The Chamarel 7 Coloured Earth in Mauritius is a true emblem of the island. Both a natural and cultural phenomenon, the 7 Coloured Earth have made their way to dangling keychain souvenirs, endless travel photographs and idyllic postcards. In fact, the attraction is so iconic that not visiting the dunes while you are in Mauritius will likely prompt reactions like: "What? You went to Mauritius but didn't visit the 7 Coloured Earth?"
But what do you really know about the origins of this purely natural occurrence? How does such a wonder come about? Why in Mauritius?
Myths and local folk stories abound – but the real story is more fascinating than any fiction. Ready to dig deeper into the history of the 7 Coloured Earth? Learn more in this article about the scientific explanation behind the 7 Coloured Earth phenomenon in Mauritius
About the Chamarel 7 Coloured Earth Geopark
The 7 Coloured Earth is found in the Chamarel 7 Coloured Earth Geopark, a preserved natural park expanding over 8.5 hectares of land, forest, rivers and waterfalls. The Geopark is located in the South-Western coast of Mauritius, in the district of Black River.
What causes the 7 Colours?
The story of the 7 Coloured Earth begins at the very start of Mauritius’ own history, 3 to 1.7 million years ago. It is an extraordinary story of geology and evolution, intense weathering and time.
Mauritius is part of the captivating tale of continental movements and collisions. The island, its mountain ranges, craters, reefs and lagoons are all results of massive volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. Once cooled, the hot lava turned into basalt, which then endured the humid, tropical climate of Mauritius: intense heat, torrential rainfall, cyclones… Across thousands of years, this endless weathering formed what is known as gullied clay – which is where the 7 coloured sands originate.
The science behind the 7 Coloured Earth
Did you know?
If you were to scramble up the 7 Coloured sands, they would all rearrange themselves by colour in a matter of hours.
Over the centuries, the constant exposure of gullied clay to extreme weather conditions gave way to deep decomposition and oxidation, leaving behind iron and aluminium oxides. The iron oxide is responsible for the shades of the dunes ranging from red all the way to brown, while the aluminium oxide is what gives vibrant tints of blue to violet-blue to the sand particles.
It is well-known that iron and aluminium particles have a natural repellent effect on one another – which is why even if you do scramble up the 7 coloured sands, they will always rearrange themselves back according to colour.
How about the patterns in the dunes? How did these come about?
These patterns reflect the natural pattern of rainfall in Chamarel across thousands and thousands of years. Even today, these patterns continue to be carved by rain and wind, a product of their environment, an inimitable design created by Nature itself.
Other attractions at Chamarel 7 Coloured Earth Geopark
While the 7 Coloured dunes are its star attraction, the Chamarel Geopark has a few more natural wonders and surprises in store for its visitors.
At roughly 100m high, the Chamarel Waterfall is the greatest single-drop waterfall in all of Mauritius! The Saint Denis River which feeds the waterfall receives water from 3 different streams, giving it a powerful rush that makes the visit even more exciting.
As you travel along the 3 km access road to the 7 Coloured Earth Geopark, be sure to turn to your left to enjoy the waterfall's viewpoint and take photos. The waterfall itself can be reached via a trail that cuts through thorny bushes.
2.Aldabra tortoise park
After experiencing the thrill of the Chamarel waterfall, enjoy some quiet time with even quieter companions: our Aldabra tortoises. These gentle giants are true witnesses of history, living for over a hundred years. They also enjoy visits and leafy greens, so be sure to pop by (especially with your little ones!) to see them as they go about their tranquil lives.
3. Le Café de Chamarel coffee plantation
Need a little pick-me-up after a day of activities at the Geopark? Come visit our local Arabica coffee plantation dating back to 1967. Spread over 16 hectares and elevated 280 metres above sea level, our local coffee plants are positioned in between beautiful rows of palm trees to shield them from the wind and sun, making for a panoramic view – perfect for a photograph.
The beans from these plants are the very ones we use to create our local Le Café de Chamarel roast. For a taste of our aromatic brew, you can head to the 7 Coloured Earth’s coffee shop or to the Souvenir Shop, where Le Café de Chamarel can be purchased.
Visit the Chamarel 7 Coloured Earth Geopark
The 7 Coloured Earth is the answer to the question of “What if you could have a glimpse into thousands of years of geological and natural history?”
So come see for yourself what wonders and secrets the 7 Coloured Earth hold: