the temperature. The warm sea breeze is left behind as the cool, misty mountain air takes over.
We got some of the best views of this area at our pit stop at a restaurant called Varangue Sur Morne. This is quite a popular place with many celebs like Robert de Niro and Sonia Gandhi having visited here. The place serves lovely Mauritian food and among the many dishes that they had served, I particularly relished the Palm heart salad and the unusual dessert Sagoo.
Check out this gorgeous view of the Black River Gorges of Chamarel that I captured from the restaurant. I understand that you can even opt for a nature trail through this restaurant which get you up close and personal with some of these endemic plants of Mauritius. However, for us, time was short and after a scrumptious meal, we continued to the main attraction of Chamarel – the Seven Colored Earth.
Seven Colored Earth of Chamarel
Though I was forewarned. I could not help getting a tad bit disappointed that the entire natural wonder was a small area contained within a fence. However, note my adjective – “TAD” for more than the disappointment was a wondrous feeling. The entire setting in front of me was a nature’s artwork of colors and textures that were perfectly blended and yet contrasting. I wondered how the entire stretch had such distinct layers – it was as if someone had perfectly arranged each mound of color to create a 3D effect. However, there is an explanation for the same.
Science behind the Seven Colored Earth of Chamarel
Essentially the sand here is volcanic sand that over time has decomposed. Primarily they are Iron and Aluminium compounds that repel each other and hence, do not mix together. Thus, even when they are mixed and put together, they separate out to form these distinct layers. You can even try this with the little test-tube curios that are sold at the souvenir shop of Chamarel.
The sand is essentially devoid of nutrients that allow plant growth and hence, this entire stretch is barren. There are two view points where you can observe and admire the mesmerizing effect of nature’s artwork. See if you can spot the 7 colors of the earth – violet, purple, red, blue, brown, yellow and green in any of my pictures.
Besides the main attraction of the seven colored earth, you can also, try some bird-watching. There are some really pretty birds who seem to be regular inhabitants of this place. Also, don’t miss saying Hi to the giant tortoise who live in the park.
The Curious Corner of Chamarel
Exiting the park, we headed straight for a fun time at the Curious corner of Chamarel. This place essentially uses the light and shadow play to create illusions and funny situations. It is like a maze of puzzles and riddles that need to be solved as you proceed from one room to another. From lopsided rooms to bottomless elevators and topsy-turvy rooms – we had quite a few memorable, light-hearted moments at this park and I would definitely recommend it for kids. Did you notice how I turned into a kid? 😉
Other attractions of Chamarel
Owing to the paucity of time, there were a few attractions that I could not visit in Chamarel. However, given another chance, I would not miss the following –
- Chamarel waterfall – for the scenic waterfalls that drop down 100 m or more.
- Rhumerie de Chamarel – for its rum collection and rum tasting experience
The one thing that I can assure you is that even if I were to have seen the waterfall and the Rhumerie at Chamarel, my number one attraction here would always be the Seven Colored earth. I cannot get over the miracle of nature and even now when I see my own photographs, I feel so amazed and awed by it. The seven colored earth of Chamarel in Mauritius is really one of its kind and definitely one of the must-visit places in Mauritius. I wonder if you agree.
- Chamarel is located in South Mauritius – specifically, Plaine Champagne Road. From Grand Baie, this place is a one and half hour drive while from Bel Ombres, it is just 30 mins
- The best way to get here is to hire a taxi or a car. The roads to Chamarel are quite well done and the incline is not very steep.
- Buses to Chamarel can be found using this website.
- The entrance fees for the seven colored earth is 200 Mauritian Rupees for an adult. For a local, it is 125 Mauritian Rupees.
- The park opens at 8:30 am and they say that sunrise is the best time to view the seven colored earth. The park closes by 17:00 hours.
- You are not allowed to walk or touch the seven colored sand. You can only walk around the fence and observe it.
- The place has clean restrooms, a small cafe, and souvenir shop.
- Here is the official website of the Curious corner of Chamarel. You can use this site to book your tickets for this attraction. The price per adult is 300 Mauritian Rupees. You can get a discount of 10% if you book online.
- The Curious corner also closes by 17:30 hours
- A trip to Chamarel can be combined to include all these attractions as they are all in close proximity.
- If you are traveling from North Mauritius, keep aside at least a day for this area owing to the driving distance.
- A light shawl is recommended as the area is a little cooler than the rest of Mauritius.