Chamarel Coloured Earth
January 24 2019
January 24 2019
Mauritius is an island of pure wonder—apart from unquestionable natural beauty, it offers avid travellers a wealth of exciting and unusual experiences in a colourful paradise, rich with a fascinating culture, history and breathtaking sights. One such sight is the geopark known as Chamarel’s Seven Coloured Earth, far more exquisite in real life than in any photo.
Uncover the magic of the natural world at the iconic Chamarel Coloured Earth geopark in Mauritius. Here’s what you need to know about this unusual tourist attraction:
It has a fascinating history
The unbelievable existence of the coloured earth at Chamarel was said to be discovered by a member of the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences of Mauritius, back in 1879. Situated in the southwestern part of Mauritius, the Chamarel village was named after the sons of a member of the Superior Council of the island, who were granted a massive concession in the region in 1786.
The formation of the island of Mauritius was due largely to incredible geological activity, from continental drifts and collisions to volcanic eruptions and subsequent volcanic formations all of which has culminated in the phenomenally unique country that Mauritius is today. Chamarel, with its unparalleled history and unique geology, is by far one of the best places to visit for nature lovers, history buffs, geological enthusiasts and tourists looking to gain deeper insight into this mesmerising country.
The Chamarel Coloured Earth is a natural phenomenon
This tourist attraction in Mauritius, which has in fact been popular since tourism was introduced to the country in the 1960s, is a must-see. Technically deemed a geological formation, the astounding natural phenomenon, which can be found in the Chamarel region of the Rivière Noire district in Mauritius, is an area of sand dunes made up of rainbow-coloured sand which has settled in separate layers.
This amazing phenomenon is said to be due to the slow decomposition of volcanic lava (or basalt) into clay minerals over millennia (it’s said to be 600 million years old). Given the tropical nature of the island, over time water-soluble elements, such as silicon dioxide, were washed out of the sand, leaving behind the extraordinary natural colours created by iron (responsible for the red to brown colours) and aluminium oxides (the blue to violet colours) which form naturally into distinct layers. Other colours are said to have been created by different compositions of the minerals and largely due to the different temperatures that the molten rock cooled at.
Interestingly, if one were to mix the coloured earth together, it would form back into its separate layers eventually, each grain of sand gravitating to others in its same colour caste. This could be because the iron and aluminium particles naturally repel each another and the swirling patterns created in the dunes are presumed to be from the rain over the years.
This unique geographic site, bordered by lush jungle, still intrigues geologists from around the world, who are drawn to the moon-like landscape and multi-coloured undulating dunes that never seem to erode, regardless of rainfall or climatic conditions.
In the past, people were allowed to walk directly on the sand, but there have since been wooden fences put up to protect the area, and instead, visitors can view the fascinating and colourful sands from along the many viewpoints provided. It’s strictly prohibited to take some of the sand from the site itself, but the charming curio shop on the property sells small vials and bottles of Seven Coloured Earth sand to purchase as a memento.
There are quite literally seven different colours of sand
While the area of exposed coloured sand and sand dunes is quite small, it makes for a mesmerising experience. There are, quite literally, seven different colours of sand that make up this natural phenomenon—red, violet, brown, green, blue, purple and yellow. If you go when the conditions are just right (we detail this below), you might be lucky enough to see all of them distinctly.
There is a “best time” to visit
While it’s a phenomenal sight throughout the day, the best time to see the full splendour of the seven coloured earth is as close to sunrise as possible on a clear day or early sunset when the colours are at their most vivid. The geopark opens at 8:30 and closes at 17:30 throughout the year.
While the sands are the main attraction, there are other wonderful things to see
One of the best things about the Chamarel Coloured Earth is that it’s not the only memorable activity visitors can experience at Chamarel. This 8.5 hectare park (which incurs a small entrance fee), is also home to a children’s play area, a coffee shop (for a locally grown coffee, tantalising refreshments and snacks), souvenir shop (where you can buy a little of your own Chamarel Coloured Earth to take home, among many other local souvenirs), a small tortoise park (with giant Aldabra tortoises originally from the Seychelles) and an impressive 100m waterfall (the tallest of its kind in Mauritius) surrounded by jungle.
If you love unusual (and perfectly Instagrammable) activities, then a visit to the Chamarel Coloured Earth is definitely not to be missed.