Located in Southern Mauritius, in the village of Chamarel, the Seven Colored Earth Geopark is home to a roughly 7-million-year-old, one-of-a-kind geological marvel. In keeping with Earth’s penchant for making things rainbow-colored, the sand dunes of Seven Colored Earth are aptly named due to their striking display of seven distinct colors.
Thought to have formed as a result of volcanic activity, the intense color displays on the mounds range from more typical earthy shades of red, brown, and yellow, to vibrant and unexpected hues of violet, green, blue, and purple.
Although scientists are not entirely sure of the process occurring at the geopark, and why the earth’s display is so vibrant, it’s believed that the sand dunes were formed as a result of basalt decomposition forming clay. As mineral waters cause a chemical breakdown of the clay, ferralitic soil is formed that’s rich in iron and aluminum – resulting in red and blue hues respectively.
The varying shades are thought to be a result of the molten rock cooling at different temperatures, causing different gradients between the red and blue shades. Further erosion of the hills has created unique mounds and valleys carved out by heavy rainfall, giving the feature a distinctively lumpy look.
There are a few rainbow-hued geological wonders around the world, from China's Rainbow Mountain to the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park. It's also not the only place where you can find colored sand. Namibia has bizarre blue sand while Alaska is famous for its jewel-like sand. However, this is the only place known to have seven different types and colors of sand rubbing up next to each other.
One of the many fascinating qualities of the colorful sands found on the dunes is that if you took each different color and mixed them together, eventually they will still separate and settle into their own respective groups. That being said, please don’t try and get your grubby mitts on the dune’s precious sand, they are strictly off-limits for tourists and have a designated viewing platform that enables visitors to admire the feature from a respectable distance.
Interestingly, despite Mauritius’ consistently heavy rainfall, these sandy dunes don’t seem to be eroding at any considerable speed. Having been a popular tourist destination since the 1960s, the 8.5-hectare geopark doesn’t look like it will be losing its star attraction any time soon.