The Age of Discovery

This room has a magical quality and provides an insight into the world of navigation.

Discovering the sea route to the Indies had long been the Europeans' ambition. The pinnacle would be to end the Turkish trade monopoly on caravan routes leading to the Orient. It is largely due to the success of the famous pioneers who explored the Mascarenes that the region was populated and developed. However, in order to satisfy their taste for adventure, their lust for conquest and their attraction towards wealth, navigators first had to master their fear of an imaginary world, peopled with mythological monsters and a sea of darkness.

History has bequeathed to us their most valuable property: maps. Thanks to these, we can now retrace, step by step, their heroic journeys, trials and errors and discoveries. So much has been accomplished since a Portuguese, Bartolomeu Dias, discovered the Cape of Good Hope as a symbol of all dreams and ambitions! This was on 16th August 1488, only five centuries ago...

Though the Arabs, Indians, Malays and Chinese travelled all over the Indian Ocean long before the Portuguese, they left no maps showing that the Mascarenes - that is Mauritius, Réunion and Rodrigues - existed. The very first maps where the islands appear are of Portuguese origin: they are those of Alberto Cantino (1502) and of Nicolao de Caveri (1505).