Natural History Museum of Port-Louis
If you happen to be a history or culture buff, then visiting the capital of Mauritius can be a good starting point to learn about the island’s rich legacy.
One ideal place to start this journey is the Natural History Museum situated in the 19th-century Mauritius Institute Building tucked in between the Government House and Jardin de la Compagnie in Port Louis.
Touted as the oldest museum in Mauritius, the Natural History Museum was initially set up in 1826 at the request of two notable naturalists, Julien Desjardins and Louis Bouton. The main idea of this initiative was to collect several artifacts and record details of the flora and fauna found across Mauritius and the other Mascarene Islands.
On 14 October 1842, the museum, which was then named after Desjardins, officially opened its door at the old Royal College in Port Louis and remained there for 42 years. In 1885, the whole collection of the Desjardins Museum was transferred to the newly built Mauritius Institute Building, which was constructed between 1880 - 1884. The building was designed by British architect M. Mann, who took inspiration from the Colombo Museum building located in Sri Lanka.
Today visitors can enjoy the wide range of displays that covers the island’s flora and fauna, including the marine life of the island, the extinct Dodo bird, and nearly 3000 geological samples and specimens collected through several excavations. Recently, the Mauritian Ex-Servicemen's World War I and World War II Tribute Gallery was added to its display collection.
Galleries of The Natural History Museum
The interesting fauna gallery consists of a wide collection of stuffed bird specimens, especially the marsh and migrating birds found on the island and in different parts of the world. Some birds include the Indian Myna, a house sparrow brought from India, and the Common Waxbill which came from South Africa.
The most fascinating animal species on display is undoubtedly the cast fossil of the Archaeopteryx, a feathered dinosaur. The specimen was donated by the British Museum. As you move further into this gallery section, you will see other extinct species such as the skeleton of the famous Dodo, which originates from the island itself, and the oldest specimen of the Mauritian Dutch Pigeon. You can also spot the skeleton of the now extinct bird Solitaire, which came from nearby Rodrigues Island.
There is a dedicated gallery for the dodo bird, which once thrived on the island. This flightless bird formed part of the pigeon family and was first discovered by the Dutch in the 1500s. Unfortunately, it became extinct by the end of the 17th century due to human destruction of their habitat, introduction of other animals, unfavourable weather and excessive hunting. In 2005, a team of archaeologists excavated about 8000 bones of this bird species.
Marine Life Gallery
The marine gallery is another interesting place to learn more about the marine wildlife of the Indian Ocean. You will find many stuffed fish species, crabs, sharks, rays, eels, and Acanthocidaris curvastispina, which is a rare sea urchin species. There is also a Giant Clamshell that was collected in the Gulf of Bengal.
Location: Port Louis (next to Jardin de la Compagnie)
Monday, Thursday & Friday: 9am - 4pm Wednesday: 11am - 4pm Saturday: 9am - 12pm Sunday and public holidays: Closed