Mauritius is known for its magnificent beaches and exotic flora and fauna, as well as picturesque scenery stretching across the whole island. But it is also a place with a long and interesting history, mostly due to its significance during the colonial era starting nearly four hundred years ago.
The first recorded visitors to the island were Arabic sailors sometime during the Middle Ages, while Portuguese sailors found the island still uninhabited as late as 1507. Later that century the Dutch would arrive and give the island its name in honour of Prince Maurice van Nassau, the Dutch Republic’s national leader at the time. Later the French would rule the island after the Dutch abandoned it, although eventually the British invaded and took over, with Mauritius remaining under British rule until its independence in 1968.
There are so many interesting places on the island that we don’t have space for them all here, but below are just a few of the unmissable historical sights to see in Mauritius…
The Martellos are small coastal forts built by the British Empire during the 19th century to defend their colonial interests from the French. They stand approximately twelve metres high and consist of two floors, which in olden times would have housed a garrison of around twenty or so soldiers. The cylindrical construction and walls nearly two and a half metres thick were designed to make them resistant to cannon fire while the flat roof enabled the placement of heavy artillery with which to return fire against any enemy ships approaching from the sea.
One of the towers now serves as a museum (La Preneuse) and there are guides who will describe the interesting architecture of the towers as well as their historical significance during the colonial years.
Located in Port Louis on the Indian Ocean side of Mauritius, Aapravasi Ghat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a sobering reminder of the colonial past of the island. Mauritius was used by both the French and the British to transport slaves and indentured servants (mostly from India) during their former empirical endeavours. The name of the site actually comes from the Hindi language and roughly translates into English as ‘Immigration Depot’.
These days the complex is home to an interpretation centre and there are tours which describe the building’s structure and will inform you in great detail about its historical significance.
Baie de L’Arsenal
The French name probably gives this historical site’s origins away. Located at the northern end of the island, the former arsenal of the French military was built in 1774. The village here actually goes by the name Arsenal, where the French built a foundry to manufacture the likes of cannons and other military materials.
Unfortunately, the actual arsenal was destroyed by an explosion just a few months after it was finished, killing hundreds of slaves and servants who were present at the time. The Hotel Maritim nearby offers tours into the grounds to witness the ruins.
There are some magnificent houses built during the colonial era. One of them, St. Aubin House, is nearly two hundred years old and used to be the centrepiece of a massive sugar plantation. There are tours there now and you can even order a five-course lunch.
Another interesting mansion from the colonial years is Eureka House which was built in the early nineteenth century. The building now operates as a museum and contains lots of antiques and period pieces of furniture. There are also genuine maps formerly belonging to the French East India Company which operated from the mid-seventeenth century to the end of the eighteenth.
If you want to see some or all of the historical sights of Mauritius, contact Mauritius Holiday Experts who can find you the top hotels and travel packages to ensure you make the most of what should, could and will be the most memorable holiday of your life.