Little known open air ‘museum’ …
Discover the Balaclava Ruins tucked away in a beautiful private estate on the shores of Turtle Bay. Visit the fort and enjoy our Mauritian heritage perched over Riviere Citron on the North West coast.
Turtle Bay was a popular stop for ships on their voyage from Europe to the riches of the East. Old maps show the bay was first named ‘Ebony Bay’ by the Dutch. Ebony forests were plentiful in the area. Ebony wood is ideal for ship repairs.
During the 17th century the Dutch changed the name to ‘Turtle Bay’. The ebony trees had most probably been chopped. On the other hand there were many turtles frolicking in the bay …
The English also anchored their ships at Balaclava to stock up with food and other necessities for their long sea voyage.
View onto Turtle Bay
Let’s move forward to the 18th century. By then the French had settled in Mauritius. The first governor by the name of Mahe de Labourdonnais moved the administration from Mahebourg in the South to the North. The new capital was baptised Port Louis in honour of King Louis XV.
The iron from nearby Balaclava was used to build the new capital and her harbour.
It was also used to make weapons and gun powder during Mahe de Labourdonnais’ campaigns in India. An iron foundry, a naval arsenal and a gun powder factory completed the ‘fort’.
Cannon at Balaclava
In between all of this an English Admiral by the name of Boscawen sailed into Turtle Bay and attempted to take over Mauritius in the mid-eighties. No such luck …
Then the powder store exploded in 1774! Just as well the flour mill, saw mill and the building where the iron work was stored were spared.
Iron work building at Balaclava
In 1864, the estate was sold to a Mr Wiehe. He built a beautiful home called ‘Mon Desir’ and a school for the children of his workers. For a while the location became a popular holiday ‘rendezvous’ for wealthy Mauritians.
Mr Wiehe also built a rum distillery which was quite modern at the time.
Distillery in the garden
The estate belongs to a German chain of hotels and a Mauritian family. The preservation of the heritage site is a priority of the owners.
A restaurant ‘Chateau Mon Desir’ was built where the original ‘Mon Desir’ home stood. The restaurant overlooks the ruins and Turtle Bay.
View from bottom garden onto Chateau Mon Desir
The 'open-air museum' is located on the grounds of the Maritime Hotel in a 35 hectare estate on our South west coast. It’s only a 10 minute drive from popular Grand Bay. Simply follow the coastal road down South.
View of the estate
The entrance to this historical site is free for visitors. You must phone the Maritime hotel for permission to visit the ruins. Tell them you are a tourist. That’s because the site is sometimes used for fashion and film shoots when the producers pay a fee.
Off our North West coastal road
c/o Maritime Hotel
Tel: (230) 204 1000
Close-up of a wall
Add this attraction on your list of things to see in Mauritius. You’ll be glad you did.