New year's day flyby at Mauritius' Underwater Waterfall / by Scott Allford

The stunning Underwater Waterfall

The stunning Underwater Waterfall

The Underwater Waterfall in Mauritius has been popping up in bucket lists recently, and is quickly becoming one of the top places to see in your lifetime. Although there is no actual waterfall, it is simply sand and silt flows, it is still an awe inspiring sight to behold.

The Underwater Waterfall is located just off the coast of the Le Morne Cultural Landscape in the Southwest of Mauritius. However, there’s only one way to see it – from the air above it. From the beach, a boat, or the top of the Morne Brabant you won’t get the slightest inkling of the scene just below the surface. If you’re really lucky, your plane may pass over Le Morne as you’re coming into land, but your best chance is to book a helicopter flight. Air Mauritius offers helicopter services all over Mauritius, and are the only provider of scenic flights over the Underwater Waterfall. They can pick you up from anywhere on the island, but of course you have to pay for the convenience.

Arranging the flight

The choice of helipads around Mauritius

The choice of helipads around Mauritius

We contacted Air Mauritius in advance to arrange payment, however, they currently don’t offer any secure online payment options. We chose to lock in a date for our flight and pay when we arrived at the airport in Mauritius. Flight times are given as a guide, but are only confirmed on the day of the flight.

On arrival at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport we had to call Air Mauritius so they could send someone to meet us, as the office for helicopter services is located in a hangar far from the arrivals hall. Sadly the person who met us didn’t bring a card reader machine and had to go and find it – apparently it was inside a helicopter which was flying somewhere around the island. Needless to say, if you arrange to pay at the airport when you arrive, be prepared to wait for a while.

As we were travelling around Mauritius, we decided to go to the nearest helipad to Le Morne as part of a tour – which significantly lowered the price of the flight. We arranged a private land tour of the Southwest of Mauritius with a stop at Château Bel Ombre, where you can access a helipad on their golf course if you ask for permission in advance and pay a fee on the day (2000MUR in January 2017). There are helipads which are closer to the Underwater Waterfall, but they are not accessible to the general public.

The first attempt

Looking at the rain falling on Le Morne

Looking at the rain falling on Le Morne

We had initially arranged our flight for December 31st at 1pm, and on December 30th Air Mauritius changed the scheduled time to 4pm. So instead of going straight to Bel Ombre, we did our sightseeing tour around Southwest Mauritius before our scheduled flight. As we descended from the mountains to the southern coast, dark clouds began to gather, then just before we arrived at Château Bel Ombre, a light rain began to fall.

SEE: PHOTOS OF OUT TRIP TO MAURITIUS

We called Air Mauritius and they said to wait and see if the weather would change, so we went to the reception desk at Château Bel Ombre and paid for use of the helipad. We made our way over to the helipad, which is inside the golf course on the other side of the main road, and waited for the helicopter. Then all of a sudden we were in the middle of a torrential downpour! We called Air Mauritius again and were told to wait and see if it cleared. Just after 4pm the helicopter landed and then it took off again, as it was pretty clear there was no point trying to see the Underwater Waterfall because the rain would make it hard to see the colours below the water. We asked to schedule the flight for the next day and headed back to our hotel in Flic-en-Flac to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks.  

The Flight

Go time

Go time

Air Mauritius managed to reschedule our flight for 11:10am on January 1st. We woke up early and drove back to Bel Ombre, but as we got closer, it started drizzle. Then as we arrived back at the helipad, it started to pour down again. We called Air Mauritius, and they told us there were blue skies over at the airport, so we should wait to see if it cleared.

Just before 11am the rain eased and the helicopter landed to pick up two Japanese women who had been waiting with us. Then some patches of blue sky started to appear and around 11:20am another helicopter landed to take us. We climbed on board and received a quick safety briefing before taking off. It became instantly clear that the worst weather was around Bel Ombre, and with the sun shining in we were able to see great colours in the water.

View of the South coast with Le Morne in the distance

View of the South coast with Le Morne in the distance

 Approaching Le Morne from the east, you get to see some nice scenery, but it is not until you are almost directly over the Underwater Waterfall that you’ll be able to see it. It really is a pretty amazing sight! It’s as if the land is slowly being sucked down into the dark depths of the ocean. We did a couple of passes before flying over the Seven Coloured Earth and Chamarel Waterfall, which we has seen at ground level the day before. Then we went along the southern coast to see the reefs and beaches before heading back to the helipad.

To be honest, after our failed first attempt we had almost given up hope as the weather forecast for January 1st was not very good and we were leaving Mauritius on January 2nd. Air Mauritius had guaranteed a refund for the helicopter and for the use of the helipad, but we had travelled a long way to see the Underwater Waterfall. While the whole experience didn’t go according to plan and we came very close to being disappointed, in the end it was something that we really enjoyed and will always remember. 

SCOTT ALLFORD, OWNER AND CO-FOUNDER THE NEXT ESCAPE: TRAVEL, ARTS, SPORTS AND LIFESTYLE