The National History Museum in Mahebourg is a most charming attraction in the South East of Mauritius. Imagine a rare and near complete skeleton of the dodo, naval memorabilia and posters with images depicting life during colonial times.
The museum is housed in a vintage ‘old world’ mansion and is listed as a National Heritage Site.
Mahebourg Naval Museum
This lovely home also known as Gheude Castle was built at the end of the 18th century. The colonial mansion was first owned by the de Robillard family. Mr Jean de Robillard was the commander of the Grand Port district. Various important French settlers lived in the house afterwards.
The Mauritius government bought the house when it was auctioned in 1947. It was eventually converted into a Naval and Historical Museum. The Dutch Section was inaugurated by the descendant of Maurits Van Nassau who gave his name to Mauritius in 1598.
First the garden.The Mahebourg museum is located in a 12 acre garden where you’ll see a reproduction of quaint village houses.
Mahebourg museum garden
An interesting collection of items salvaged from naval battles mingles with a near complete and rare skeleton of the dodo. Maps, old coins and furniture add an interesting mix.
Have a look at the weapons used by the famous or infamous corsair Robert Surcouf. The bell was recovered from the wreck of the Saint Geran which sank off our East coast in the middle of the 18th century. You might have heard of the romantic legend of Paul and Virginie inspired by the Saint Geran during the French period …
The cannon in front of the museum was recovered from a British frigate named la Magicienne. The cannon faces the entrance from the main road leading into the village of Mahebourg
Cannon from the wreck of La Magicienne
On the first floor you’ll see a four poster bed which was owned by Mahe de Labourdonnais the first French governor of Mauritius. The two palanquins were carried by slaves whilst their owner was regally seated inside.
In August 1810 there was a mighty naval battle at nearby Vieux Grand Port between the British and French fleet. Both commanders were injured and looked after in the same wing of the maritime museum! They were Sir Nesbit Willoughby and Baron Victor Duperre.
By the way it’s the only naval battle won by the French … it goes without saying that the battle is inscribed at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. I think the French surprised even themselves by winning.
The naval museum is located off the main road on the left as you enter Mahebourg. A 10 minute drive from the airport.
Tel: 230 631 9329
Monday, Wednesday to Saturday: 09h00 to 16h00
Sunday: 09h00 to 12h00
Don’t miss out on this excursion when in the South East. Photos of the interior of the museum are not allowed. A visit to the Mahebourg museum will delight you.
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