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Discovered by the Portugese, claimed by the Dutch, the French and finally the British, Mauritian culture is an eclectic mix of the descendants of Europeans colonizers, African slaves and Indian labourers. The island's culinary styles, which can be attributed to its distinct heritage, are exquisite; Mauritius is a favourite among cooking shows, with specials covering the island's food cropping up constantly.
With great food filling their stomachs, tourists head for the island's trendy beaches, where swimming and surfing are generally the order of the day. Mauritius has heavily promoted its aquatic attractions, developing diverse ways of enjoying the marine world, such as undersea walks and semi-submarine rides. Inland, rising mountains make for gorgeous scenery and excellent hiking. Though Mauritius is hardly a role model for good environmental treatment, the Royal Botanical Gardens offer a delightful glimpse of the diverse flora that once thrived on the island.
Mauritius was uninhabited until being permanently settled by European explorers in the 1600s. The island was known by Arab and Austronesian sailors as early as the 10th century. The Portuguese sailors first visited it in 1507 and established a visiting base leaving the island uninhabited. Five ships of the Dutch Second Fleet were blown off course during a cyclone while on their way to the Spice Islands and landed on the island in 1598, naming it in honour of Prince Maurice of Nassau, the Stadtholder of the Netherlands. In 1638, the Dutch established the first permanent settlement. Because of tough climatic conditions including cyclones and the deterioration of the settlement, the Dutch abandoned the island some decades later in 1710. France, which already controlled the neighbouring Île Bourbon (now Réunion) took control of Mauritius in 1715 and later renamed it Île de France (Isle of France). Under French rule, the island developed a prosperous economy based on sugar production. In the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) the British set out to gain control of the island. Despite winning the Battle of Grand Port, Napoleon's only naval victory over the British, the French surrendered to a British invasion at Cap Malheureux three months later. They formally surrendered on 3 December 1810, on terms allowing settlers to keep their land and property and to use the French language and law of France in criminal and civil matters. Under British rule, the island's name reverted to the original one. An independence campaign gained momentum after 1961, when the British agreed to permit additional self-government and eventual independence, which eventually happened on 12 March 1968.
Mauritius (including Rodrigues), just like its neighbour Reunion, is part of the Mascarene Islands. These islands were formed in a series of undersea volcanic eruptions 8-10 million years ago, as the African plate drifted over the Réunion hotspot. Unlike Reunion though, the islands Mauritius, Rodrigues and the smaller ones are not volcanically active anymore. The island of Mauritius itself is formed around a central plateau, with its highest peak in the southwest, Piton de la Petite Rivière Noire at 828 metres above sea level.
The island of Mauritius is divided into 9 districts:
and 3 dependencies:
The Black River Gorges National Park is a spectacularly wild expanse of thick forest which covers a total of 3.5% of the total surface of the island. The park is home to over 300 species of plants and nine species of bird which are endemic on Mauritius. These include the pink pigeon which is staging a comeback after almost being extinct. Others include the Mauritius kestrel, pink pigeon, echo parakeet and Mauritius cuckoo-shrike. Although there is a network of hiking trails, they're not always well marked, so check the route and trail conditions at the information centres before you go into this wild area.
Le Morne Cultural Landscape is one of the newest sites on the Unesco World Heritage List. It mainly consists of a rugged mountain on the edge of the Indian Ocean in the southwest of Mauritius. It was used as a shelter by runaway slaves through the 18th and early years of the 19th centuries. Here, they wre protected by the mountain’s isolated, wooded and almost inaccessible cliffs. The slaves formed small settlements in the caves and on the summit of Le Morne. Mauritius unfortunately was an important stopover in the eastern slave trade and also became known as the “Maroon republic” because of the large number of escaped slaves who lived in Le Morne.
Many people visiting Mauritius go here just to enjoy the wonderful climate at one of the beaches, or at one of the swimming pools of their hotels. Mauritius boasts a high density of very exclusive hotels and is more affordable than for example the Seychelles or Maldives. White sanded palm fringed beaches and excellent diving and snorkelling all belong to the possibilities here.
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The Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden (sometimes shortened to the SSR Botanical Garden), commonly known as the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden, is located near Port Louis, and is the oldest botanical garden in the Southern Hemisphere. The garden dates back to 1770 when Pierre Poivre designed it, and covers an area of around 37 hectares. It is home to an incredible variety of tropical plants, many of them indigenous. The garden is located in the proximity of Port-Louis in the district of Pamplemousse. The botanical garden was initially opened as a private garden by the French governor of Mauritius nearly 300 years ago, later to become the national botanical garden of Mauritius. The botanical garden stretches over endless acres of land and it may take you more than a week to cover the whole garden. It is populated with more than 650 varieties of plants among which are the famous Baobabs, the Palmier Bouteille, the ineluctable Giant Water Lilies, dozens of medicinal plants, a large spice garden and many more. One of the main attractions of the botanical garden is the 85 different varieties of palm trees brought from different corners of the world. Other indigenous species of plants are also exhibited here.
The Crocodile & Giant Tortoises Park and Nature Reserve is home to various species of animals, reptiles, birds, butterflies and plants. The park is located in the south of Mauritius and is set in a beautiful rain forested valley with natural freshwater springs, full of prawns and fish. As part of your visit to the Crocodile & Giant Tortoises Park, the park’s guides will guide you through some unforgettable walks, and you will stroll through luxuriant greenery where banana trees, palm trees and giant bamboos provide shade for the crocodiles and the giant tortoises.
The Aquarium, located in a small relaxing village in the northwest of Mauritius, is home to a large number of species including over 200 species of fish, invertebrates, live coral and sponges, originating from the waters around the island. The newly designed architecture of the aquarium shows off what the aquarium has to offer to a better degree. In the Aquarium you are able to enjoy a unique walk on the ocean floor observing the many types of aquatic animals that Mauritius ocean eco-system has to offer. It is fascinating to watch the crystal clear Mauritius water and observe the rich sea life from the land above. During your visit you will get to see the Crown squirrelfish and the Devil Firefish as well as a number of sharks. Also, get ready to see neon bright, glowing yellows, fluorescent greens, purples and other amazing colors you probably didn’t believe could be found in any marine wildlife.
The Cerfs Island Tour is a day full of fun and relaxation on a true paradise island! As part of this tour you will visit: Trou d'Eau Douce , Ile aux Cerfs and the Grand River South East waterfalls. You will be picked up from Grand Bay at around 08:30am in the direction of Trou d'Eau Douce by minivan, enjoying great views of Mauritius’ east coast. Then, traveling by motor boat from Trou d'Eau Douce, you will arrive to Ile aux Cerfs, which is a beautiful island near the east coast of Mauritius. This amazing paradise island is the perfect setting for a relaxing day of sun worship.
Mauritius has a tropical oceanic climate with moderately high temperatures and humidity throughout the year. Temperatures average between 25 °C and 30 °C during the day, warmest being November to April, coolest between June and September. Nights are around 22 °C in summer, 18 °C in wintermonths. Rain occurs in all months but the wettest period is from December to April. During these months tropical cyclones occasionally strike the island or pass near enough to give very heavy rainfall and violent damaging winds.
Air Mauritius is the national airline of the country and has its base at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport (MRU), 50 kilometres from the capital Port Louis. International destinations with Air Mauritius include Antananarivo, Bangalore, Cape Town, Chennai, Delhi, Durban, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur, London, Melbourne, Milan, Mumbai, Munich, Nairobi, Paris, Perth, Reunion, Singapore and Sydney. Several other airlines fly to a few of these cities as well, like Air France, Air Madagascar, British Airways, Meridiana, Emirates, Condor and South African Airways. Additional destinations are Rome, Lyon, Nantes, Nantes, Mahé (Seychelles), Dubai and Zürich.
It's possible to travel from Mauritius to Reunion by the ferry 'Mauritius Pride'. The overnight journey takes around 12 hours. Other than that there are no official passenger services, though you might be able to catch a ride on a cargo ship or yacht.
There are regular boat services from Mauritius and Reunion to Toamasina in Madagascar on the east coast. It departs approximately once every two weeks.
Air Mauritius flies between Mauritius (main island) and Rodrigues, taking around 90 minutes. Air Mauritius also does helicopter tours of the island, usually lasting around 20 minutes or so.
There are no train services on Mauritius.
The best way to explore the various parts of Mauritius is to rent a taxi for the whole day. The taxi drivers are generally friendly, can speak English and French.
Roads on Mauritius are paved and in a fair condition. The driving skills of the locals might be another story though and it is best to drive defensive and watch out. You can rent cars from international as well as local firms at the international airport or in Port Louis. Traffic drives on the left and you need your national driver's licence. Small motorbikes or bikes are other options.
Mauritian buses are generally good - albeit a bit slow - and can take you to (or near) just about any place on the island. There are several different operators, none of which cover the entire island. Port Louis and Curepipe are the main hubs. Tickets are cheap and should be kept handy, as inspectors check them frequently. The main three companies are the National Transport Corporation United Bus Service and Mauritius Bus Transport. Triolet Bus Service has good services as well.
Coraline has crossings once a week between Mauritius and Rodrigues. Other than that, it will be chartered boats to go out and explore Mauritius underwater or catch your own delicious fish diner for the night.
Nationals from Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Liberia must have a visa prior to arrival. No visa is required for other nationals, provided you have an return/onward ticket and sufficient funds to stay on the island. This is sometimes controlled, but not always. For more information, visit the Passport and Immigration Office website.
See also: Money Matters
The rupee (₨) is the currency of Mauritius. There are coins of 5 cents, 20 cents, ₨½, ₨ 1, ₨ 5, ₨ 10 and ₨ 20, and banknotes come in denominations of ₨ 25, ₨ 50, ₨ 100, ₨ 200, ₨ 500, ₨ 1,000 and ₨ 2,000.
The University of Mauritius (UOM) is the main tertiary institution in Mauritius. There are various other institutions offering courses in many fields.
The official language in Mauritius is English. As such, all government administrative documents are in the Commonwealth variety of English. However, French is the language most commonly used in formal settings, and is by far the dominant language in the mass media, as well as in corporate and business dealings. In fact, even English language television programs are usually dubbed into French. Most subjects are taught in and examined in English in the education system.
The most commonly spoken language is Mauritian Creole, a French based Creole which has incorporated some words from diverse sources including but not limited to English, Dutch and Portuguese, and has slight pronunciation differences from standard French. While there is no official written standard for Mauritian Creole, when written down for informal communication, words are often spelled differently from standard French. The next most commonly spoken language is French, which is spoken fluently by most locals, with English being a not too distant third. Virtually everyone working in the tourism industry will be able to speak fairly decent, albeit heavily accented, English, and all government departments will have English-speaking staff on duty. Other languages spoken by much smaller numbers include: Hindi, Urdu, Hakka, Bhojpuri and Mandarin. Tamils constitute around 10% of the population and speak Tamil.
When leaving Mauritius, don't wait until you go through passport control if you want to have a snack. The coffee shop after passport control is not value for money. You would be better off visiting the snack bar before check-in and taking your purchases through with you.
Mauritius is a paradise for the senses, not only for the eyes with its beautiful landscape, but also for the palate. Gastronomes will find a variety of flavours and aromas inherited from the different migrations through its history. Culinary traditions from France, India, China and Africa, the best-known and appreciated cuisines in the world, have been passed on through generations.
Depending on the region, rice or a variety of flat bread called chapattis or roti, called farata (paratha) by the local people, is eaten with curries. The extensive use of spices like saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves and herbs like thyme, basil, and curry leaves are the common ingredients that provide some powerful, yet subtle, savour. Dal, a variety of lentil soup, are many and varied according to which type of lentil is used; vegetables, beans, and pickles accompany the dishes. Dholl puri and roti, originally an Indian delicacy have become the fish and chips of Mauritians. Biryani from Mughal origins is a dish expertly prepared by the Muslim community, with meat mixed with spiced rice and potatoes.
You can buy many snacks on the streets of Mauritius including the famous gateaux piments (a variant of the indian vadai ; literally, chilli cakes), and vegetable or meat samosas (puffs), along with octopus curry in bread. The tomato and onion based dish called Rougaille (pronounced rooh-guy) is a variation of the French ragoût. The dish usually consists of meat or seafood (corned beef and salted snoek fish rougaille are very popular with the locals) and all Mauritians eat this dish often if not daily. Mauritians have a sweet tooth and make many types of 'gateaux', as they are called. The cakes vary and you can find cakes very much like at home and others similar to Indian sweets like Gulab Jamun and Rasgulla among many others. Check out the queues where the street sellers are selling their type of snacks and the longest queue will probably have the tastiest food on sale and is very cheap.
Mauritius produces a wide range of cane rum. It is very cheap and is a nice drink when mixed with cola and ice. Don't forget the coconut water with a dash of lime and a splash of local rum over ice. The serious amateur will try to find a bottle of five years old (or older) rum. Worth the price difference!
If you are staying in a hotel where the drinks are wildly expensive consider collecting your tipples while you are out and about from the local village shops or supermarkets where the prices are much cheaper.
The local beer Phoenix costs around 30 rupees for a pint. Usually served very cold. The local Black Eagle beer, brewed in Nouvelle France is one to watch out for as well. Definite refreshment to match the sweltering summer heat.
Although Mauritius is a place for honeymooners and luxury hotels and resorts are abundant, there are many more options regarding accommodation on the island, ranging from several budget hotels and hostels to nice mid-range places including nice Bed and Breakfasts and Guesthouses.
See also: Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Mauritius. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Mauritius) where that disease is widely prevalent.
Still, it's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Mauritius. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also both hepatitis A as well as typhoid would be recommended. If you are staying longer than 3 months or you might consider hepatitis B and typhoid vaccinations. Rabies might only be needed if you are working with animals, biking or exploring caves.
There are sporadic cases of malaria reported on the island, but it's taking precautions in the form of pills is not recommended, just use repellent to prevent mosquito bites. dengue sometimes occurs, especially in more urban areas. Buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net, there is no vaccination for dengue.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also: Travel Safety
Be alert for your own security in Mauritius. The crime rate has decreased in recent years and Mauritius is a much safer country for visitors than most other destinations. The Tourism Police and Coast Guards patrol regularly in areas frequented by tourists, and most cities, beaches and other major attractions are under camera surveillance. Nevertheless, you should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would anywhere in the world as tourist are usually more vulnerable to theft. Be a smart traveller. Before your trip: Organize comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy. Register your travel and contact details, so that you can be contacted in an emergency.
Avoid remote areas alone. Do not leave valuables in view in your car. Avoid unexpected offers of (seemingly free) guided tours. Ulterior motives are common. Do not patronise unlicensed taxis (taxi marrons). Some robbers use this trick to lure and attack their victims.
An internet connection can be hard to come by on Mauritius, although there are one or two small internet cafe's in Port Louis. Most hotels do have connections though.
See also: International Telephone Calls
Mauritius' international country code is 230.
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I can answer general questions about travelling to Mauritius and visiting the island.
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