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Mauritius > Pictures and travelogues > Mahebourg area

Pictures from Mahebourg and Vieux Grand Port:
Beach to Pointe d'Esny, the manioc biscuit factory, and the Dutch Fort in the Southeast of Mauritius.


Pointe d'Esny beach, Mahebourg
Beach between Blue Bay and Pointe d'Esny, in Mahebourg area (Mauritius).

Just outside the town of Mahebourg, a long sandy beach stretches from the Pointe d'Esny to Blue Bay. Access to the beach from the parallel road is however often closed by the successive private properties set between the road and the beach. Blue Bay beach is the largest open beach in the area.

Manioc biscuit factory, Mahebourg
Manioc biscuit factory near Mahebourg.

The Rault biscuit factory has produced manioc biscuits using a traditional family recipe since 1870. It is set in Ville-Noire at the northern end of Mahebourg in the South East of Mauritius. The company belongs to the Sénèque - Rault family whose ancestors came from Brittany (France). It is run currently by the fourth generation. During working hours, this small factory is open to visitors who have the opportunity to taste the biscuits with a cup of tea/coffee at the end of the  visit. You cannot find similar factory in this part of the world.

Manioc biscuits is rather similar to "sablés bretons" which are cookies made in Brittany in the north-west of France, manioc (cassava) replacing wheat. They are small square shaped biscuits without any preservatives or artificial sweeteners.

The photo above shows the manioc biscuits baked on hotplates over stoves fuelled with sugar cane leaves. The business employs 10 people. The historical value of the factory has been recognized by the National Heritage Fund of Mauritius.

Dutch Fort, Mauritius
Ruins of the Dutch Fort in Vieux Grand Port, Mauritius. In fact, they are the ruins of the Lodge that the French built in the 18th century on the Dutch site. 
In the background: the Mahebourg Bay.


The Bay of Mahebourg - Vieux Grand Port in the Southeast of Mauritius is the cradle of the human history of the island and the first settlement by the Dutch and the French: the first Dutch settlers landed near Vieux Grand Port, the French established their first administration in the Mahebourg area, the main slave market of the island took place there too, and the English navy was defeated by the French in 1810 in the Bay.

Until the late 1500's, the island was uninhabited and hosted only sailors who went there just to get fresh water and food. In 1598, a Dutch expedition to the Indian Ocean landed in the bay of Vieux Grand Port and named the island "Mauritius", in honor of the Dutch sovereign, Prince Maurits van Nassau. The Dutch pioneers did not stay permanently there.

In 1638, the Dutch, on behalf of the Dutch East India Company, began to colonize the island, settled some people again in the same area, and built the Frederik Hendrik Fort near the today village of  Vieux Grand Port. The Dutch aimed at exploiting the resources of the island, especially ebony, a strong and dense wood. These activities necessitated the importation of Malagasy slaves. Discouraged by the difficulties, they left the island in July 1658.

The Dutch returned to the island a decade later for a second attempt at colonization. They rebuilt the fortress and introduced different cultures on the island. The fort was again restored when it was damaged by a revolt of slaves and later by an accidental explosion of cannon. However, considering that the Cape Peninsula in South Africa was a better source of supplies for their ships and doubting of the ability of the island to meet its own needs, the Dutch finally left Mauritius in 1710 after setting all their buildings on fire.

When, five years later, the French took possession of the island, they settled themselves first on the site abandoned by the Dutch, using the stones and materials still available. In 1735, the appointment of Count Mahé de La Bourdonnais as governor of the island gave a strong impetus to the economic development of the island, with, among others, the construction of a port on the west coast, the current city of Port Louis. The French maintained control over the island during a century and named it 'Isle de France".

In 1998 in order to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of the Dutch on the island, the ruins of the Frederik Hendrik Fort were rehabilitated and the site was landscaped. The fort is the oldest building of the island. In the beautiful park where they are located near Vieux Grand Port, the small Frederik Hendrik Museum was opened in1999. It briefly traces the history of the island, especially the period of the Dutch colonization.

Besides the Museum, the site consists mainly of The Lodge (i.e. the ruins of buildings that the French built in the 18th century on the Dutch site) and some traces of the Dutch Fort.  

Near the archaeological site, you find also the remains of the first Catholic church, Notre dame du Grand Pouvoir Church, in Mauritius.

A bit further to the north on the coast, at Pointe du Diable, you see some of the fortifications and cannons that controlled access to the Bay during the French era. They were used in the famous naval battle of Vieux Grand Port, which successfully opposed the French to the English in August 1810. This French naval victory over the British, the only one during the era of Napoleon Bonaparte, is mentioned on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Another key site in this battle, the Ile de la Passe, is located at the entrance to the Bay.

The story held that two of the heroes of the battle, Admiral Guy-Victor Duperré (French) and Sir Nesbit Josiah Willoughby (English), both injured were nursed side-by-side in a mansion at Mahebourg. The colonial house that was converted for the occasion into a war hospital is now the National History Museum.


 

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Mauritius > Pictures and travelogues > Mahebourg pictures

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Travel guide to Mauritius with many nice pictures.