STOP 1 : Baie du Jacotet and Îlot Sancho
On the road between Rivière des Galets and Bel Ombre are two places that will fascinate those interested in pirate stories and historical battles: Baie du Jacotet and Îlot Sancho.
Initially called Ebbenhouts Baay (Ebony Bay) by the Dutch, then Baie sans Fin (Endless Bay) by Mauritius’ first French settlers, Baie du Jacotet’s current name dates back to the eighteenth century, when a French military outpost commanded by an officer named Jacoté defended this strategic location.
Though Baie du Jacotet is today a picture of calm, this placid bay was previously fortified by French naval installations and two cannons, and was the setting for the first English assault on French-held Mauritius. On the 1st of May 1810, Captain Willoughby of the British Navy, aboard his frigate Nereide, attempted to take possession of an imposing three-masted ship. Attacking in the middle of the night, Willoughby took a French commander prisoner, but was only able to capture a sloop and was forced to leave the more desirable three-master behind.
Today renowned for its beauty but also for its surf break, Îlot Sancho is accessible on foot at low tide from Baie du Jacotet. Composed of sand hardened by the elements, the island is home to a wide variety of trees including “pomme jaco", or monkey’s apple; veloutier; Indian-almond; and bois matelot. You can also admire an old ship’s anchor that appears to have melted in the rock, and whose origin is unclear: is it a remnant of the French period? Or proof of the passage of pirates? Mauritius was indeed a refuge for a great many pirates and corsairs, including the famous Surcouf. It is also whispered that the tunnels and caves in proximity to the bay still house a treasure... Despite an absence of evidence, rumours continue to be rife!