Covering 6574 hectares, over three percent of the island, Black River Gorges National Park is a must for nature lovers. Established in 1994, it’s named after the black stones found in the river running through it. Today the streams here are clean enough to drink from and the ebony trees that once covered the whole island are a refuge for Mauritius’s rare and endangered birds: the pink pigeon, Mauritius kestrel and echo parakeet. Landscapes range from upland forest of Macchabée, Mare Longue and Plaine Champagne to heath and pandanus marshes, and cloud forest at Mount Cocotte. Although the park is home to three hundred species of native flowering plants, as it has been invaded by introduced species, mainly guava and privet, it’s not always easy to spot them.
The most popular spot to visit is Black River Peak viewpoint, where a path lined with hawkers selling handicrafts leads to one of the island’s best views over the forest canopy stretching towards the sparkling southern sea. To the west lies Black River Peak (828m), Mauritius’s highest mountain, to the east there are views of a waterfall across a canyon. The lucky may see the elegant white bird paille-en-queue (straw in the tail), Mauritian fruit bat and Mauritian kestrel soaring over the lush landscape. Although you can hear the water from a pretty clearing reached along a wooded path, don’t expect to see Alexandra Falls. Unfortunately, despite the existence of a viewing tower, they’re usually hidden by the overgrown privet and guava.