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Mauritius > Pictures and travelogues > Port Louis (part 3)

The Museums Port Louis: the Blue Penny Museum, the Natural History Museum of Mauritius, the Dodo and the Mikado Shell Museum.

Pictures from Port Louis (third part)

Blue Penny Museum,  Port Louis
The Blue Penny Museum at Port Louis, Mauritius, in December with Christmas trees.

Port Louis has a number of highly specialized museums that are worth a visit. The best internationally-known of them is the Blue Penny Museum, a philatelic museum located in the Caudan Waterfront complex. It is open since 2001.

The Blue Penny Museum brings together collections of rare postage stamps. The two most famous of them are the orange-red one penny and the deep blue two pence, which are the first stamps issued by the Mauritius Post in 1847 and also the first ones issued by a British colony. These stamps are marked "Post Office". These words were changed to "Post Paid" in the subsequent issues. At the time, many of these stamps were used to send an invitation to a ball given by the wife of Sir William Gomm,  British Governor of the island.

A Mauritian consortium led by the Mauritius Commercial Bank bought in 1993 some of these rare stamps for an amount of 2 million pounds and brought them back to the island, creating a few years later the Blue Penny Museum. For preservation reasons, copies of these valuable stamps are usually shown in the museum.

While 500 stamps of each "Post office" series were printed, only six mint stamps and twenty-one canceled stamps would be left. Excepted for private collections and the Blue Penny Museum in Port Louis, a copy of these stamps can be seen only in museums in Berlin, Stockholm, The Hague and in the British Library in London.

Besides the Blue Penny Museum, Port Louis is home also to the Mauritius Postal Museum which is adjacent to the Post Office Building. It displays the postal and philatelic heritage of Mauritius. It is run run by the Mauritius Post. The island was the fifth country in the whole world to issue stamps
. The Mauritius Postal Museum is housed in a 18th century building that has been listed as a National Heritage.

Natural History Museum, Port Louis
The Natural History Museum of Mauritius, célèbre pour ses représentations du dodo.

The Mauritius Natural History Museum is located in the center of Port Louis, next to the Jardins de la Compagnie and its giant banyan trees. The museum, established in 1880 (making it the oldest museum in the country), specializes in the biodiversity of the Mascarene islands (Mauritius, Reunion, and Seychelles). It has a large collection of representations of land and sea fauna of Mauritius. A reconstruction of the dodo is one of the main attractions of the museum.

The dodo (less known under its scientific name, Raphus cucullatus) is a very large bird, related to pigeons. It was endemic to Mauritius. Dodos were not able to fly since they found abundant food on earth and had no predators in Mauritius. The dodo lays only one egg a year. The arrival of settlers on the island in the 17th century, however, was fatal to Dodos. They were slaughtered for food by sailors and settlers while rats that boats had brought killed their offspring. After 80 years of human presence in Mauritius, the dodo has completely disappeared.

The dodo is not the only extinct species in the Mascarene Islands: the Rodrigues Solitaire and the Red Rails (both flightless birds), and some other endemic species also disappeared for similar reasons. But, the dodo remains the emblem of the endemic species which were completely eliminated by imported elements. It is also the national emblem of the Republic of Mauritius.

Dodo, Mauritius
Painting of the Dodo at the Natural History Museum of Mauritius in Port Louis.

The Mauritius Institute which manages the Natural History Museum is also a study center. The Institute leads a team of international researchers who carried out excavations at Mare aux Songes near Grand Port and brings to light bones of dodos. The Mauritius Institute hosts also a rich specialized library, which is the largest of Mauritius with tens of thousands of books.

Port Louis Shell Museum
Coral and shell at the Shell Museum in Port Louis, Mauritius.

The Shell Museum at Port Louis, also known as the Mikado shell Museum, is housed on the first floor of the Mikado jewelry in the city center, near the Grand Bazaar. With some 3,000 shells of all sizes and colors, it displays the largest private collection of shells from the Indian Ocean.

The Museum of Shells was created in 1972 in Tamarin by a diving specialist, Vic Chakowa, who wanted to present his personal collection of corals and shells to the public. Later on, the museum moved to Port Louis and was enriched by the shells that the collector Descrozilles has gathered for several decades.

The Museum contains almost all kinds of shells known in the region. The shells are sorted by species. A section is devoted to anomalies and strange specimens. The shells are presented in a pleasant space, yet relatively small. The museum is visited not only by connoisseurs and collectors but also by the uninitiated who are always amazed by the beauty and diversity of molluscs: gastropods, cephalopods and others.

This friendly museum is worth a visit, especially since museums in Port Louis are a haven of peace and coolness in a hectic city with tropical temperatures. Free entry. Open weekdays (Saturday morning only).

Port Louis has still other museums like the Museum of Photography. Taking pictures inside is prohibited in some museums such as the Blue Penny Museum.



Blue Penny museum
information about the blue penny museum in port louis, from the caudan waterfront.
Blue Penny museum
web site of the blue penny museum in port louis, mauritius.
information about the mauritius dodo, from the oxford university museum of natural history.
Mauritius Museums Council
official site of the mauritius museums council.

See also

Mauritius > Pictures and travelogues > Flic en Flac and Wolmar

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Travel guide to Mauritius with many nice pictures.