Until 1999, life on the Domaine de Bel Ombre was organised around the sugar estate. With the centralisation of sugar factories in the country to ensure the survival of the industry, the domaine has undergone a gradual transformation into an integrated tourist development project.
History dating back to 1765
At the Place du Moulin, erected on the site of the former Bel Ombre sugar factory, you can still see the remnants of a rich history dating back to as far as 1765. That was the year when these lands were first granted to Simon Rémirac and Claude de la Roche du Ronzet.
The domaine was mentioned as early as 1773 by the author of the famous novel "Paul et Virginie", the French writer Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, in his work “Voyage à l’Isle de France, à l’Isle Bourbon, au Cap de Bonne-Espérance, par un officier du roi” (Journey to Isle of France, Bourbon Island and the Cape of Good Hope, by an officer of the King). It has been visited by prominent personalities of the time, including the French botanist and agronomist, Jean-Nicolas Céré in 1782 and the British Navigator, Matthew Flinders in 1803, after his journey of exploration to Australia.
The significant contribution of Charles Telfair
The personality who had the most significant impact on the development of the domaine was the famous Irish naturalist and botanist, Charles Edward Telfair. He acquired the rights over what he himself called ”the small Eden of Bel Ombre” in 1816 and introduced many innovations, including farming tools and the first horizontal mill on the island in 1819. He also created vast orchards and vegetable gardens on the domaine. It is also known for his humanism ; he has been before the time, a great defender of the cause of the slaves as evidenced by the school, the hospital or the choir he created for them at Bel Ombre.
After his passing away in 1833, the domaine fell into the hands of various successive owners until its purchase in 1910 by James Albert Wilson, Eugène de Rosnay, Edouard Rouillard, Emile Sauzier and Oscar Pilot. This transaction led to the creation the same year of the Compagnie sucrière de Bel Ombre.
An integrated tourist destination
The domaine expanded with the acquisition of neighbouring properties between 1910 and 1961 and today spans some 2,500 hectares. With the interruption of sugar production on the domaine, tourism took over. This led to the development around the Château de Bel Ombre, of the Heritage Golf Club golf course in 2004 and the Heritage Awali Golf & Spa Resort and Heritage Le Telfair Golf & Spa Resort the following year. The Frederica Nature Reserve was opened to the public in 2006 and more recently, the C Beach Club was launched in 2011 to complement an already rich offering.