- History and Culture
Although it is thought that the region of Bel Ombre might have been exploited by explorers and its northern limits,the home of Maroon slaves, no official account of any development exists prior to 1765. It is in 1765 that the first documented land concessions in the area occurred. Bel Ombre is part of the greater Savannah region, which is both an administrative district and a distinct eco-region. Savannah is divided between the Little Savannah and the Great Savannah. Bel Ombre finds itself in the Little Savanah (Petite Savane) which has its own distinctive features.
The region of Bel Ombre enjoys a moderate climate, warmer on the coastal strip than on the mountainous heights, with its pluviometry considered an ideal middle ground between the rainier parts of Souillac and L'Escalier and the drier area of Black River. The cyclones are felt quite violently on the western edges of Bel Ombre closer to the Macondé region due to the configuration of the La Porte, Fouge and Canot mountains.
The greater region in and around Bel Ombre is divided vertically from North to South by several streams and rivers, which are: the Savane River, Patate, Galets, Jacotet, Citronniers, Poulailler, and Créole Rivers. The northern limits of Bel Ombre give way to the Black River Gorges, with different but often very dense forest habitats. The varied topography and micro-climates as well as the presence of rivers has led to different soil type, including sandy, black, red, grey and ferruginous soils which were favourable to the cultivation of a wide variety of tropical crops.
This unique geography has meant that Bel Ombre was, throughout its history, relatively very isolated from the rest of the island. On one hand, heavy rains would prevent people from crossing rivers – in some areas this was the case up to the early twentieth century. On the other hand, the mountainous Black River Gorges’ slopes did not allow easy passage. Lastly, accessibility via the sea was made difficult due to the south-easterly winds, making entry into the lagoon quite challenging. The geographic situation of the region has significantly shaped its history.