National History Museum

Top choice museum in Mahébourg

This terrific museum is one of Mauritius' best. It contains fascinating early maps of the island and Indian Ocean region, paintings from colonial times, model ships from important episodes in Mauritian history, archive photographs, and a rare, intact skeleton of the dodo and another disappeared species, the Rodrigues solitaire. One real curio is an engraving of Dutch gentlemen riding in pairs on the back of a giant tortoise, a species that also went the way of the dodo.

The colonial mansion housing this museum used to belong to the Robillard family and played an important part in the island's history. It was here in 1810 that the injured commanders of the French and English fleets were taken for treatment after the Battle of Vieux Grand Port (the only naval battle in which the French got the upper hand over their British foes). The story of the victory is retold in the museum, along with salvaged items – cannons, grapeshot and the all-important wine bottles – from the British frigate Magicienne, which sank in the battle.

The bell and a cache of Spanish coins from the wreck of the St Géran are also on display. The ship's demise in 1744, off the northeast coast of Mauritius, inspired the famous love story Paul et Virginie by Bernardin de St-Pierre.

Recent additions to the museum include a retrofitted train carriage out the back and a replica of Napoleon's boat used in the infamous battle that defeated the English.

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