Mauritius - The African Island Country in the Indian Ocean
The island nation of Mauritius is 1,700 kilometres away from the African mainland. Therefore, it is no wonder that the wonderful island paradise was discovered rather late. Since then, Mauritius has hardly lost its island charm. Colourful volcanic rock and fun-loving people make the island an interesting travel destination.
Geography - The most remote island country
Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean and together with Réunion and Rodrigues, it constitutes the Mascarene Islands. The main island is about 870 kilometres away from Madagascar and 1,700 kilometres from mainland Africa. The country itself consists of two greater islands, one of which is called Mauritius and accommodates the capital of Port Louis. Rodrigues is the second greater island and is a 600 kilometres away from the island of Mauritius. In addition, there are several smaller islands which are uninhabited such as Amber Island, Gunner's Coin and Round Island. The main island is divided into nine districts. Those of interest to tourists are Rivière Noir, Grand Port, Pamplemousses, Moka, Rivière du Rempart and Port Louis. The climate is tropical. While the warmest month is February with 26 °C, the coldest month is August with pleasant 20 °C on average. Tourists should note that the cyclone season on Mauritius lasts from November to May.
Nature - Reef and volcanic islands
The main island of Mauritius is a volcanic island and its impressive sights such as the colourful Seven Coloured Earths can be attributed to the island's volcanic origin. Once vast forests had to make way for sugar cane fields and coffee plantations. The last remaining native forests are part of national parks now. Endemic animals on Mauritius are different bat species and giant tortoises. The island is also home to boars and deer. Mauritius' heraldic animal, the dodo, already became extinct in 1690. The landscape in the heartland is characterised by rugged volcanic gorges and the Black River Mountain range. Its highest peak is the Piton de la Petite Rivière Noire (828 m). At the coast you see white sandy and tropical beaches, which constitute a paradise for bathers and sun-worshippers. In contrast to the main island, many of the smaller islands are not of volcanic origin but grew out of great coral reefs. They are very rich in fish. With a bit of luck, you can also spot dolphins and whales here.
Natural sights - Unique natural phenomena
Two of the island's most extraordinary natural attractions are located near the impressive Chamarel Falls with a drop of 100 metres. Travellers who want to see this spectacle from up close should take part in a guided waterfall tour. Not far away you find Mauritius' most famous sight - the Seven Coloured Earths. The earth of Chamarel's hilly landscape is coloured purple, blue, orange, pink and pale green. The colours shine particularly bright in the morning and evening hours. This special phenomenon is caused by the island's volcanic rock. The locals swear that even the heavy tropical rain is not able to damage the colourful earth. Visitors are not allowed to touch this sight but they can buy little bottles filled with "sand samples" in souvenir shops. Besides the Chamarel Falls, the Tamarin Falls are very popular. Many inhabitants and visitors enjoy having a refreshing bath at the foot of the waterfall during their lunch break. Another relaxing location is the Île aux Cerfs ("deer island"), which offers stunning sandy beaches and a blue lagoon landscape. The botanical garden in Pamplemousses is one of the most beautiful gardens on earth. It accommodates the talipot palm, which only blossoms once, and Queen Victoria's water lily, which has giant lily pads. A trip to the volcanic crater of Trou aux Cerfs is a must on anyone's holidays in Mauritius. Its peak offers a wonderful view of the island. Grand Bassin lake is one of the most significant sanctuaries and an important Hindu pilgrimage sight. The natural crater lake is very popular with visitors too.
Culture - Hindu temples and enjoyment of life
Mauritius was only discovered at the beginning of the 16th century by the Portuguese but it was fiercely contested by the powerful nations of that time. The Dutch, French and British took turns at ruling the beautiful island nation. It only gained independence in 1968. Due to its extraordinary nature and its fully developed tourism sector, Mauritius is now one of the richest African countries. About a third of the population are Indo-Mauritians, that is they come from India. Another 27 percent are Creole people and a small minority comes from China (Chinese Mauritians). The most widely spread religion is Hinduism. Many temples and statues are indicative of the nation's spirituality. However, Christianity is common too. The Mauritians are characterised by their special and contagious enjoyment of life. They express their strengths and their sense of beauty in folk dances like the sega.
Cultural sights - Port Louis and Grand-Baie
Travellers who are interested in World Cultural Heritage sites of the UNESCO can visit Aapravasi Ghat, the former immigrant depot in Port Louis, or Le Morne Cultural landscape. The capital of Port Louis offers many other sights. The former colonial town, which was named after Louis XIV of France, accommodates a beautiful harbour, Fort Adelaide and the world's second oldest horse racing track. Besides the capital, the coastal town of Grand-Baie at the north coast is of interest to tourists. Holidaymakers find excellent restaurants, shopping facilities and an exciting entertainment programme for the evening. You can experience the nation's culture in the many colourful Hindu temples. These are not only located in Port Louis but all over the island.
Experience - Delicious island cuisine in a tropical paradise
Indian, French, British, Chinese and Creole people - they all influenced the country's present-day cuisine. Spicy curry dishes, called "daube" or "cari", delicious crayfish (camarons), the biryani rice dish and the juicy cake Gâteau patate made of sweet potatoes make a trip to Mauritius a culinary adventure. To these dishes you have Indian naan bread and refreshing fruit cocktails. Jade jewellery, model ships and textiles are popular souvenirs. Travellers find shopping facilities in Port Louis, Grand-Baie or in the Textile Museum on Floreal Square. Nightlife also mainly takes part in the cities. Visitors can experience the enjoyment of life which is typical of the island while dancing sega in clubs and discos.
Activities - Diving in the reef
There are bathing facilities both on the main island and the smaller islands. A special experience is diving in the middle of dolphins and great schools of fish. The reef islands are becoming increasingly popular with divers and snorkellers. Another enjoyable activity is a catamaran trip on the sea. Other leisure activities on Mauritius are hiking, skydiving, golfing and canyoning. Travellers who want to experience African safari feeling can take part in an exciting Jeep tour through the country's national park.
Mauritius lies below the equator, which means that its seasons are the opposite of those in the northern hemisphere. So, if you enjoy warm temperatures, you should visit Mauritius between December and March. Although most sights are easily accessible for tourists, travellers have the option to explore the heartland in a rental car as long as they pay attention to the left-hand traffic.
Mauritius is a wonderful island paradise at the gates of Africa. While lovers of nature find numerous ways of discovering the island, travellers who want to relax have many opportunities to unwind. Furthermore, the island is becoming increasingly popular with honeymooners.