STORIES By Heritage Resorts - Issue 3 - 2019 - Page 8

residence in the 1750s for the
governors of Isle de France.
Undeniably, the most
exciting discoveries are
found along the shore, which
forms the core, and arguably
the showcase for this vast
area at the crossing point
between Rivière Jacotet and
Rivière des Galets. Standing
in the middle of the bay, Îlot
Sancho is a coral headland
that stretches out into the
sea; legend also has it that
pirates of the Indian Ocean
have hidden a treasure on
this tiny island.
However, a tangible fact is
that the bay was named after
a French officer who was in
command of the military post
that guarded the coastline
at the time of the French
East India Company. The site
was of particular interest for
ships looking for a landing
spot on Isle de France.
British frigates and pirate
ships often stopped there to
take shelter or refuge before
going round Le Morne
Brabant, further west.
The small isolated bay opens
onto rough seas tossed
by southerly winds. Baie
du Jacotet is a safe haven
cut off from the rest of
the world, in the foothills
of wooded mountains. A
part of its coastline and the
surrounding hills harbour a
number of historical remains
that most Mauritian people
do not know about. This
quiet and refreshing hideout
is gradually unveiling its
secrets hidden beneath
lush vegetation.
Charles Telfair's house
This vast ecotourism area,
tucked between sea and
mountains, is managed by
Heritage Nature Reserve.
Still largely unexplored, the
region between Bel Ombre
and Rivière des Galets is
shaping up as a world rich
in history and emotions. A
2,500-hectare estate where
the natural world thrives
under man’s hand.
Heritage Nature Reserve
brings out the history of Baie
du Jacotet with the objective
to shed light on little-known
episodes of the history of
Mauritius. An unlikely fact
has emerged from a history
book. “The history of Baie du
Jacotet is older than that of
Bel Ombre, which is far more
talked about,” says the Chief
Executive Officer of Island
Living and Heritage Nature
Reserve, Richard Stedman.
Therefore, the historical
record must be set straight.
Structures dating from the
mid-18th century have been
restored and explanations
have been found for certain
places' names. It is now
known that Abattis des
Cipayes, situated on the
heights overlooking the bay,
is where Indian volunteers
serving in the British army
set camp after the island
was taken over in 1810.
Since June 2018, this site has
become the main feature
of a hiking trail. Searches
carried out by the Heritage
team have also led to the
identification of a building
that was used as a summer
Baie du Jacotet was a
strategic location at the
height of the war between
France and Britain. In
May 1810, it was the scene
of a feat that served as a
prelude to the Battle of
Grand Port and the capture
of the island by the British. It
was there that the Néreide
frigate, under the command
of Captain Nesbit Willoughby,
captured an American ship
at anchor on 1 May of the
same year. A few months
later, Captain Willoughby was
a main protagonist in the
Battle of Grand Port. He was
among the British officers
who besieged Isle of France
in the early 19th century
in an attempt to force the
French to surrender and take
over the island.
After capturing the American
ship, Willoughby and his
crew attacked the battery,
captured the commanding
officer and forced the
soldiers to flee. However, the
British captain found himself
in a difficult situation against
the regrouped garrison and
finally had to retreat.
For those who know where
to look, this place now
covered by creepers and
hidden in the shade of
large badamiers (tropical
almond trees) has somehow
withstood the test of time.
Nicolas Pilot is like a tracker
in this partially wild nature
where small farmers have
managed to work the land
to grow banana trees and
pumpkins. The 30-year-old
Operations Manager of
Heritage Nature Reserve has
a passion for both history
and nature.
Just before the mouth of
Rivière Jacotet, which is
continuously silted up by
the southern swells and
a combination of natural
conditions (tides, swells and
floods), keen-eyed walkers
may spot the remains
of a small dock that was
once used for loading and
unloading goods. There is an
embankment and a pile of
dressed stone a bit further
on, a few metres from the
shore. These are part of the
ruins of the fortifications
that once housed the
French battery.
But what about the pirates’
treasures? When asked the
question, Richard Stedman
and Nicolas Pilot look at
each other with a knowing
smile. Did they find the
legendary loot plundered
from merchant vessels
sailing in the Indian Ocean by
the Brethren of the Coast in
the early 18th century? Some
say that it was buried at the
foot of a hillock upstream of
a river. The treasure of Baie
du Jacotet truly exists and
is available to everyone. It is
the invaluable natural and
cultural heritage that is there
for the enjoyment of visitors.


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