The island of Mauritius is blessed with natural beauty in every corner, but this is a man-made stunner.
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden is the full name of ‘the oldest botanical garden’ in the Southern Hemisphere. Shortened by most people to Pamplemousses for convenience’s sake.
Now, I’m always extremely wary of places claiming to have ‘the largest’, ‘the best’, ‘the oldest’ whatever, in the Southern Hemisphere because it feels like such an empty boast. You never hear anywhere in the northern half of the world claiming the same thing, do you? Granted, the Northern Hemisphere has lorded it over the south for several centuries with all its guises of colonialism and slave exports, and the south deserves its place in the metaphorical sun, but, for example: A casino in Melbourne calls itself the biggest in the southern hemisphere – woo-frickin’-hoo. Who cares?
When I read things like that it just leaves me with the knowledge that a) there are bigger ones, regardless of location. And b) bigger ain’t neccessarily better – it’s the motion of the ocean, not the size of the boat. South Ossetia has the highest per-capita number of troops in the world, behind North Korea, but do we need to start contingency planning against their obviously aggressive posturing on the edge of Asia? No. Because it’s all relative. Therefore it isn’t such a great boast that you are the oldest garden in the half of the world that didn’t really entertain the concept until the 18th Century.
But it is a boast, something to whack onto the tourist literature.
When you arrive at Pamplemousses you can’t see much sign of its impressive age. Which is disappointing. The garden was constructed in 1770 but I suspect that time and changing tastes have altered its shape and function over the centuries. When you strip away its astonishing claim to be elderly what do you have?
Actually a very beautiful place to explore.
The aforementioned tourist literature makes a great deal of the giant lily pads in one of the garden’s rectangular ponds but there really is a lot more to see. Deer are rather hemmed into a small enclosure but it isn’t overcrowded. However the unexpected animal stars are the giant tortoises. If you don’t manage to visit La Vanille, in the south of Mauritius, then this is as close as you’ll get to these fascinating Testudines. There is a fair amount of interesting signage around the garden too, with little notes explaining how certain plants are used as medicine, for example. Most of the tour groups head directly for the giant lily pads and then disappear so you’ll have much of the place to yourself. Wander from the course and explore the side routes to find some weird and wonderful plants.
I was going to smatter the article with a couple of images but I think it’s better that I just let you see what I managed to snap on a gusty day in Pamplemousses, as then you get to see a bit more.
If anyone else has been here I’d like to know if you did manage to find something that looked its age – please link me to more photos as I loved it here.