Now and again, the natural world simply takes our breath away – when witnessing a spectacle as epic as the Northern Lights, for example, or even just a particularly beautiful sunset. In one corner of the planet, however, there’s a phenomenon that seems beyond belief. And when YouTuber ReubenMRU flew a drone out over a tropical ocean to capture that wonder, the resulting video revealed a stunning sight.
You see, the clip appears to capture shifting movements under the surface that, on closer inspection, almost defy logic. Astonishingly, the blue waters look to be continuously dropping, creating what can only be described as a waterfall below sea level. And it seems that the man who captured the footage has been wanting to witness this curious marvel for a while.
“The day after my birthday this year, I saw one of my dreams come true,” Reuben wrote in the description to his video, which was posted to YouTube in June 2018. “I went on a boat trip to the southwest coast of Mauritius and captured the now-famous underwater waterfall.” All in all, then, it may have been an unforgettable experience.
But what could be causing such a strange occurrence? And is it really possible that the Indian Ocean houses a waterfall below its surface? Well, as Reuben’s video suggests, something remarkable is happening off the coast of Mauritius. In fact, the entire area has a rather fascinating history.
Arab seafarers are believed to have been the first to have ventured onto Mauritius – which is around 1,200 miles off Africa’s southeast shore – in 975. These visitors named the tropical landmass, too, giving it the moniker Dina Arobi – presumably for navigational purposes. Yet there’s no record of any attempted colonization on the sailors’ part.
At least, that’s according to the information provided by Italian mapmaker Alberto Cantino in 1502. Going even further back, volcanic activity created Mauritius, after which it remained isolated for thousands of years. But even though no humans were present on the island for quite a while, this spot in the Indian Ocean was not entirely without life.
Indeed, many species evolved in their own ecological niche on Mauritius – although initially there were a distinct lack of mammals. Instead, the animals on the island were predominantly birds that lacked flying capabilities and large reptiles. And a varied selection of plants sprung up at the location, too.
Furthermore, some creatures had made a home in Mauritius well before humans came along. Take the dodo, for instance, which was a distant relative of a species of pigeon native to the area. This bird lived apparently unharassed for at least four million years on the island before voracious settlers arrived onshore.
Tragically, though, the dodo’s lack of natural predators meant it hadn’t evolved to fly or defend itself. When sailors started appearing on the island, then, they found the poor creatures a convenient source of food. And the situation only got worse for the birds in the early 1500s – the time when Portuguese seamen arrived on Mauritius.
Over the century that followed, spice traders and Dutch settlers brought invasive animal species to the island nation. And these foreign rats, monkeys and pigs all consumed dodo eggs. This constant feasting – combined with the efforts of humans – tragically served to drive the birds to extinction. Shockingly, hunters then killed the last known dodo in 1681, meaning the animal now only exists as a symbol in the coat of arms of modern-day Mauritius.
And in 1598 Dutch admiral Wybrand van Warwyck gave Mauritius its current name in honor of Prince Maurice of Nassau. Since then, the island has been home to both French and British colonizers before finally winning independence in 1968; it also emerged as a republic in 1992.
It should be noted, too, that the Republic of Mauritius actually incorporates the islands of St. Brandon, Rodrigues and Agalega as well as the isle after which the nation takes its name. Mauritius is the largest of the quartet, however, and it plays host to the republic’s capital city of Port Louis.
Perhaps inevitably, Port Louis boasts the greatest population of any city in the Republic of Mauritius. Not only that, but the metropolis also acts as the combined islands’ main political and economic hub. This is despite Rodrigues having its own government after being awarded autonomous status in 2002.
Yet the number of people on the islands is still small; the population census of 2012 revealed that Port Louis had only 149,194 inhabitants at that time. A 2018 estimation suggests, moreover, that there are fewer than 1.3 million people living in the republic itself. Regardless, though, the nation has its own distinct – albeit varied – culture.
Settlers from many different nations have exposed Mauritius to a melting pot of influences. And since the island was once a trade hub, it’s absorbed some of the nearby continents’ flavor, too. The result is apparent in Mauritius’ native architecture, which appears to take its cues from European styles along with those from India and East Africa.
However, thanks in part to the social upheaval that took place in Mauritius in the 20th century, the island nation’s distinctive buildings are no longer as pervasive as they used to be. Even historic campagnes – or houses constructed on the high grounds – have dwindled in number since the 1960s. And tourism has undoubtedly played its part in this phenomenon, as old buildings disappear in favor of developments tailored to cater for holidaymakers.
Thankfully, the local culture is still very much alive in its people. For example, around 86 percent of residents speak Mauritian Creole – a language that has its roots in French. Another 4 percent or so converse in Bhojpuri, which is otherwise largely heard in India. And traditional old colonial and Creole-style houses are still in existence – even if only a few remain.
Mauritian food is similarly varied and with clear influences from other nations. Perhaps inevitably, there’s some French and Chinese flavor in the island’s dishes, while Indian migrants also brought some of their own fare with them when they arrived. Then, of course, there is rum. At last count, there were four distilleries on the island, with vacationers all welcome to come and taste their wares.
And Mauritius is certainly an appealing destination for tourists – whether they’re seeking to kick back and relax in the balmy weather or to investigate the native flora and fauna. In fact, overseas visitors provide the fourth largest income to the republic’s economy. Officials predict, too, that the republic and its islands will draw in around 1.4 million people from all over the world in 2019.
Perhaps, then, holidaymakers want to see what once encouraged Mark Twain to enthuse, “You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then heaven was copied after Mauritius.” But what specifically makes the area so appealing? Well, according to The Daily Telegraph, it may be down in part to Mauritius’ natural splendor.
The newspaper explained, “The east coast [of Mauritius] is most renowned, with some of the most celebrated hotels and stretches of arguably the most beautiful white sand beaches, while the flat, calm beaches of the west coast are favored by families. The ‘beautiful’ south is the island’s wilder but perhaps more interesting side.”
And as YouTuber Reuben revealed in the description to his 2018 video, he was on the southwest side of Mauritius when he released his drone over the nearby clear blue waters. The resulting footage captures Reuben’s boat as he sails along the stunning coast of the island, while eagle-eyed viewers can also catch sight of a peninsula known as Le Morne Brabant in the background.
Le Morne Brabant is by itself pretty noteworthy, as UNESCO gave the area World Heritage Site status in 2008. Among the peninsula’s most interesting features is a microclimate that marks it out weather-wise from the rest of the island, while the location also plays host to a pair of very rare plants.
Mandrinette – otherwise known as Hibiscus fragilis – represents one of these species, and the evergreen flower is unique to the Republic of Mauritius. The other is Trochetia boutoniana, or “boucle d’oreille” in Creole, which is even more scarce. In fact, Le Morne Brabant’s mountains are the only place in which the shrub is known to grow in the wild.
And Le Morne Brabant also hosts a huge basalt rock that rises to more than 1,800 feet above the surrounding lagoon. This cave-riddled monolith is a prime site for tourists and has a coastal village nestled at the base. But, of course, the peninsula isn’t the only thing to be seen on Reuben’s footage.
You see, the drone’s journey proves that Mauritius still hums with activity; a number of brightly colored boats certainly line the lagoon’s waters. That’s not what Reuben is here for, though, and so the video ultimately passes them by and heads to another part of the island.
The clip then shows Reuben and his companions waving from their boat before the drone takes off again. And as the craft lifts into the air, viewers receive yet another amazing view of Le Morne Brabant. But this time, it isn’t the peninsula itself that’s the focus of the footage; instead, it’s the stunning sea.
And strikingly, when the drone’s at its peak, it appears that there’s something unusual at play in the ocean. The video shows turquoise waters flowing into a deeper blue center that then seem to drop off and fall further below the surface. Incredibly, then, it seems that there’s a waterfall below sea level.
The sight is altogether a stunning one that is only really available to view from above the waves. And given the sheer splendor of the phenomenon, it’s perhaps no surprise that the YouTuber isn’t the only one to draw attention to it; HuffPost is just one of several outlets to have featured shots of the jaw-dropping feature on its pages.
Nonetheless, the underwater waterfall isn’t entirely what it may appear to be at first glance. After all, the currents seem to be defying the laws of physics – making this something that would likely upturn science as we know it. But, believe it or not, there’s a good explanation. You see, there isn’t actually a waterfall at all off the coast of Mauritius.
Yes, what we perceive to be an outstanding and rather unusual natural wonder is in fact an optical illusion that comes as a consequence of the island’s unique geography. But don’t be entirely disappointed, as the mechanics of how this façade is created are pretty interesting in their own right.
To begin with, the islands that encompass the republic of Mauritius are comparatively new features on Earth – even if they were created several million years ago. Back then, volcanic activity shifted tectonic plates within the planet’s crust, creating new plateaus. Then, what’s known as seafloor spreading occurred, which in turn formed the oceanic shelf on which the islands rest.
And while most of the water in this part of the world meets the seabed at anywhere from 25 to 492 feet, the Republic of Mauritius’ islands are on the lip of the Mascarene plateau, which takes a sudden plunge into much deeper ocean. Specifically, the plateau drops more than 13,000 feet into what’s technically known as an abyssal zone.
What’s more, this particular abyssal zone is so far underwater that light doesn’t reach it, rendering the environment pitch black. And as a result, a whole ecosystem has evolved to include creatures that either don’t rely on sight or use artificial light sources to their advantage – such as the bizarre anglerfish, which employs a luminescent lure on its head to catch prey.
In addition, photos taken from the International Space Station reveal that the Mascarene plateau’s drop-off can be seen from its orbit. But if the ocean isn’t falling into the abyss, what’s actually causing the beautiful – if beguiling – underwater waterfall effect? Well, what you’re really seeing is sand cascading off the coastal shelf and into the darkness.
Yes, ocean currents are carrying sand from the Republic of Mauritius’ coast and sending it tumbling from the plateau. When this effect is seen from above, though, it creates the illusion of water rather than sediment falling. And when you think about it, this process is rather incredible in itself.
At the very least, the sight is pretty arresting in Reuben’s video. During the clip, the drone drops closer to the water for a close-up of the flow before returning to the YouTuber’s boat. And the footage captures Reuben smiling from ear to ear – seemingly overjoyed at having witnessed such a wonder.
Perhaps satisfied with a job well done, Reuben’s crew subsequently take their boat back across the ocean towards the shore, with the return trip showing yet another idyllic view of the Mauritius coast. This time around, however, the drone follows closely behind the seafarers as they sail among the other vessels milling around the coast.
So, while viewers of Reuben’s video may not actually be witnessing an underwater waterfall in action, the illusion is still entrancing. And, in fact, it turns out that such a rare feature isn’t beyond the realms of possibility – although you’ll have to travel rather far from Mauritius to see it with your own eyes.
The Atlantic Ocean’s Denmark Strait cataract sees warmer waters traveling from the west joining together with more tepid currents from the east. And thanks to the combination of those two streams, water here plunges to nearly 11,500 feet. What’s even more amazing, though, is that the heavier, cooler torrent keeps flowing even below the surface – thus creating a waterfall under the depths. Well played, nature.