Two of UNWTO’s Best Tourism Villages in Mauritius, Le Morne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Old Grand Port, the first human settlement in the country were presented with their plaques and certificates during the 66th UNWTO Commission for Africa (CAF) Meetings in last July.
The two villages were part of the 2021 inaugural UNWTO Best Tourism Villages winners but the presentation of their awards had been hampered by COVD-19. Mauritius hosted the CAF Meeting; thus, presenting a fine opportunity for UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, to finally hand the two villages their certificates.
According to the world tourism body, ‘Best Tourism Villages” recognise the village which are an outstanding example of a rural Tourism destination with recognised cultural and natural assets that preserve and promote the rural and community-based values, products and lifestyle.
It also recognises the villages which have a clear commitment to sustainability in all its aspects – economic, social and environmental – in its development of tourism as one of the drivers of rural development and community well-being.
Presenting the certificates, Zurab Pololikashvili intimated that the two villages serve as shining examples of what can be achieved when communities unite in the pursuit of sustainable development and responsible tourism.
“Let us also acknowledge the extraordinary milestone of Le Morne’s 15 years as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like the members of our global Best Tourism Villages network, they show the unique ability of tourism to provide jobs, support businesses and celebrate unique culture and heritage. And they are the very best example of living up to our pledge of “leaving nobody behind” as we recover and move forward,” the Secretary General maintained.
Besides its charming inhabitants, the village of Le Morne boasts extraordinary natural and cultural resources which are renowned internationally. In fact, one of the unique facets of this historical, colorful and tranquil village is that it is surrounded by the ocean and the mountains.
The majestic mountain of Le Morne Brabant located on the peninsula that juts into the Indian Ocean in the southwest of Mauritius, has gained international recognition with its inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as “Le Morne Cultural Landscape” due to its outstanding universal value and the exceptional testimony to “maroonage” and as a symbol to the slaves fight for freedom.
One can discover several shades of blue in the lagoon of le Morne which besides from being a source of livelihood for fishers, is also home to a variety of nautical activities. The waters surrounding the peninsula are internationally recognized as one of the best kite-surfing spots worldwide. One of its other hidden treasures and unique to the waters of Le Morne is the famous underwater waterfall which is a spectacular optical illusion.
In addition to those unique natural wonders, culture, heritage, history and emotions create a distinctive vibe to this fishermen village which one can perceive nowhere else. The local culture contributes to the identity and sense of belonging of the multi-ethnic local inhabitants which is transmitted from generation to generation through the traditional cuisines, storytelling myths & legend or music.
The “Séga” music which is said to have originated from Le Morne is inscribed on the intangible list of UNESCO World Heritage.
Old Grand Port
The village of Old Grand Port is known as the cradle of the island’s colonization, as the first settlement of Mauritius by the Dutch took place in this area. The village has a rich mix of historical, cultural and natural resources. The ruins that still exist today are a living testimony to the island’s vibrant history.
The village also has unique natural landscapes, such as Lion Mountain, as well as endemic fauna and flora, and its huge bay. This bay was the site of the historic “Battle of Grand Port” between the French and British in 1810 and is today a source of livelihood for the local community. It has been proclaimed a fishing reserve for its abundance of shellfish.
The development of tourism is one of the priorities of this village: the great potential of its various attractions and its unique historical value fosters the creation of opportunities in various economic activities directly and indirectly related to tourism, leading to the improvement of the standard of living of its inhabitants.
The village has all the basic and associated facilities conducive to tourism development, such as accommodation, a local community health center, a police station and traditional shops. On the cultural side, handicrafts and fishing are part of the life of the village, adding to its attractiveness, authenticity and originality.
Its multi-ethnic population, composed mainly of the local fishing community, farmers and craftsmen, continues to preserve the traditional way of life and cultures that once lived on the island in peace and harmony.