top of page

The Tragic History of Le Morne Brabant Mountain on the Island of Mauritius

Updated: Apr 26


We hadn't initially planned on visiting the island of Mauritius.

One night, I clicked on virtually every island visible on google maps and discovered the island of Mauritius. He wanted a beach, I wanted seclusion, so we searched for a resort that offered the best of both worlds and booked a stay at LUX Le Morne Resort, located on a less populated stretch of beach, with the impressive Le Morne Brabant Mountain as the backdrop.



View from the base of Le Morne Brabant Mountain, Mauritius
View from the base of Le Morne Brabant Mountain, Mauritius


LUX Le Morne Resort is a luxury accommodation set on a beautiful white-sand beach. During our stay, we lounged on the beach, sipped frozen drinks and snorkelled to our hearts content. We also booked many unique experiences directly through the resort and with local agencies on the island. To learn more about our stay and our honest review of LUX Le Morne Resort, read: Expect the Unexpected: An Honest Review of LUX Le Morne Resort In Mauritius.





Though we researched and planned a number of unique experiences during our stay, it was the adventure that we didn't expect to have a great impact that now stands out in our memory. The hike up Le Morne Brabant Mountain made our visit to Mauritius, a trip of a lifetime.


One morning, we arose very early, and headed towards the impressive mountain that loomed over LUX Le Morne Resort. We had arranged for a private hike with a local guide, up to the half-way point of the UNESCO World Heritage Site: Le Morne Brabant Mountain. We admittingly, weren't aware of much of the history of Le Morne Brabant Mountain, but didn't want to miss out on an opportunity to hike and wonder at such spectacular views from the high look-out points.



The beginning of the hike with our guide, Le Morne Brabant, Mauritius
The beginning of the hike with our guide, Le Morne Brabant, Mauritius

 

Update: LUX Le Morne Resort no longer offers this guided hike up Le Morne Brabant Mountain, but there are other tours that offer this unique travel experience. We would recommend this excursion: Hiking Le Morne Brabant, as it is a small group with guide.

 



Many continue to climb beyond the half-way point, hiking up steep and rock on a large incline, for the chance to stand at the peak. Tempted, we resigned ourselves to climb to the half-way look-out points and decide then if we would continue.





Hiking up Le Morne Brabant Mountain: What to Expect


The hike begins slowly, with a walk through the forest, then begins a steady incline of switch backs up the side of Le Morne Brabant Mountain. The terrain is both muddy and rocky, depending on the time of year and rainfall, but can be achieved by anyone. You do not need to be in peak physical condition to make the climb, but be sure to wear footwear with a good grip, hiking shoes would be an asset. If it happened to have rained recently, be prepared for muddy and slippery sections, and be extra careful on the descent.


We were privileged to be paired with a local guide whose grandfather was a spiritual Shaman and who held a special connection to the mountain and it’s history. He shared our love of nature and our belief that the experience should be slow and respected. Though he shared stories from his personal history while we hiked slowly, we often walked in silence, pausing only to capture photos or simply enjoy the view.




The path and incline, hiking Le Morne Brabant Mountain, Mauritius
The path and incline, hiking Le Morne Brabant Mountain, Mauritius


There were many other hikers who passed us, those who treated the hike as nothing more than an intense exercise regime, the mountain a mere prop for their daily step-count. And there were those who felt the absurd need to hike with music blasting from their cellphones, unable to enjoy their surroundings in silence. Some places have a history that radiates so loudly, one should be forced into silence.


At the half-way point, the terrain flattens. There are a couple of benches in strategic points for hikers to rest and enjoy a different vantage point, but they may be difficult to reach depending on the number of hikers at the location. There is also a short path down to a separate look-out point over the water. Be sure to bring water with you to rehydrate as needed.




One of the spectacular views from the mid-way point, Le Morne Mountain, Mauritius
One of the spectacular views from the mid-way point, Le Morne Mountain, Mauritius


For those continuing the ascent to the peak, there is a small gate to pass through and a path to follow. Depending on the number of people making the climb, there may be a delay. If you plan on hiking to the peak, it is recommended to ascend in the early morning, to avoid the crowds and mid-day heat. We made the decision to descend after the mid-way point, as the terrain had been quite muddy from the recent rainfall.


 

Note: We only link to products and services that we have either used or would use, all opinions expressed are our own. Some may be affiliate links, with which we may receive a small commission for purchases made.

 


Hiking ascending to the peak of Le Morne Brabant Mountain, Mauritius
Hiking ascending to the peak of Le Morne Brabant Mountain, Mauritius



Le Morne Brabant Mountain: The Slave History


Our guide enlightened us on Le Morne Brabant Mountain's dark and tragic history. First colonized by the Dutch in 1628, in the 17th century, the first slaves were brought to Mauritius from Madagascar to work on large plantations on the island. Most plantations harvested sugar cane for trade and export. It is with sugar cane juice, the unique flavour of Mauritius rum is derived. To learn more about Mauritius rum, read: Mauritius Rum: a Unique Taste for a Unique Place.


Over the following150-200 years, huge numbers of slaves were forcibly brought to the island of Mauritius from parts of India and various countries in Africa. In 1710, the Dutch left Mauritius under the control of the French, and after the Franco-British wars, it remained under the control of the British in 1810.





Through the late 18th and early 19th century, the deep woods of Le Morne Brabant Mountain served as a shelter for runaway slaves. Fighting against this tyranny, large numbers of slaves escaped their captors and took refuge up and within Le Morne Brabant Mountain, protected by the dense forests. These slaves were often referred to as "Maroons", and over time, Mauritius, which became an important stopover in the eastern slave trade, came to be known as the “Maroon republic” because of the large number of escaped slaves who lived on Le Morne Mountain.


Click below to scroll through photos from the hike up Le Morne Brabant Mountain:





It was well known at the time that the area around Le Morne Brabant Mountain was occupied by resistant slaves. At its height, up to 10% of the slave population in Mauritius were considered Maroons. Our guide pointed out the dense routes, the caves many of the escaped slaved lived and slept in, and the resources on the mountain that they used to survive.


The thick white berries that grow in the bushes along the edge (pictured above) have a particularly sticky interior and was often used as a form of paste. When spread across branches, they were ideal for trapping birds. At night, the inhabitants would descend the mountain in secret, in search of water and any supplies they could find. Any settlers who attempted to build near the base of Le Morne Brabant Mountain, were reportedly attacked and forced to move.




Le Morne Brabant Mountain: A Tragic End to the Slave Trade


The cliffs of Le Morne Brabant Mountain were virtually inaccessible, but the escaped slaves and their families adapted and survived using the tools nature provided. The Maroons formed small settlements in the caves and on the summit, surviving off the land for years.


On February 1, 1835, slavery was abolished on the island of Mauritius.


As army officials approached the base and began to climb Le Morne Brabant Mountain, with the sole intent to inform the escaped slaves that they were no longer criminals and that they were now free, the inhabitants feared the worst. Tragically, fearing the authorities were climbing up in a coo, planning to recapture the escaped slaves and return them to their owners, many Maroons plummeted to their deaths, choosing to jump off the cliffs of Le Morne Brabant Mountain to avoid being punished and being enslaved once again.


The diverse ethnic and cultural origins of the slave population brought to Mauritius, and the extent in which a large percentage of that population chose to resist and become Maroons (especially on Le Morne Brabant Mountain), makes it the ideal location to commemorate and honour the resistance to slavery.



A Place of Resistance Monument, Le Morne Brabant, Mauritius
A Place of Resistance Monument, Le Morne Brabant, Mauritius


The International Slave Route Monument now sits at the foot of Le Morne Brabant Mountain, which is comprised of ten sculptures. The central sculpture was made by a local Mauritian artist, while others were made by artists from Reunion Island, Madagascar, Mozambique, China, India and Malaysia.


Visible on the hike up, a second plaque was erected, honouring Le Morne Brabant Mountain as a place of resistance. The oral traditions, similar to the one we shared on our hike with our local guide, have made Le Morne Brabant Mountain a symbol for slaves, in particular their suffering, their sacrifice and their fight for freedom.


Mauritius today is a unique blend of cultures and traditions, some carried on through settlers, some through the traditions of those forcibly enslaved and later freed on the island. The Mauritian society recognizes that its ancestors were not only European and Asian settlers, but Indian immigrants and African slaves. It is visible in the monuments, the places of worship and most significantly in the cuisine. To read more about our time visiting Mauritius, read: Mauritius: The Definition of Unique.





Le Morne Brabant Mountain was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008, but did not open and become accessible to the public until 2016. According to UNESCO "Since the summit became accessible, the site has attracted more than 7,500 visitors, over 70% of which are Mauritians who claim a strong emotional attachment to the history and heritage of their country". We hiked with our local guide at the beginning of 2019, who claimed to have made the hike many times a year, since it became accessible.




One of the spectacular views from the mid-way point, Le Morne Mountain, Mauritius
One of the spectacular views from the mid-way point, Le Morne Mountain, Mauritius


While we spoke of spirituality in general and discussed the tragic history of Le Morne Brabant Mountain, he shared with us that a very powerful Shaman had revealed a prediction for the following year, 2020. This Shaman predicted specifically that people's "true intentions" and their "true faces" would be revealed in 2020.


Of course, none of us knew then what tragedies would occur the following year, with a global pandemic, lockdowns, fear, death and drastically opposing views on medicine and government, and so we took the prediction with a grain of salt, aligning it to possible political changes, or merely a good play on the phrase "20/20 vision". How wrong we were.


If 2020 did indeed reveal our true faces, who we are and what we stand for, let us not forget the lessons learned from the past and move forward with purpose, gratitude and reverence.



1,611 views1 comment

1 Comment


Mauritius itself looks like a unique trip, but the hike up Le Morne Brabant Mountain would be an experience of a lifetime for me as well! Can not get enough of your pictures, the views might be unforgettable!

Like
bottom of page