‘Land, sea, life’: the natural wonders of Bel Ombre in Mauritius
Sustainability is at the heart of the region’s tourism offering
Taking a bite out of a jamblon I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. My guide had picked it out of a tree as we hiked through the Bel Ombre Nature Reserve in Mauritius, a part of the world blessed with natural resources. Small and purple, it resembled a plum and tasted sweet and refreshing in the midday sun. I helped myself to a second before we continued.
I was in Mauritius to discover a lesser-known region of the island, Bel Ombre, where local businesses, NGOs and officials have recently committed to adhering to sustainable tourism practices that respect both the area’s natural beauty and local community. The area’s new slogan is “Lamer. Later. Lavi”, translated as “Land. Sea. Life”, which reflects the rounded experience they want to give visitors who may otherwise have just stayed on the beach. With 2,500 hectares of protected land, it is hoped they will be able to experience a wilder, more authentic taste of this popular Indian Ocean island.
As we continued our hike we learned how the environment was shaped by agriculture and colonialism, with the cultivation of sugarcane and importation of foreign plants. Now, they’re working with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation on conservation projects designed to protect this fragile eco-system, including the reintroduction of indigenous flora and fauna and the preservation of at risk plants such as the beautiful, black, ebony trees. After a quick dip in the icy waters of a waterfall, our hike ended with lunch in a glade protected by a canopy of trees, where we feast on local curries, salads and drinks.
A taste of luxury
Bel Ombre is remarkably underdeveloped compared to other areas in Mauritius and is home to only two luxury hotels, both under the Rogers Hospitality umbrella, which offers 100% carbon-neutral stays on the island. Toiletries are presented in refillable bottles, everything that can be recycled is, and as much as it can be food is locally sourced.
We stayed at the five-star Heritage Le Telfair Golf & Wellness Resort, situated on a kilometre of pristine beach front. It is designed with the island’s colonial past in mind, with a traditional aesthetic and using textures like white stained wood, rattan, and pure cotton furnishings in each of the 158 suites. My room featured a sea view and balcony, as well as a gloriously comfortable king size bed.
Right next door is sister property Heritage Awali Golf and Spa resort, where we experienced the Seven Colours Spa. Each colour represents the seven chakras, and treatments are designed to promote wellness and relaxation. After a much-needed massage, I reclined in a cabana surrounded by vegetation and enjoyed locally-produced tea surrounded by the sounds of nature.
In the evening we ate at the Heritage Le Château de Bel Ombre, a former plantation house dating back to the 19th century. Here they serve a multi-course gastronomic experience, featuring elevated Mauritian cuisine. Dishes include palm hearts, venison, and shellfish, all of which are sourced within the Bel Ombre region and paired with wines chosen by the in-house sommelier.
Back to nature
Heading back out into the wilderness, we go to the Chamarel 7 Coloured Earth Geopark, where the region’s unusual geology can be seen in its full glory. Here different colours of earth have collided in rolling dunes and hills that display their vibrancy. It tells the visual story of Mauritius’ position at the heart of continental drifts and volcanic eruptions going back millions of years. Chemical compounds including iron and aluminium oxides have coloured the earth in shades ranging from red and orange through to blue and violet, and it is beautiful to see contrasted against the vivid greenery of the forest.
The park is also home to the Chamarel waterfall, the island’s tallest at around 100m high. Surrounded by dense vegetation and ancient lava rocks, it is one of the most breathtaking sights in Mauritius, and can be seen from a viewpoint, or you can hike to the basin in around three hours for a magical swimming spot.
We ended our trip with a lunch at Le Chamarel Panoramic Restaurant which sits on stilts overlooking the coastal landscape from the Unesco-listed Le Morne Brabant peninsula on one side to Tourelle du Tamarin mountain on the other. As I dived into some hearty local cuisine, I truly felt at home in a part of Mauritius that welcomes its visitors with open arms.
For more information see belombre.com
How to get there
Where to stay
Rates at the Heritage Le Telfair Golf & Wellness Resort start from £182 per night for a deluxe suite on a room-only basis. Rates at the Heritage Awali Golf and Spa resort start from £265 per night for a deluxe suite on an all-inclusive basis. See more at heritageresorts.mu