Covering almost three percent of the island, Black River Gorges National Park is named after the black stones that line its river. Located in southwest Mauritius, the park covers lowland forest, marshy heathland and the last portion of ebony forest that once covered the entire island. It’s laced with hiking trails that range from half-hour rambles to more challenging day-long routes.
While the trails are marked, we’d suggest hiking with a guide who can tailor a route to your fitness level, as well as pointing out some of the rare wildlife and fauna. You might catch a glimpse of the endemic Mauritian kestrel or one of the 300 native species of flowers, but the real draw of the park is the landscape itself. Climb to one of the many viewing points and you’ll have views across the forest canopy that clings to the steep-sided hills.
You could stroll along Paille en Queue Trail, a gentle hour-long route that runs along a flat plateau, following streams through pine forest. More challenging routes are possible, including the hike to the peak of Piton de la Petite Rivière Noire, the highest in Mauritius at 821 m (2,694 ft).
If you’re eager to do lots of walking, consider pairing a beach stay with time near the national park. Lakaz Chamarel is a boutique lodge on the fringes of the park, near the town of Chamarel. From the lodge you can hike up Piton du Canot, a prominent, triangular peak to the southwest of the park. It’s a steep, one-hour trail to reach the summit but from the top you can see right across to Le Morne and the ocean beyond.
It’s also possible to climb Le Morne itself, the huge, almost cuboid rock that stands alone on a peninsula, looking across to Black River Gorges National Park. A UNESCO-protected landscape, the rock was originally used as a shelter by runaway slaves, who made settlements on the summit and the surrounding caves. The summit can only be accessed by a number of licenced mountain guides in an attempt to protect the site’s cultural importance, as well as making sure hikers are safe on the steep latter part of the trail.