Seven Colored Earths. Geological Feature in Mauritius, Africa

Seven Colored Earths

Geological Feature in Mauritius, Africa

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Seven Colored Earths

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	Earth of Chamarel. Mauritius
Seven-Coloured Earth of Chamarel. Mauritius. Photo by Jenny

The impressive “Seven Colored Earth of Chamarel” is named for the strange natural colors of a fairly small area (roughly 7500 square metres) covered in sand dunes made of mineral clay that formed from basaltic lava in South Western Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean off of the eastern coast of Madagascar. The seven different colors, red, yellow, green, blue, violet, purple, and brown are capable of forming truly remarkable patterns. This is due to the fact that the different colors, being comprised of different clay minerals, naturally settle into layers, or bands, each of a different color, with different colors being more or less distinct as light hits it from different angles at different times of the day.

A strange Geographic Anomaly

Although Geological Science has explained the different colors of the sand as being the result of molten lava cooling at different rates due to inconsistent temperatures and forming oxides of various metals including iron and aluminium, they have not fully explained it’s tendency to settle into layers, and no place on earth of a similar geography is known, as while places like Australia and Papuan Guinea have similar terrain, the namesake seven colours are not present. Some organisations have thought about excavating at the site to determine the cause of this phenomenon, but have elected not to risk destroying the formation. If you wish to have some of the sand for your own, however, some local gift shops around the town of Chamarel sell small vials of it.

Luckily, the dunes do not seem to be facing complications due to erosion, despite the heavy rains that often drench the island, which is another mystery. The rains do, however, leave their mark as they travel over the dunes, leaving patterns of criss-crossing channels as they go, resulting in web-like patterns changing with each storm and making the dunes even more beautiful.

 - Seven Colored
Seven Colored Earths. . Photo by Jean Dupont

The Dunes as a Park

Some time between the dune’s discovery and there having been turned into a privately owned tourist attraction sometime in the 1960’s, visitors are not allowed on the dunes due to their tendency to take the odd and beautiful sand home with them, though a small network of trails leads around them with large elevated observation decks at intervals. While the trails allow visitors to get a close look at the dunes, and associate themselves with some of the region’s wildlife, including tortoises, the observation decks allow more impressive views of larger expanses of the park. A small park with labelled trees native to the area is also close by.

The dunes, which are entirely devoid of vegetation, mysteriously arise out of a patch of dense forest. Whether some strange anomaly prevents the growth of vegetation or whether owners remove any by hand in order to preserve the park’s beauty is up to speculation, but their rising out of the forest has been guessed at; some have suggested that the area was once cleared for the production of sugarcane, for which the island was most used in the 17th century, but rain washed away the topsoil, revealing the dunes and leaving them unfit to sustain a crop. Following this initial deforestation of the area, continued rains may have kept the topsoil from collecting over the dunes, leaving them unsuitable as farmland. Most of the island’s natural wildlife and vegetation was eradicated during this period of British colonization, making the island’s recent involvement in tourism an important step towards preserving what is left of the island’s natural history. This time may have permanently changed the geography of the island, but it has also made the area more interesting. As a result of the colonization, the current locals of the island are seen to be a blend of aboriginal peoples, the English who once colonized the area, and the Indians that were brought to work in the cane fields, largely as indentured servants.

The Area around the Dunes

Chamarel Falls
Chamarel Falls

Hiring a taxifrom where? is the only way to commute to the Dunes and its surrounding areas. The dunes are also not the only natural wonder in the area, but are a short drive away from the Black River George and a number of waterfalls, one of which, the 100 meter high Chamarel Falls, must even be walked past once on the trail to get to the dunes. The main entrance is on a marked side road past a restaurant called “Le Chamarel”.

Also the scenic drive from the next nearest city of Case Noyale presents many picturesque views in itself. The park does charge an admission fee of some £ £3 ($4.56), or about $ 5.00 USD (children under five are not charged), which seems like a small amount considering signage, and upkeep of the park, trail, and the observation decks, especially considering that the park is privately owned. The waterfall on the premises can be reached without paying admission. The island has an average temperature of between 20 °C and 30 °C , with the driest season extending from September to November.

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Author: aunindita. Last updated: Aug 19, 2014


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