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Exploring Souillac In Mauritius: Where History Meets Serenity

Discover the beautiful village of Souillac, in Mauritius Island. Learn the best things to do, and the top places to visit there.

Souillac

The South has long been regarded as one of the island’s most stunning regions. Popular tourist destinations include Mahebourg, Saint-Félix, and Bel Ombre. Souillac also takes part in them. In this post, we will learn about Souillac, a beautiful and quiet village in the District of Savanne that was once a pillar during the French era.

A Brief History Of Souillac

In the 1750s, Abbé de la Caille referred to Souillac as the “Bras de Mer de la Savanne”. According to historical records, the territories were not well connected by roadways at the time. As a result, the sea served as the primary mode of transportation for both goods and people. The sea channel was mostly used for embarkation. Bernardin de Saint-Pierre noted in his book “Voyage à l’île de France” that the environs of Souillac was challenging due to the mountains and lack of bridge.Souillac and Port-Louis were connected via maritime means. The Port of Souillac was used to transport hardwood, materials, sugar, and other goods.

Souillac was named after François, Vicomte de Souillac, in 1787. As previously stated, it was simply known as “Bras de Mer de la Savanne”. François, the Vicompte de Souillac, was born in 1732. He entered the French army at the age of 15 and later served as Governor of Bourbon Island in the 1770s. He was appointed Governor of Ile de France in the late 1770s and was later elevated to various positions.

After settling on Ile De France, the French had already established themselves as the dominant force in the region. Lands were granted to concessionaires in 1729, including Simon de la Farelle, François Gachet, Benjamin Dirois, and others. Apparently, they did not accomplish much development in the districts because Port-Louis was already the capital and economic hub. So they were more interested there than in Souillac. As a result, the regions were poorly connected to other locations. This had a significant impact on Savanne’s economic activity.

The majority of Souillac was occupied by slaves. More concessionaires were established after the 1740s, including Jean Law and Jean Baptists, both governors. Bolgerd was another popular concessionaire. It is thought that Didier St Martin was the first to express an interest in developing Souillac. He received a concession in 1787. Following that, more concessionaires arrived, including François Fontenelle Dessale, Thomas Bataile, and Jean Baptiste Pipon.

Sugar estates in the area, particularly during the British period, significantly impacted the territory of Souillac. Rochester, Fontenelle, Terracine, Union Ducray, and Saint Aubin, among others, were founded, resulting in infrastructure development and the commencement of economic activity. The British built railways, key roads, and bridges, and the Port of Souillac saw a gradual decline in use. Port-Louis and Mahebourg were both connected to Souillac.

Things To Do

The village of Souillac is stunning, having a lot of scenic landscapes. Visiting places of interest and going on sightseeing trips are two of the most popular things to do there. Quite a few are that. Also, a list of them can be found further down.

Additionally, there are opportunities to go hiking and trekking in the Souillac area. Falls like Rochester Falls and other waterfalls in the area are frequently visited by those who enjoy hiking. The coastal hikes that go from Gris-Gris and go to other locations are also very popular. You will have the opportunity to stop at the Cascade Bain de Negresse, which is also referred to as the Cascade Mamzel.

Best Places To Go In Souillac

Souillac is beautiful to vist. Here is a list of the top places to check out in the region.

Rochester Falls

The Rochester Falls are among Mauritius' most famous waterfalls. This waterfall is well-known for its squared stone structures and is frequently visited by tourists.

Gris-Gris Beach

Gris Gris beach
Gris-Gris was named after the dog of Abbé de la Caille. The beach is well-known for its deadly waves, but it also has a few secret caverns in the cliffs that are worth a visit during low tide.

La Roche Qui Pleure

La Roche Qui Pleure
Another spot, near Gris-Gris, where you may watch the waves break against the rocks. According to folklore, it received its name from the breaking waves that resonated as cries.

Cascade Bain de Négresse (Mamzel)

Cascade Mamzel
This waterfall, also known as the Bain de Negresse, is breathtakingly stunning. Many hikers often descend from the Gris-Gris cliff to swim in the pond.

Robert Edward Hart Museum (La Nef)

La Nef museum
The sole museum in Souillac, located in the former home of famed poet Robert Edwart Hart. A few of his home furnishings and personal collections have been preserved.

Telfair Garden

This garden is said to have been named after Charles Telfair, a well-known botanist and sugar estate owner from Bel Ombre. The garden is rich with trees.

Batelage Of Souillac (Port Of Souillac)

Batelage of Souillac
There is no information on the construction date. Today, the batelage of Souillac houses a restaurant, a coast guard station, a parking lot, and the Vicomte de Souillac statue.

Souillac Cemetery

Souillac Cemetery
The Souillac Cemetery is among Mauritius' oldest, dating back to the French era. Many famous historical figures were buried there, including Baron d'Unienville.

Bain De Négresse Old Railway Bridge

Old Railway Bridge
There is less information available about this historic railway bridge. It appears to have been built at the same time as the railroad line in the Souillac region, near the end of the 1860s.

Post Office (Old Railway Station)

Old Train Station of Souillac
The actual post office typically operates in the historic train station building, which was built in 1877. With its Victorian architecture, the building always draws those who pass by.

Police Station

A building from the late 18th century that now serves as the region's police station. It is one of the few buildings to have survived since the French era, built entirely of stones.

Old Court Of Souillac

Old Court of Souillac
Unfortunately, the court of Souillac was a beautiful colonial house-style building that had been abandoned in disrepair. There was even an Irish-style fountain in the yard.

Old Social Security Office

Social Security Office of Souillac
Next to the historic Souillac courthouse is a modest, abandoned structure that once housed the Social Security Office. Now, we are losing another heritage like the old court.

Saint Jacques Chapel

Saint-Jacques Church
Saint Jacques Chapel is another magnificent historical site. The chapel, which was built in the 1850s, is a popular attraction. It underwent renovations in 1997.

Terracine Kovil

Terracine Kovil
Located in Terracine, near the sugar mill, some historians believe it is the oldest kovil in Mauritius. It was originally erected in 1811 and underwent renovations in 1983.
Gada

Meet Gada, A Lover Of Souillac

Gada is an environmental activist and skilled photographer who has published several photobooks depicting Mauritius’ scenery. She wants to express her views on Souillac as well as the cemetery by the sea, which has recently gained popularity.

QUESTION: What was it about Souillac that drew you in as a nature lover and hiker? 

GADA: “Souillac and the surrounding area bring together everything I love: a fascinating historical past, relics that bear witness to the contrasting development of our island, places with a special “vibe”, Pomponette beach, wild coves and cliffs, a hilly landscape to explore on foot and a magnificent waterfall. Rochester Falls is a place where I could spend hours contemplating the water bouncing off the basalt columns.”

QUESTION: “The Souillac Cemetery has recently become the buzz of the town, because of a project by the authority on its coast. How does this bother you, given that it is a cemetery near the sea and you are an environmental activist?”

GADA: “I love this place steeped in history and go there often. The sound of the waves, the old graves surrounded by wild flowers, the raised epitaphs filled with grains of sand…

Cemeteries tell stories of lives lived. Famous personalities can be found alongside the unknown, such as immigrant number 222317, who came from Bihar in the mid-19th century, ended his life at Camp Banane and is buried in Souillac.

The planned works at Souillac Marine Cemetery, as presented in the EIA, risk distorting the spirit of the place. Although it is necessary to consolidate the coastal section, which has been weakened by erosion, the proposed additional layout poses a problem.

This historic place of contemplation will lose its soul and authenticity by being surrounded by a fence, lined with a jogging track and equipped with street lamps, which will strip it of its wild aspect and alter the splendid view of the sea and the Telfair garden.

Some fifty personalities have co-signed my appeal to the authorities. I hope we’ll be heard.”

QUESTION: “You make your living as a professional photographer. And has published a few of photobooks, including Mauritius No Comment, which has sold over 9,000 copies. Did Souillac inspire you in some way while working on the photobook?”

GADA: “Our whole island is a source of inspiration for me. I document, explore and photograph what catches my eye. Abandoned places have a soul, and landscapes change according to the light.

Photography is a passion, and I’ve been lucky enough to publish books to share what I love. My blog features photos of the Souillac region. The south coast is particularly close to my heart.

I also use photography to defend my ideas about protecting the environment and heritage, as in the case of Roches Noires and the Souillac marine cemetery.”

Visit Gada’s website here. Like and follow her Facebook and Instagram as well.

A Place Worth Visit

Serenity, is the most notable attribute of Souillac. This old village was a pillar in the South of Mauritius, and with its countless great attractions to see, we can claim that Souillac will continue to astound us with its beauty for as long as we live.

Author & References

Ali Jareehag

Author: Ali J | Date Published: July 10, 2024 | Last Updated: NA

References: Souillac, Village Historique et Cimetière Marin, Dictionnaire Toponymique de L’Ile Maurice (Société de L’histoire de Ile Maurice).

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