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Mauritius > Pictures and travelogues > South Coast

Pictures from the south coast of Mauritius: the crying rock, the Saint Aubin estate, the Heritage Le Telfair golf course and the Bois Cheri tea factory.

The crying rock on the south coast of Mauritius.

The south coast of Mauritius contrasts considerably with the other coasts of the island. The south coast is wild. The beaches are less beautiful and less numerous. On more than twenty kilometers, the south coast is no longer protected by a coral reef. The southern agitated waters are not suitable for diving or other water sports.

However, pursuant to a governmental program aiming at developing the Mauritian coast with integrated tourism services, some resorts and series of self catering accommodation have settled in Bel Ombre on the south coast of the island as from 2004.  At the same time, recreational facilities including a golf course, were created too. So, a new tourist zone has developed in Bel Ombre, with its own characteristics such as available space and tranquility. These investments are welcome in a region that has been severely affected by the decline of the sugar industry. 

Long before these new developments, the south coast of Mauritius already had a few attractions and curiosities. The Vanille Réserve des Mascareignes - a zoological garden (see photos here) - is an outstanding example of them.

The crying rock is another one. It is a 10 m high rocky promontory dramatically hit by the ocean waves. Water brought to the cliffs falls back down, as a torrent of tears. The place was named by the poet Robert Edward Hart (who lived in the area) after a human-shaped rock of the cliffs that seemed to cry. In the meantime, however, the rock has been swept away by the waves.

The crying rock is located near Souillac on the south coast of the island. Just near to the crying rock, you find the small Gris-Gris beach so that each of these sites offers a panoramic view over the other. It is told that the Gris-Gris beach is named after a small domestic dog that would have once been carried away by the waves.

The "Soufleur" is another curiosity of the wild southern coastline of Mauritius: the ocean waves hitting the cliffs rush into a gap under the cliff and then gush through a hole on the surface like a geyser. On the west coast of Reunion Island a bit to the south of Saint-Leu, you may find a similar attraction which is due to a kind of chimney created by the erosion of the cliff.

Vanilla plant
Vanilla plant from the Saint-Aubin estate on the south coast of Mauritius.

On the south coast of Mauritius, the Saint Aubin Estate is open to visitors. It is located a few kilometers away from Souillac. It includes the Vanilla House, an Anthurium (flowers) greenhouse, a spice garden, a short botanical path, the Saint Aubin Rum House and the Saint Aubin colonial house. 

Saint Aubin is the only plantation of vanilla in Mauritius. Cultivation occurs under covered greenhouses. The cultivar is Bourbon Vanilla, just like in Reunion Island and Madagascar.

In the Vanilla House, the cultivation of vanilla and the production process of the famous aromatic pods are explained with a video and various illustrations (images and tools). In the adjacent greenhouse, a few vanilla plants are mingled with anthuriums. 

The vanilla pods are picked green and then heated briefly to stop the vegetative growth. Then, the pods are immediately placed between blankets in large boxes and kept warm  for a few hours so that they lose water and get their beautiful black color. Thereafter, they are dried in the sun and in the shade during a few weeks. Finally, they are put in closed wooden trunks for 8 months. During this period, the flavor develops. The trunks are visited daily to remove any moldy pods. After this process, they are ready for conditioning and sale

The nearby Saint Aubin Rum House started to produce Rhum agricole in 2003. Rhum agricole (literally, agricultural rum) is produced by direct distillation of sugarcane juice exclusively while industrial rum is made from molasses or other sugarcane by-products.

The juice from crushed sugarcanes is collected in tanks where yeast is added. After three days, the juice becomes a 5% alcohol. Then, it is distilled by heating in a column still.
The distillation product is a 80% alcohol. Adding water produces White Rum at the legal alcohol rate (40 or 50%). Rhum Arrangé (blended rum) is obtained by adding coffee (from Chamarel) or vanilla (from the estate) or Cinnamon. The rum is then aged in oak barrels for 2 or 3 years or even eight years for the better. The tour ends with tasting and shopping.

The only other agricultural rum distillery in Mauritius, the Rhumerie Chamarel is a larger production unit which is also located south of the island, in the Chamarel area. It is also open to visitors.The other rum distilleries on the island produce only industrial rum.

The Saint Aubin colonial house belonged formerly to the owner of the local sugar cane plantations. It has been renovated and is now a guesthouse. It is part of the National Heritage of Mauritius.  

The Saint Aubin estate, the Bois Cheri tea factory and the Domaine des Aubineaux form the touristic "Tea Route" in Mauritius.

Bel Ombre golf course
Heritage Telfair golf course, 18 holes par 72, at Bel-Ombre in the South of Mauritius.

The 6498 m Heritage Le Telfair golf course, 18 holes par 72 is located at Bel Ombre. It is set near to the Heritage Le Telfair and Heritage Awali hotels and the C-Beach Club on the south coast of Mauritius. It has also a  9 hole par 3 initiation course. The golf course was created in 2004. It is one of new tourist facilities in the region.

The south coast of Mauritius is also home of a small museum, the Robert Edward Hart Memorial Museum. Robert Edward Hart (1891-1954) was the librarian of the Mauritius Institute in Port Louis and a famous poet. He moved to Souillac when he retired in 1941. After the death of Robert Edward Hart, his bungalow was converted into a museum to perpetuate the memory of the poet.

Bois Cheri tea factory
Bois Cheri tea factory in the South of Mauritius.  In the photo: electrostatic rolls removing fibers from tea.

The Bois Cheri tea plantations and factory are located only a few kilometers away from Grand Bassin  in the south part of Mauritius. The factory and the attached museum are open to visitors, just like the related restaurant/tasting room that is located a little further in a nice scenery.

The harvested tea leaves are left 24 hours left to dry ("withering"). Then, they are torn to very small pieces ("cutting/rolling") and then after fermentation, they are heated for 10 minutes to remove the remaining moisture ("drying"). Thereafter, electrostatic rolls remove the fibers from the shredded leaves ("sorting"). Then, the remaining pieces are rolled and sorted by size ("grading").

Then, after months warehousing in a dry area, artificial flavorings from Grasse (France) or vanilla from Madagascar are added to the product ("flavoring"). Black tea is blended with some tea from Sri Lanka. Finally conditioning in bulk packages or in small bags well known takes place.

Tea has lost much of its importance in the economy of Mauritius. It is still the second agricultural industry of the country after sugarcane. Several plantations concentrated around three tea factories are left in the south of the island, Chartreuse and Corson being the two other factories.

Drinking of tea is well anchored in Mauritian tradition. The Mauritian drink more tea than coffee. The average consumption of tea in Mauritius is one kilo per head. Mauritius tea is mainly manufactured for local consumption. The island can not compete with major tea producing countries such as India and Sri Lanka since they produce tea at much higher altitude and with a better quality than Mauritius.

You find many pictures from tea harvest and production in Sri Lanka here.


See also

Mauritius > Pictures and travelogues > Bel Ombre (part 1)

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Travel guide to Mauritius with many nice pictures.