Photo: László Wiandt

Mauritius – rocky monuments, forts and museums, sugar cane plantations

We continue our visit to the wonders of Mauritius. The next stop on the journey, who would have thought, but it is strongly linked to India. Around 60% of Mauritius' population is of Indian origin, with ancestors mainly from the Indian subcontinent, mainly from regions such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. I thought it was important to mention all this because the next site is called Ganga Talao, or as the locals prefer to call it, Grand Bassin, one of the largest cultural and religious sites in Mauritius.
10. September 2023 5:59

The Ganga Talao is a crater lake about 550 metres above sea level in the south-western mountainous district of Savannah. It’s like being in India, the location. The Hindu inhabitants of the island are descendants of the half a million indentured labourers brought to Mauritius by subjects of the British Empire in the 19th century with the false promise of a better life.

But the life that awaited them was far from that. Aboard the ships crossing the Indian Ocean, disease was rife: cholera, smallpox, malaria and yellow fever. It claimed lives at sea and in the many quarantines on Mauritius’ doorstep. Those who made it ashore worked as labourers in the sugar cane fields in harsh conditions. This was not slavery, but it was far from what we call a normal, healthy working environment.

One of the driving forces in those difficult times was their faith and religion. The sacred lake, also known as the Ganga Talao, symbolises the mighty Ganges River in India. In Mauritius, many people visit this place to pray, meditate, play with the local monkeys or simply walk by the lake and enjoy the beautiful views.

The Ganga Talao crater lake is also the centrepiece of one of the island’s most important Hindu festivals, Maha Shivaratri. Every year thousands of Hindus make the bumpy journey to Grand Bassin to touch the deity. The pilgrims bring handmade „kanvars” – shrines dedicated to Shiva – to the Ganga Talao, and once they find a suitable spot on the waterfront, they offer fruit, incense sticks and lamps for their own prayer rituals. The history of Ganga Talao Lake as a pilgrimage site dates back to 1887.

In 2007, a huge statue of the Hindu god Siva was unveiled, which is still the tallest statue in Mauritius at 33 metres high. It is also the site of the huge statue of the god Durga, who greets us on arrival.

Photo: László Wiandt


Where the rocks hold sad memories – the Le Morne cultural landscape

If there’s one thing that’s fascinating, moving and harrowing, it’s the mountain and peninsula of Le Morne and the memorial site in front of it. Located in the south-west of Mauritius, the mountain was a refuge for runaway slaves, the Maroons, in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Sheltered by the isolated, wooded and almost inaccessible cliffs of the mountain, small settlements were established in the caves and on the summit of Le Morne. Many people threw themselves down from here because they saw no way out to change their lives, or because they believed in reincarnation and that they would be free in their new life.

Oral traditions linked to the Maroons have made Le Morne a symbol of the slaves’ struggle for freedom, suffering and sacrifice, and all these are also linked to the slaves’ countries of origin – the African continent, Madagascar, India and South-East Asia.

Outstanding Universal Value – The Le Morne cultural landscape is an exceptional testimony to resistance to slavery, as the mountain was used as a fortress to house runaway slaves, and there is both physical and oral evidence to support this. Le Morne represents the maroonage and its influence, which existed in many parts of the world, but which only manifested itself in this form on Mount Le Morne.

The mountain is a symbol of the slaves’ struggle for freedom, their suffering and sacrifice, which, beyond its geographical location, is linked to the countries from which the slaves came, mainly from the African continent, Madagascar, India and South-East Asia, and which is represented by the Creole people of Mauritius and their common memories and oral traditions to this day. At the foot of the mountain, each country where slavery once existed is represented by a statue or monument, a fascinating and moving experience. The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Photo: László Wiandt

More than just the story of sugar – L’Aventure du Sucre

Discovering the history of the island is an essential part of your holiday in Mauritius. The Sugar Museum is the place where we can trace the history of the whole country through the most important events, presented to us through objects and key sites. It is an eco-museum with a unique exhibition in a magical setting.

Mauritius’ rich cultural and historical heritage has always been linked to the sugar industry. It has been a central pillar of the Mauritian economy for two centuries and is now synonymous with innovation. The sector, which produces sugar, rum, bio-fertilisers, green energy and animal feed, is at the heart of the circular economy model and plays a key role in environmental protection, agriculture and other industries.

The second part of the museum reveals the secrets of the island’s famous sugar production. A fully restored and converted sugar factory where films about early Mauritius are set. Go back 250 years into the past and discover here the full history of Mauritius, from colonial settlements to today’s ethnic and cultural melting pot. Interactive visitor guides, including animated models, short films and giant flip-books, help you do just that. Enjoy a variety of sugar and rum tastings and buy souvenirs while you’re here in the museum’s boutique.

The museum is committed to preserving Mauritius’ five hundred years of architectural, industrial and natural heritage. It shares with visitors the country’s culinary and gastronomic traditions and is on a mission to make culture accessible to as many people as possible.

Photo: László Wiandt

The history of sugar in Mauritius

Sugar cane has an unusual history – a history that has left its mark on most aspects of life in Mauritius, changing people and their mentality, shaping society and the landscape, and inspiring much of the culture. The first sugar cane plantation was established in 1639, after the arrival of the first settlers – the Dutch. But the Dutch gave up and left the island, finding living conditions too difficult to establish a viable colony.

When the French conquered the island in 1715, they initially focused on other crops: indigo, coffee, ebony. It was only in the 1740s, under the leadership of Governor Mahé de Labourdonnais, that sugar cane cultivation was introduced. After the abolition of slavery in 1835, the Mauritius planters – who had been under British rule since 1810 – were forced to find new labour to tend the crops. The British colonial administration brought in hundreds of indentured labourers from India – one of the largest migratory waves in Mauritius’ history.

The sugar sector was gradually transformed into a sugar cane industry. From nearly 250 sugar factories in the 19th century, the 21st century saw three ultramodern sugar factories. The industry is no longer just about growing sugar cane to produce sugar; it has expanded into other sectors, notably the production of green electricity for the island. The Mauritian economy has diversified, but sugar remains one of the country’s main exports, as evidenced by the vast sugar cane plantations that cover the island.


The sugar cane

The sustainable benefits of sugar cane for the planet. It is Mauritius’ primary renewable energy source (used as fuel for green energy production), protects the soil against erosion and its roots stabilise it. In addition, since sugar cane is replanted every seven years or so, the cane disturbs the soil little while stimulating microflora.

Sugar cane is a champion of carbon sequestration and acts as a carbon sink, thanks to its enhanced ability to absorb carbon dioxide and recycle oxygen. It reduces temperatures by nearly 1°C thanks to its ability to retain and evaporate water and reflect sunlight. It has a negative carbon footprint: -0.17 kg of CO2 equivalent for every kilogram of sugar produced along the entire chain.


The first man-made building in Mauritius

It was with great anticipation that I visited one of the most famous buildings in Mauritius, as it is living history itself, each stone laid by a different nation, constantly adding to what was once a simple farm building. Well the Frederik Hendrik Fort is indeed a real historical site in Mauritius and for me it was a very moving feeling to walk on the stones that were first laid here by human hands on the island. What you need to know about this important architectural masterpiece of history is essential:

The Frederik Hendrik Museum is located on the south-east coast of Mauritius, on the historic site of Vieux Grand Port, the cradle of Mauritian history. It is the site of the first human settlement in Mauritius. The island was first discovered by the Dutch in 1598, but it was not until 1638 that they settled here, when they built Fort Frederik Hendrik.

The Dutch left the island in 1710, finding it unsuitable for farming and subsistence. The French claimed Mauritius in 1715 and established their first local government there in 1722. The French later moved their administration to Port Louis, but the site was developed as a military post to ensure the security of the bay and the island. After the military station was also moved to the newly created town of Mahebourg in 1806, the area was abandoned.

Fort Frederik Hendrik, like many other historic sites, provides an insight into the colonial history of the region and the struggles for control between the various European powers. It commemorates the island’s past and its importance on the global trade routes of the time.


The Vanilla Islands

Many of us have heard the term ‘Vanilla Islands’ and suspect it means some kind of exotic conurbation, but what exactly is it? The Vanilla Islands is a tourism marketing concept that promotes a group of Indian Ocean islands in the eastern, south-eastern part of Africa. The concept was developed to jointly promote and market these islands as a single tourist destination. The Vanilla Islands are made up of the Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Réunion and Mayotte (which officially belong to France).

These islands are collectively known as the Vanilla Islands because of their common characteristics such as stunning beaches, rich cultural heritage, diverse flora and fauna and a tropical paradise environment. The concept of the Vanilla Islands was created to increase the visibility and attractiveness of these destinations in the global tourism market, encouraging travellers to explore more islands within the group during their trip.

Each island has its own unique attractions and characteristics, but the marketing concept of the Vanilla Islands aims to highlight the synergies between them, making it easier for tourists to plan multi-island itineraries and experience the diverse beauty and culture of the region.


  • Photo: László Wiandt

  • Photo: László Wiandt

  • Photo: László Wiandt

  • Photo: László Wiandt

  • Photo: László Wiandt

  • Photo: László Wiandt

  • Photo: László Wiandt

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