We are back from our amazing European holidays (I have started to write about our time in Denmark) and we still had a good week before the kids needed to go back to school. They have been asking and asking me to take them to ‘Crocodile Park’ for a year now: this week I finally gave in and off we went. This is one of the must do’s in Mauritius with children.
It is quite a drive from where we live on the east coast of Mauritius, so it took us more than an hour to get there and since we are still on holiday mode well we arrived just in time to see the Nile Crocodiles being fed at 11:30am.
The Vanilla Nature Park, or Crocodile Park as it is also called, is located in the Southern part of the island, in the middle of the sugar cane fields, behind the village of Rivière des Anguilles.
The Park: what is there to see?
The Vanilla Nature Park was created in 1985 and is involved in many conservation projects, in Mauritius but also in Rodrigues and Madagascar. In Mauritius today, only 2% of endemic forest is left and of course it has come with a lot of problems and pressure for the flora but also to the local fauna.
It is not a big park by European standards, but for Mauritius it is actually very nice: it is clean, the staff is courteous and present, and there are quite a few things to look at!
- The reserve – you will see crocodiles and alligators, aldabra tortoises living in semi-liberty. There are iguanas and monkeys, mongoose and bats, deers and lemurs – just to name a few. All of these are found in a lush garden, with huge bamboo trees and other beautiful flora.
- The insectarium – is a extraordinary collection of about 30’000 specimens from 5 continents.
- The farm – the latest addition to the park is a small and interactive petting farm with a playground.
How we spend our day!
We arrived just before 11:30am and went straight to the crocodile feeding area. This only happens once a day (but not on Mondays and Fridays). I have to say it wasn’t my favourite part of the park: I am generally not a very big fan of animals in cages. However, I accept the idea and the benefits of animal conservation when it is done nicely and with respect to the animals.
This for me is the kind of thing that I have mixed feelings about. The kids thought it was fun. The staff from the park make raw chicken slide and then the crocodiles have to jump to get hold of them. We saw a couple of crocodiles eat and left to discover the rest of the park.
I was a much bigger fan of the tortoise area. The Aldabra tortoise is one of the largest land tortoise in the world and also one of the longest living creatures. Domino is the oldest of the park: he weights 275 kgs and is over 100 years old. We probably met him. The nature park also has a nursery that you can visit.
At the entrance of the tortoise area you can buy Scaevola leaves and feed the tortoises with. This, the kids absolutely loved. You will be surprised how fast those tortoises can move when you hold their favourite snack in your hands. The lady who was selling the leaves remembered kiddos 1 from her visit last year, that was quite impressive I thought. That is so typical of the Mauritian hospitality and well, my little girl felt very special.
They have opened a small walk-through gallery where they show the extinct animals of the region such as the elephant bird of Madagascar or the dodo from Mauritius. They also explain their conservation programs – what they are doing to reintroduce nearly extinct fauna and flora. Some of the tortoises bred at the nature park are, for example, moved to Rodrigues.
There are many other animals to have a look and we had a walk around in the reserve.
It was time for a little break and we sat down for lunch at the ‘Crocodile Affamé‘ (the Hungry Crocodile) – where you can actually eat crocodile steak, should that be something you’d want to try. We just had a sandwich, but there are also curries and other local dishes.
The insectarium is an amazing experience and really worth it. The collection is stunning!
Finally we stopped at the playground and petting farm on the way out, fed the goats and the kids talked me into having a little pony ride.
We stayed approximately 3h and I think that’s about the time you would want to spend there.
Opening hours: 8:30am to 5pm
Entrance Fees: Rs490 per adult – Rs250 per child (3 to 12 yrs) (they have reduced prices for Mauritians and residents).
Entrance Fees for the turtle nursery: This is a new feature at the park and you have to pay extra – I thought I had the prices somewhere, but now I can’t find them. As far as I remember it was more or less the same price as the entrance though.
Guided Tours: there are free guided tours through the park – they run approximately every 30 mins.
Access: As I mentioned at the beginning of the post it took us more than an hour to get there and really unless you are on the south coast of the island, you need to count around an hour at least to get there. It makes it a day trip really from nearly everywhere on the island. There are a few things you can combine the visit with: a stop at Bois Cheri (the tea factory and museum) or St Aubin, a colonial house. These are 2 things that are on my to do list – but they are part of La Route du Thé, a 3 stop excursion that includes Le Domaine des Aubineaux, that I have visited and you can read about, here. There are also some beautiful places to view wilderness of the south coast (Le Souffleur or Gris Gris Beach) as well as Ganga Talao, a famous Hindu Spiritual park and temple, that is really interesting to visit. One last thing, if you are driving by yourself make sure to use the GPS, it is a bit tricky to find!