Mauritius has successfully managed to position itself as an exotic beach destination. With beach destinations so plentiful, this has been sustained not by mere hype, but by the substance there is to the claim. Visitors are drawn to Mauritius by the reputation of its 140 km of white sand beaches, and the excellent opportunities for water sports. Swimming, beach combing, sailing, surfing, kayaking, diving and deep-sea fishing – there’s a sport for almost everyone.
Arab traders found the then uninhabited island in the 10th century. But they weren’t charmed adequately to consider permanent settlement. The Portuguese early in the nineteenth century landed, but they also passed over the opportunity to lay claim to get their king. But in 1598 the Dutch eventually seized the opportunity. The island has been seized for and named after Maurice, Prince of Orange and Count of Nassau -then ruler of the Netherlands.
In the century that followed, the Dutch established settlements and devised means to live off the land. They introduced sugar and tobacco, which they farmed using African slave labor. Sugar is now still an important part of the market. The Dutch were insensitive to the extremely fragile ecosystem which makes up an isolated island such as Mauritius. On their watch, the majority of the islands’ native forests were felled, and dropped. The bird called dodo was also taken to extinction. So did the trigger-happy Dutch give life to the saying»as dead as a dodo».
The Dutch courage that had made them leaders was nevertheless not to last. They were subjected to a lot of trials from the forces of nature – cyclones, droughts and floods. And by the forces of man, for pirates were a constant headache. In 1710, they fled to the more hospitable Cape of Good Hope, at Africa’s southern tip. A short five years after the Dutch left, the French claimed the islandand renamed it Isle de France.
The French were a lot more successful than the Dutch in harnessing the potential of this island. They maintained law and order and laid the foundations for government of society. Underneath the celebrated French Governor, Mahé de Labourdonnais, real nation building started. The French introduced in more African Americans and enlarged further sugar farming. They also laid out a few economic and social infrastructure to support the settlers. Port Louis, named after King Louis XV, and now the capital of Mauritius, dates back to this period.
Although the French had introduced systems of law and order, Port Louis turned out to be a favorite of corsairs. Corsairs were marine who coached in the plunder of boats on behalf of a client nation. The British, a terrific sea power at the time, had a vested interest in terminating the ability of these mercenaries. And that’s how Mauritius, so far away from Europe, got involved in the Napoleonic wars. In 1810, the British supported by superior force of arms, persuaded the French to leave the island.
From the 1814 Treaty of Paris, the British – magnanimous victors really, let the French settlers to stay in Mauritius. They too were permitted to keep their property, language, religion and legal system. The British reverted to the name that the Dutch had given the island, but Port Louis retained its title. But in the century and a half which the British ruled, they were not really as grounded as the French was.
Franco-Mauritians prospered on an agrarian economy based on slave labor. But in 1835, they believed that the capricious hand of a wonderful power when slavery was abolished. This is possibly the single most important measure carried out under British rule, and the consequences had a far-reaching influence on the evolving demographics of the country. India, a British colony greatly abundant in human resources was the reply to the labor problem that arose. In the years that followed, the descendants of the Indian labourers who came to work the sugar fields greatly multiplied. The Chinese also came -as labourers and dealers.
Nowadays, Indo-Mauritians constitute close to 70 percent of the populace. As in other colonies in that historical period, and upto the 1930’s in Mauritius, non-whites had very limited say in the running of the country. And that’s why Gandhi – that great liberator of men’s minds, came to Mauritius in 1901, specifically to give heart to Indo-Mauritians. After years of protracted concessions to democratic rule, the British eventually bowed out in 1968, when finally granted independence.
The events we discuss above are nevertheless very recent. Approximately eight million years ago, the island emerged from the depths of the sea due to volcanic action. Occupying 1860 sq km, it’s located just above the Tropic of Capricorn, 890 kilometers to the east of Madagascar. Rising from the sea, the central plateau formation is about 400 m above sea level. There are mountains scattered in the island, and a couple of peaks, the highest of which reaches 820 m.
For a nation, Mauritius includes the islands of Rodrigues and Agalega, the Cargados Carajos Shoals and a few smaller largely uninhabited islands. Mauritius is almost wholly ringed by a coral reef that is reputed to be the worlds third largest. Both the Dutch and the French were extremely reckless in allowing the uncontrolled invasion of native forests. Now, less than 2% of these forests remain. Many of the almost 700 species of native plants are threatened with extinction. Beginning from the late 1970’s, a belated but systematic effort was underway to conserve the special flora of this island.
The wildlife faces similar risks. In the first place, animal migration into the isolated island was by sea or air only, greatly restricting the diversity of species. The animals the Dutch found contained out-of-size reptiles and flightless birds. But except for bats, there were no mammals and no amphibians in any respect. The animals brought aboard boats by man include rats and monkeys – thanks to the Portuguese, while the Dutch take credit for deer and wild boar. A number of those animals threaten to choke out the life of native species – they eat their eggs, as well as their young.
Mauritius isn’t all bad news for nature lovers’ -there are loads of birds and marine life is abundant. But some of the endemic bird species, such as Mauritius kestrel, echo parakeet and pink pigeon number more than a few hundred. These are under some form of captive breeding program, with the expectation of increasing their numbers.
The island’s marine zone boasts over 1,000 species of marine life- shells, fishes and mollusks, in amounts beyond count. The magnificent way to explore the spectacular underwater world is onboard a submarine. The sub also lets you see some ship wrecks dating back to the Dutch period.
You are able to swim at different places at beaches, lagoons and inlets. Swimming beaches are best to the north, even though there are other excellent sites to the southwest and to the west near Flic en Flac. The west coast provides good sites for browsing at Tamarin, and diving at Flic en Flac. At Grand Bay shore, you get very good shopping, clubs, bars, and restaurants and the opportunity to interact with locals. Additionally, the swimming, surfing, sailing and fishing is good. From here, you may also create a boat trip of the islands to the north.
From the islands’ inside, there are great opportunities for hiking and trekking. Black River Gorges National Park has excellent walks, and at precisely the exact same time it is possible to see some endemic birds and plants. The Réserve Forrestière Macchabée and Rivière Noire National Park are also good for hiking. Moreover, captive breeding to boost the amounts of Mauritius endangered endemic birds is underway here. For trekkers, you may succeed in the plateau at Curepipe and in the island of Rodrigues.
The Royal Botanical Gardens of Pamplemousses are very popular with people. The gardens date back to 1735, during the French period. Here you’ll see a huge collection of exotic and native plants in excellent environment. One of the most peculiar specimens would be the giant Victoria regia water lilies, whose roots are from the Amazon, and the talipot palm- known to blossom once every 60 years before perishing. In the Casela Bird Park, you can see a number of its 140 bird species, including the rare Mauritian pink pigeon. Some of these excursions are included in the Mauritius tour packages offered by the assorted vendors.
Mauritius provides some outstanding golf courses, and people are becoming more and more conscious of it. There are at least three resorts with 18-hole classes and another five with 9-hole classes. The Ile aux Cerfs course, which sits on its own tiny island is the most spectacular. For honeymooners, the island is very welcoming. Virtually all hotels offer a special honeymoon package. As a non-resident, it is simple to tie the knot here. But a couple of formalities must be completed with officialdom; be certain to comply before arrival.
Mauritius is in the cultural cross roads of Europe, Africa and Asia. The Dutch, French, Africans, Indians, Chinese and British arrived under one guise or another and have now influenced the character and cultural life of the island. Although the island is closest to Africa geographically, culturally it’s significantly closer to Asia.
The largest racial groups are Indo-Mauritians who constitute about two thirds of those countries 1.2 million individuals, followed by Creoles – Afro- Mauritians who are just over a quarter of the populace. Franco- Mauritians and individuals of Chinese origin combined constitute about 5 percent of the populace. While English is the official language, French, Creole, Bhojpuri and Urdu are widely spoken. Religion is another variable defining the people of this island, with Hinduism (51%), Christianity (30%) and Islam (17%) leading.
The cuisine of the island reflects the diversity of its people. French, Creole, Chinese and Indian foods – with local variations are all found here. Wherever you stay, you’ll probably be able to observe or even dancing the Sega. This energetic and sensual Creole dance has roots in the sugar fields, in the days when African labor was captive. You might also be fortunate to experience any of the numerous festivals celebrated in this country. Just the most widely visited however, will be ready for the Cavadi. With this particular Tamil festival, penitents pierce their bodies, tongues, and cheeks while others march on shoes of claws.
Tourism is one of the key pillars of the economy of Mauritius. The Majority of visitors come from South Africa, Germany, France, Australia and UK. Hotels in Mauritius are a lot, and they vary from 5-star luxury to people with only basic amenities. Budget remain comes in the shape of bungalows, guesthouses and self-catering flats. The period June to September and around Christmas is the busy period and if you’re planning to travel then, you’re advised to book your accommodation ahead of time. Mauritius is still relatively cheap, though there’s been talk of turning it in an up market beach destination.
Mauritius is a yearlong destination. The best times to see however, are the intervals April-June and September- November. These are the months when it rains least and the temperatures are mild. January to April is hottest, and daytime temperatures can reach 35°C. Temperatures are normally lower inland, away from the shore. The main rains come between December and April, although there are mild rains year round. November to February is when cyclones are most likely to happen. But don’t be discouraged; odds of meeting cyclones aren’t very high, and it’s projected that they hit on the island about once every 15 years.
If you’re keen on water sports, then remember that diving is best December to March, and surfing between June and August. For big game fishing, come between October and April. You should be comfortable with light clothes appropriate for the tropical climate. However, you need warmer clothing for evenings and the southern winter months between July and September. Whatever time of year you travel, do carry some rainwear. In the summer months between November and April, you’re advised to bring along sunglasses, sun hats and sunscreen.