Whenever we visit anywhere new we always try to get a good balance of fun and exploring whilst still learning about the place and its history. This was no different when we were in Mauritius. We tried to learn as much as we could about the island whilst going at the children’s pace and making everything as interesting as possible for them.
During one of our mornings exploring Mauritius we decided to drive to L’aventure du Sucre which, in its glory days, was one of the biggest producers of sugar on the island thanks to the natural abundance of sugar cane that covers the whole of Mauritius. Nowadays, the factory has been transformed into a museum and visitor centre dedicated to this important piece of the island’s history.
The day started in the lush garden area where we were able to park our car nearby in the ample car park. There were clean toilets before the main reception area, which we were grateful for after the car journey. There is also an outside eating area that is made up from a replica of a train that used to haul sugar cane around the island during the industrial age. They sold freshly made sandwiches and snacks, along with a plentiful lunch menu and of course, sugar based treats.
After buying our tickets we were invited by the receptionist to try some freshly cut sugar cane, straight from the plantation that very morning. It was a strange sensation, chewing on a piece of raw sugar cane, but it was the sweetest thing we have ever tasted! There was a special ‘spitoon’ for the leftover fibres to go in which we were told would later be used in generating electricity for the museum. Guided tours for the museum at no extra charge are available Monday to Thursdays at 10:30am and 2:30pm, with just the afternoon one on a Friday. As we arrived soon after it opened we decided to buy a guide book and wander around at our own pace.
The first exhibition covers how Mauritius was created from a fiery volcanic start, and explains why there are seemingly random piles of dark rock, tens of meters high dotted around the island. We also learned about the first foreigners to land on the island and its colonial roots through the ages.
We were also treated to an interactive timeline of the islands history with exciting stories and spy holes for the children to use to see cool illustrations of how island life has evolved over the years.
The next area told us the story of sugar on the island through the ages and how the industrial revolution really took hold and transformed the refining process. At the height of the sugar boom, there were almost three hundred sugar mills on the island, producing 131,049 tons of sugar in 1860. However, the sugar industry was soon consolidated with the number of mills shrinking to thirty in the late 1940’s, but with production hitting 415,000 tons.
We learnt how the sugar made it’s journey from the field to the bags of sugar ready for exporting. Along with machinery that still chugged along, the museum had wonderful, authentic smells and sounds that transported you to a busy factory floor.
The children were loving the interactive elements, pressing buttons to make pistons chug and conveyor belts whir into life! With each different section of the museum you could see how technology was introduced over the years, making the process quicker and less laborious for the workforce.
The end result was sugar in a liquid form that is eventually cooked off, leaving the product that we still use today. Trade routes around the world were also shown off, with the chance to lift a bag of sugar onto a mock up boat. Dave managed to lift it an inch or two, but we were all gobsmacked to see photographs from the 1920’s of scrawny locals carrying the same bags on their heads and loading them onto the boat! We had never known weight like it.
The last section of L aventure du Sucre was dedicated to one of the natural by-products of sugar production – Rum! Included in the ticket price is a tasting session where you can sample the refinery’s wide selection from 20 year old cask aged speciality rum to the more everyday stuff that is enjoyed all over the island. There were also loads of different types of sugar to try, from golden castor to dark molasses and even different jams and chutneys that are made at the factory. The children loved the unusual jams that they tried and Dave was happy to buy some genuine flavoured coffee beans to take home.
L’aventure du Sucre is a great experience that made a really lovely morning out with plenty to keep the children’s interest and keep them occupied whilst the grownups can wander around and really take in an important part of the history of ile Maurice. To make a full day of it we visited the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden afterwards which is just a stone’s throw away.
Our day out at L’aventure du Sucre cost just 400MUR for adults and 200MUR for the children, Around £27 for our family of four. L’aventure du Sucre is situated just off the Beau Plan roundabout, Pamplemousses and you can find out more here.