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Destination Details

Balaclava, Mauritius

Explore the Balaclava Ruins in Mauritius and Experience its Mystery

You may think that the primary attractions to Mauritius are its beautiful beaches, nature excursions, shopping opportunities and nightlife – and you would be correct. However, you cannot truly experience the island unless you visit some its more historical sites. One great site is the Balaclava Ruins. It is the history of the island which shapes every visitor's experience and perspective - and Mauritius has a particularly colourful one.

A Brief History of the Island of Mauritius

Mauritius can trace its origins to a succession of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago under the water, forming the island you know of today. While many believe the island's first discoverers were 9th century Arab explorers, history dictates that this island in the Indian Ocean was first colonized in the late 16th century by the Dutch. However, almost 100 years later, the Dutch abandoned their colony on Mauritius which was then taken by the French. In late 1810, the British took over allowing the island citizens to keep their property as well as maintain French laws. Independence from the British was declared in 1968.

Background of the Balaclava Ruins

During French rule in the 1700's, sugar production helped the economy prosper. To protect the island and its growth, the first French governor Mahé de Labourdonnais directed the foundation of a fortress estate to be built there, just a few metres away from the Bay of Turtles or Baie aux Tortues, so named by French sailors due to the large tortoise population in the waters of Mauritius.

It did not take long for the tortoise numbers to be depleted rapidly due to the popularity of their meat and oil from their liver so the bay name changed to Arsenal Bay or Baie de l’ Arsenal. This new name was more apt due to the ammunition stored at the fortress to protect the island. This French arsenal exploded in 1774, decimating parts of the fortress and scattering spent arsenal around the area.

It was believed that the ruins attained the name Balaclava as a direct nod to the Crimean War in Europe with the same name. However, another school of thought is that the ruins were named after the black lava rocks left behind after volcanic activity millions of years ago.

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