Peering over the edge of the 45-meter high waterfall, my knees begin to shake and my head spins slightly. I’m about to abseil down the steep and slipper rock face with nothing more than a harness, a rope intertwined within several carabiners, a wetsuit, and a helmet.
Alberto takes his turn before me, and before he takes off, he smiles at me nervously and says, “this is pretty high!”. I’ve never seen him nervous about heights — not even when skydiving in Spain or gorge swinging off Victoria Falls. It’s now even harder to fight off the anxiety in my head. But our instructor, Olivier, who’s hanging on the rock face, gives me an assuring nod and tells me it’s time.
With my harness strapped on to the ropes, Olivier lets go and I take my first step on the rock. I stretch my legs out perpendicularly to my body and let the rope slip off my right hand one inch at a time. Within a few minutes, my fear is replaced with sheer excitement and adrenaline.
Plunging and Abseiling off Waterfalls
In the western highlands of Mauritius, we’re canyoning down Les Sept Cascades (‘the seven waterfalls’ in French). Also known as Tamarin Falls, the series of seven waterfalls is formed by Rivière Tamarin (Tamarin River) and features a total height of 293 meters. With a hodgepotch of deep ponds, cliffs, craggy rock faces, and steep hiking trails, this natural site is an excellent spot for canyoning.
For the uninitiated, canyoning is an outdoor sport that involves technical descents down narrow canyons and often requires abseils (rappels) and rope work, technical climbing, jumps and swims. Canyons can be very easy or extremely difficult, though emphasis in the sport is usually on aesthetics and fun rather than pure difficulty. We’ve done canyoning on the Freser River in the Spanish Pyrenees and in Jereka Canyon in Bled, Slovenia, but this experience in Les Sept Cascades is by far the most exciting one, involving the highest rappels and most dramatic scenery.
The Rugged Side of Mauritius
Earlier that morning, we’d driven to the village of Henrietta and found ourselves standing at a viewpoint overlooking all seven waterfalls and the rugged canyon that envelopes it. This part of Mauritius defies all stereotypes of the country with its lush greenery, thick tropical forests and impressive mountains — far from the beaches and luxury resorts that most people associate the island with. Here, muddy hiking trails criss-cross the landscapes and biking paths snake through the rocky plateaus on the mountain top. It is where outdoor and adventure lovers like Oliver go for some action.
As a native Mauritian, Olivier Bourqin has always been active and loved exploring the great outdoors – whether abroad or in his home country. He started canyoning in 1992 and decided to leave his cabin crew job in 2005 to set up his own outdoor activity company, Otelair. These days, he does what he loves most – bringing travelers into the back country of Mauritius and leading them on hiking and canyoning trips around the island. In recent years, canyoning has become increasingly popular as travelers are now seeking out more meaningful activities to do during vacation rather than just lounging on the beach. The Tamarin Falls, as the highest waterfall in Mauritius, creates a natural circuit for all levels of canyoning.
Wet and Wild
Back in the falls, we prepare to jump off a nine-meter cliff to get to the next pool. Despite the humble height, I chicken out and let the guys do the leaping instead. Instead, I veer off into the forests that flank the falls and traverse the muddy trail. We get to another waterfall, this time just six meters high, and I sure have no problems taking the plunge. It isn’t easy clambering our way up the steep and slippery vertiginous rock face for the leap, but it sure is fun leaping off the cliff and frolicking in the refreshingly cool water.
By the time we reach the end of our canyoning experience, we are all beaming with satisfaction and exhaustion — our faces flushed red with excitement and our heads reeling in delirium. Sometimes a leap of faith is all it takes.
Disclaimer: The #MyMauritius blog trip is created and managed by iambassador and AHRIM, in association with the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority and Air Mauritius. While our trip is sponsored, all opinions expressed above are our own.