In Mauritius, this little piece of paradise in the village of Pamplemousses is called the "Pamplemousses Garden" and is a popular tourist attraction. The Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden is the first of its kind in the world. As its name suggests, the garden is located in the village of Pamplemousses, in the north of the island, and is the oldest botanical garden in the southern hemisphere. The Pamplemousses garden is best known for its long pond of giant water lilies. The garden was built by Pierre Poivre (1719 - 1786) in 1770 and is a 37-hectare green space full of real treasures including the Mon Plaisir castle, endemic plants, metre-high shrubs, spices and even tortoise and deer parks. Moreover, it has a role as a botanical and horticultural conservatory, inherited from its history. When Mauritius was under French occupation, the garden was first used as a vegetable garden, then as a place of acclimatisation for the Mahé pepper, the Malabar cane tree or the Brazilian cassava.
A real safe, the garden was first owned by Governor Mahé de Labourdonnais, then bought and founded by the botanist Pierre Poivre in 1767. It was Poivre who introduced spices and ebony wood to the garden, among others in Mauritius. Thanks to him, the garden has 85 varieties of palm trees from Asia and other tropical countries. There is also the talipot, which blooms only once in its life, and a whole host of plants that make this area green and attractive.
The garden was successively known as Jardin de Plaisir, Jardin des Plantes, Le Jardin National de L'Ile de France, Jardin Royal, Jardin Botanique des Pamplemousses, and during British colonisation, Les Jardins Botaniques Royaux de Pamplemousses. From 17 September 1988, the garden was named "Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden", similar to the SSR Botanical Garden in Curepipe.
You can't miss the water areas where you can see the giant Amazonian water lilies. In addition to the giant water lilies, the garden also features spices, ebony and 85 varieties of palms from Central America, Asia, Africa and the Indian Ocean islands. Many of the trees have been planted by world leaders and royalty, including Princess Margaret, the Countess of Snowdon, Indira Gandhi, François Mitterrand and Robert Mugabe.
The garden, which now covers an area of about 62 acres, was intended for Colonel P. Barmont. He sold it on 3 January 1735 to Claude N. de Maupin, a supervisor in the East India Company. There have been several other owners since then.
The origin of the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden can be attributed to the first French Governor of Mauritius, François Mahé de Labourdonnais. At the time of the French occupation, the island was known as the Ile de France. In 1735, Labourdonnais bought the Mon Plaisir property and created a vegetable garden to provide produce for his family and the passengers of the ships that landed on the island. The Pamplemousses garden houses one of the oldest and most remarkable botanical collections in the tropics.
The Pamplemousses garden also served as a nursery for the planting and acclimatisation of imported plants, mainly from Europe and the Orient. Cassava was among the first to be introduced to provide food for the island's slaves.
In 1739, the French East India Company took possession of Mon Plaisir. They planted mulberry trees throughout the property in the hope of establishing a silkworm industry. The mulberry trees were later replaced by a plantation of blackwood (Albizia lebbeck). This was because its charcoal could be used in the manufacture of gunpowder; useful in defending the island against the enemy.
After two visits to the Ile de France, Pierre Poivre was appointed Intendant of the island in 1767. He was the creator of the present garden. In addition to a nursery for the acclimatisation of nutmeg and cloves, he also collected numerous plants from other regions. It was thanks to Pierre Poivre, who devoted his life and most of his personal fortune to the creation of the garden, that Pamplemousses became known to naturalists and gained the worldwide reputation it has retained ever since.
The beauty of the Pamplemousses garden is the large pond, which is 93 metres long. It is home to Victoria Amazonia waterlilies, which originate from Amazonia. This aquatic plant is 60 to 80 cm in diameter and has pink and white flowers. The lotus flowers can reach 150 cm.
By the middle of the last century the sugar industry had developed rapidly and the gardens provided a suitable site for the introduction of new varieties of sugar cane from other parts of the world. Dr. Charles Meller, one of the directors of the garden, was sent to Australia and New Zealand to bring in new varieties of cane. Unfortunately, he died during the trip.
When the malaria epidemic struck Mauritius in 1866, a large part of the garden was used as a nursery to produce thousands of eucalyptus trees. They were introduced in order to control the disease by draining the country's marshes, the breeding grounds of the mosquitoes.
In addition to its extensive plant collection, the garden also includes several valuable monuments.
The Château de Mon Plaisir, a national heritage site, was built in 1823 as a building for the superintendent of the garden. The building was built on the site of the home of Mahé de Labourdonnais in 1735.
The Liénard Obelisk, donated by François Liénard de la Mivoye in 1861. This white marble monument honours those who have helped in the progress of agriculture as well as in the preservation of the natural heritage of Mauritius. It was classified as a national heritage site in 1958.
The Wrought Iron Gate, another gift from François Liénard de la Mivoye, awarded at the Crystal Palace International Exhibition in 1862 in England.
The Bridge of Sighs, a building dating from the French colonial period. Inspiration for poets and sensitive souls.
The Sugar Refinery, built in 1953 as a replica of the old refineries to reproduce the old methods.
Opening days and times: Every day from 8.30am to 5.30pm.
Duration of visit: Approximately 1 hour
What to bring: Mosquito repellent and a bottle of water
Price per adult: 200 rupees per person (about 5 euros), plus 50 rupees if you want a guide to accompany you
Children under 5 and adults over 60: free
Stay on the paths during your visit.
Swimming in the pools or climbing trees is not allowed.
Alcohol, fires and cigarettes are not allowed.
Bicycles, skateboards and ball games are not allowed.