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If you like to travel, you’ve probably seen all kinds of waterfalls -- from the world-renowned Niagara Falls to the fleeting, spectacular so-called Firefall in Yosemite National Park. Chances are, however, that you haven’t seen an underwater waterfall.

An underwater waterfall? Yes. Well, sort of. Off the coast of a small island in the Indian Ocean, there is -- what appears to be -- a waterfall submerged in the ocean itself.

Underwater waterfall, Mauritius, Indian Ocean.

The Underwater Waterfall

The Republic of Mauritius is an island nation approximately 1,200 miles southeast of Africa. The republic has a population of 1.3 million, most of whom are of Indian descent. The rest of the people are of Creole, Chinese, French, English, and South African descent, CNN explains. The country’s official language is English.

Mauritius is situated on an ocean shelf that rises up from the ocean floor. From the island’s shore, there is a gradual slope leading out to a sudden 2.5-mile drop to the ocean floor, a Culture Trip article explains.

The “waterfall” is actually an optical illusion formed by sand and silt deposits sliding down the slope and then dropping into the abyss. As the CNN article explains, the “sand and silt on the ocean floor run off in a way that makes it look like they’re pouring down a waterfall -- or like the entire island is being sucked down a vast drain.”

It’s difficult to see the underwater waterfall from the shore. To truly see what appears to be the flowing water, you need to be above the water, looking down. The good news is that tourists are welcome and helicopter tours are available to help them see the spectacular effect.

Waterfall, Black River Gorges National Park.

Other Attractions

Let’s be honest: Traveling at least 9,000 miles is a long way to see one thing -- no matter how cool it is. Fortunately, Mauritius has a number of other attractions that make it an island paradise.

For example, Pereybere Beach, the island’s website explains, is recommended for family swimming because it’s “a quiet place with a calm sea,” so it’s ideal for inexperienced swimmers. Note that although nudism is prohibited at the beach, topless sunbathing is allowed.

The waterfall illusion occurs off the coast of the Le Morne Cultural Landscape, marked by a basaltic monolith that sits at the end of the Le Morne Brabant peninsula. The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it was used “as a shelter by runaway slaves, maroons, through the 18th and early years of the 19th centuries,” the World Heritage Site listing explains.

Finally, no trip to Mauritius would be complete without visiting the 17,000-acre Black River Gorges National Park, made up of “rolling hills, deep valleys, spectacular waterfalls, and unparalleled beauty of flora and fauna.” While visiting the park, you can visit Alexandra Waterfall and even hike to Black River Peak -- the island’s highest point.

Underwater waterfall and Le Morne Brabant.

Know Before You Go

Mauritius is currently closed to non-citizens. It is expected that limited travel will be allowed from April 15 to May 31, when the country will re-open, depending on current COVID-19 conditions. More travel information may be found here.

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