The lagoon in Bel Ombre, a well kept secret

The Bel Ombre lagoon is a model of marine conservation for the country, and heritage resorts is committed to safeguarding this vulnerable and invaluable heritage treasure. the group has teamed up with reef conservation, an NGO which has been monitoring the bel ombre marine ecosystem and making recommendations in the light of surveys undertaken since 2015. let’s take a discovery tour and learn tips to help protect this amazing lagoon!
A wealth of information through observation.

Reef conservation focuses on protecting and restoring the marine and coastal environment of Mauritius through implementing conservation programmes, research, education and awareness.
The NGO completed a first survey in 2015 and a subsequent environmental monitoring report in 2018. The message is clear: despite being in good condition, the Bel Ombre lagoon is vulnerable and requires active protection. there is a total of 55 hectares of reef habitat and 20 hectares of seagrass in the four areas of the lagoon. These two types of seabed are vital to a healthy ecosystem. There are differences between seaweed and seagrass, the latter consists of flowering plants forming underwater meadows in bays and coastal areas. Their leaves slow down currents, allowing sedimentation, and their roots keep sand in place and prevent the dispersion of sediments, which can smother corals.

Seagrass meadows play an important role in slowing down beach erosion and also provide cover for young fish.
Coral habitats also help slow down beach erosion by protecting the shoreline against waves. They harbour various species of plants and animals, and are a major food source for marine wildlife and humans. Finally, they contribute significantly to medical
advances. The Bel Ombre lagoon is home to brain corals – which are easy to identify! – as well as massive corals, delicate branched and soft corals.

A refuge for unique species in the world

A light breeze blows over the wild south of the island, on this Saturday morning. Heritage Nature Reserve sports a resplendent range of summer colors. Our guide, Jean Claude Sevathian, is a talkative and fun botanist who knows the fauna and flora of Mauritius. Accessible to all, this new hike in the heart of the Black River Gorges National Park – an area managed by the national Parks and Conservation Services (NPCS) – is already one of the domain’s not-to-be-missed experiences.
Follow us as we discover the Bel Ombre Biosphere, one of the best-protected primary forests on the island!


A 4×4 type safari leads us to the entrance of the reserve. This zone of transition to the biosphere is, against all expectations, populated by Florida pines – a secondary (or commercial) forest planted to generate employment in the 1970s.

Our group crosses a small bridge to reach the central conservation area and faces a landscape of great beauty. A stream in the shade of the canopy evokes the passage of the torrent of Paul et Virginie, and its soft and rhythmic clapping the song of birds and the rustle of the leaves. On the way to “Bon Courage”, a trail formerly used by hunters, Jean Claude enthusiastically introduces us to many endemic plant species such as the patte de lézard (literally: lizard’s foot) fern, the vacoas and the majestic bois de natte. We stop in front of a bicentennial ebony tree, astonished by its splendour, and we take turns to wrap our arms around it, while our guide looks on, amused.

“Did you know? Of the 691 plant species present in Mauritius, 273 are endemic to the island and 150 are endemic to the Mascarenes.”


Formed 8 million years ago by a series of underwater volcanic eruptions, Mauritius was not
exactly a tropical paradise at its genesis. Plants and animals came to the island in different ways. While some species “actively” found their way by swimming or flying, others allowed themselves to be carried by the wind or clung to fragments of floating vegetation. Isolated from the rest of their family, they have adapted to their new environment to such an extent that we now speak of them as “endemic” species, since they do not exist anywhere else.


“But our goal is not to make them dependent,” says Jean Claude. Forest phenology – in other words the study of seasonal events such as flowering, leafing and fruiting – allows site researchers to assess the availability of naturally accessible food resources, and to close the feeders when birds can, somehow, fend for themselves!

The biosphere is therefore under continuous surveillance, but the team must also regularly
weed invasive plants such as the strawberry guava. Indeed, some endemic plants such as ox tree or Hibiscus genevii are currently critically endangered – not to mention all those that the island has already lost following the invasion of exotic species or overexploitation.