Quick Facts: Mauritius
- Mauritius is situated about 900 kilometres east of Madagascar
- The Republic of Mauritius includes the islands of Cargados Carajos, Rodrigues and the Agalega Islands
- Mauritius became independent from the United Kingdom in 1968
- This Indian Ocean island covers an area of about 2040 km2
- The capital of Mauritius is the city of Port Louis
- Together with Réunion and Rodrigues, Mauritius is part of the Mascarene Islands
- The island of Rodrigues is situated 560 kilometres north-east of Mauritius
- Driver’s License A valid licence can be used in Mauritius. It is advisable to carry the licence with you while driving.
- Language: English is the official language in Mauritius but French and Creole predominate in everyday life. Various oriental languages are also spoken.
- Clothes to Pack: During the day, light beach wear, and casual cotton wear is most comfortable. To wear sunglasses is advised due to the strong glare of the water and the sun. Light woolens may be needed for cool evenings between June and September. At dusk in the summer, one should cover up to prevent mosquito bites.
- Tipping and service charge in Mauritius is generally not expected and is left to the visitors discretion. A service charge of 10 % is added to hotel and restaurant bills.
- Taxes: Value Added Tax is 15 %, some traders include this charge in the price, others exclude it.
- Time Zone of Mauritius: Mauritius time is Greenwich Mean Time plus four hours, three hours ahead of Central European time and two hours ahead of South African time.
- Electricity: The power supply throughout Mauritius is 220 volts. Three pin British-type plugs and two pin French-type plugs are found in use all over the island of Mauritius.
- Water: Water is being treated chemically in Mauritius and is therefore safe to drink. Bottled water is widely available.
- Health Hazards: Mauritius is fortunate in being relatively free of tropical diseases and poisonous animals. The strong sun must not be under estimated.
Mauritius is a small tropical island situated in the turquoise southwest Indian Ocean. Mauritius measures 67 km ( 42 miles) in length and 46 km ( 29 miles ) at its widest point. With an area of approximately 1860 square kilometers ( 730 sq miles ), the size of Mauritius equals about that of the English county of Surrey or South Africa's Cape Peninsula and False Bay.
Mauritius includes as a political entity also the small island of Rodrigues, which is located some 563 km ( 350 miles ) to the east of Mauritius, as well as the Cargados Carajos Archipelago ( St Brandon ) and the two Agalega islands. The warm tropical climate all year round, the rich green emerald Indian Ocean combined with the beautiful sandy beaches with the equally warm people whose friendliness is legendary have made Mauritius one of the most popular Indian Ocean holiday destinations.
The History of Mauritius
- AD 975 Arabs land in Mauritius and name the island Dinarobin
- 1511 Portuguese explorers arrive and name the island Ilha de Cirne meaning the isle of the swan
- 1598 Dutch traders land on the way to the East Indies, the island is named Mauritius
- 1638 Dutch attempt to colonize the island
- 1658 The Dutch abandon the colony for the Cape of Good Hope
- 1664 Reconciliation by the Dutch
- 1710 The Dutch depart from the island permanently
- 1715 The French arrive in Mauritius and name it the island Ile de France
- 1814 Mauritius is ceded to the British by the Treaty of Paris
- 1968 Mauritius wins independence from Britain
- 1992 The Republic of Mauritius is declared
- 2002 The island of Rodrigues gains regional autonomy
The visitor to Mauritius must hold a valid passport and a return or onward flight ticket. Nationals of most European and Commonwealth countries do not require visas. Visas can be obtained from Mauritian embassies and high commissions. An entry form must be completed by each passport holder on arrival, stating the address where you will be staying in Mauritius. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required of travelers over one year of age coming from infected areas.
The Climate in Mauritius
The climate in Mauritius can be divided into the following two seasons making it a popular year-round tourist destination:
- Hot and wet season which lasts from December to April
- Pleasantly cool and dry season lasting from May to November.
The maximum coastal temperatures in the summer average 33 degree Celsius and winters average 24 degree Celsius. The coolest months in Mauritius are July, August and September during which time of the year the ocean is still warm and most enjoyable with temperatures measuring no less than 20 degree Celsius. The months between January and May are the rainy months on Mauritius; the rainfall is usually higher in the center of the island. Mauritius’s west coast has a hotter drier environment than the more isolated east coast. The east coast of Mauritius is blessed by southeasterly trade winds, which blow onshore, providing a welcoming and refreshing breeze. Cyclones can occur in this region of the Indian Ocean from January through to April.
The following climatic extremes can be found in Mauritius:
- The wettest region of the island is in Curepipe which received nearly 3m of rain a year,
- The driest part of Mauritius is the west coast which receives only 670mm of rain annually,
- The coolest area can be found on the central plateau where temperatures reach no more than 27 degrees Celsius
- The warmest part of this Indian Ocean island is the west coast where temperatures can reach highs of 31 degree Celsius,
- The windiest weather in Mauritius occurs on the east coast during the winter.
Plant Life and Animal Kingdom of Mauritius
Exotic and beautifully colorful fruits and flowers thrive in Mauritius’s troplical climate. Part of the lush vegetation bedecking the island are jacarandas, orchids, anthuriums, the sweetly perfumed frangipani, flamboyants, bougainvillea, hibiscus and cannas. The most common fruits found in Mauritius are bananas, pineapples, papayas, guavas, mangoes and litchis. The main crop of Mauritius is sugar cane which once covered some 80 % of the arable land.
Gardens and Nature Reserves in Mauritius are:
- The Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanic Garden, Pamplemousses
- Curepipe Botanical Gardens
- Company Gardens, Port Louis center
- Ile aux Aigrettes Nature Reserve near Mahebourg
- Balfour Municipal Garden, Beau Bassin
- Le Reduit, formal garden in a tropical setting
- Creole Museum, magnificent gardens with views of the Waterfalls of the Moka river
- Plaine Champagne and the Black River Gorges
- Le Domaine du Chasseur
Mauritius is richly endowed with colorful birdlife – sparrows, weaver birds, paradise flycathers, red cardinals, and the tropic bird are all home to this beautiful island. Mauritius only has one indigenous mammal, which is the Mauritius fruit bat or golden bat. Monkeys, hares and deer can also be found on the island.
- Places recommended for bird lovers are:
- The Mauritius Institute in Port Louis to see a stuffed specimen of the dodo
- Le Domaine du Chasseur near Mahebourg to see Mauritius kestrels being fed by hand
- The Givernment Aviary at Riviere Noire
- The Casela Bird Park on the west of the island in the Black River district featuring 2500 birds of 142 different
- Species as well as tigers and monkeys.
Many different life forms exist in the clear waters of Mauritius where colorful corals thrive in the shallow, warm waters which surround the island. These protected reefs are home to giant clams, sponges and anemones, and gorgonias swaying in the current, colorful fish of all shapes and sizes as well as octopuses, giant eels, urchin and starfish.
The People, the Culture and the Religion in Mauritius
At the end of the year 2003, the population of Mauritius was over 1.2 million. With a population density at about 602 people per square kilometer, Mauritius is the third most densely populated place in the world.
Mauritius is a melting pot of a great diversity of cultures. The largest cultural group is made up of people with Indian roots comprising Hindus originating from northern India, Tamils from southern India and Muslims from western India. The Creoles owe part of their ancestry to the first slaves who were imported from Madagascar and possibly to the eat coast of Africa. The arrival if the Chinese dates from after 1826. Most Europeans are of French descent and stem from the settlers who arrived during the colonization of the island by France.
There are several languages, which are spoken in Mauritius due to the rich culture and history of its people. English is the official language in Mauritius, however French is more widely spoken and is dominant in the media. The language, which is mostly spoken by Mauritians, is Creole. Originating as the common language among slaves of differing origins, and between then and the colonists, the lingua franca of the island is based on French with elements of English, Hindi, Chinese and Malagasy. Bhojpuri is spoken by many Indo-Mauritians. Hindi itself is used for official purposes but it is not widely spoken as a home language.
Due to the 87 denominations found on Mauritius, religion plays a major part in the island’s cultural activities. Numerous churches, temples, mosques and pagodas exit nest to each other proving the remarkable level of religious and cultural tolerance. The largest religious grouping is made up of Hindus who make up 51% of the population in Mauritius, followed by Christians at 25 %, which are mainly Roman Catholics. Islam is the next popular religion found in Mauritius ( 21% ) and Buddhism is fourth.
Although the volcanoes in Mauritius are no longer active, they have left their mark on the profile and landscape of this island featuring the mountain peaks in the west as well as several volcanic craters. Although Port Louis which is located in the northwest of Mauritius is the capital and the center of business activity, the people prefer to live in the coolness of the nearby towns and suburbs of the plateau, such as Quatre Bornes, Curepipe, Rose Hill/Beau Bassin and Vacoas/Phoenix.
Although this is not a very high mountain, this mountain quite dramatic with its rocky cliff face dropping away to the low-lying land of le Morne peninsula. The 160 km coastline of Mauritius is almost entirely fringed by coral reefs and therefore the coastal waters mainly lie in calm lagoons. The landward side of the lagoons in Mauritius are bordered by crescents of white coral sand. It is in the South where the reefs drop away causing strong currents and rocky shores.
The North of Mauritius
Glorious weather, a string of beautiful sandy beaches and still, clear lagoons characterize the northwestern parts of Mauritius. The northeast of Mauritius is in contrast relatively quiet with fewer bathing beaches. Topographically the northern region of Mauritius is the flattest part of the island.
The Northwest Coast of Mauritius
Covering the area between Port Louis and the tourist mecca of Grand Baie, the district of Pamplemousses provides some of the most beautiful beaches of Mauritius.
Baie du Tombeau is the closest coastal resort to Port Louis which is of great historical interest.
In the warm waters of Baie aux Tortues, called as turtle bay, giant turtles used to live here in great numbers. Overlooking Baie aux Tortues, Balaclava takes its name from the famous battle of the Crimean War.
Trou aux Biches does not have volcanic origins; the name refers to a watering hole. Troux aux Biches has grown from a small fishing village into a prime resort. The young and the sunseekers are drawn to the long stretch of magnificent white beach, while water skiing, windsurfing and yachting are the order of the day.
A short distance inland from Trou aux Biches is Triolet, which at 7km has the unusual distinction of being the longest village in Mauritius. Triolet has the greatest concentration of Indian inhabitants and is the center for Hindu festivities.
Riviere du Pempart Coast with Grand Baie and Pereybere
Grand Baie has become the most popular tourist area on Mauritius given its sunny skies almost all year round, its beautiful scenery combined with it being protected against the southeast trade winds. Grand Baie is a bustling resort offering many facilities and activities: car and bicycle hire, shops, doctors, and restaurants. Boutiques and hotels line the road from Pointe aux Canonniers. La Cuvette Beach next to the Royal Palm Hotel offers wonderful bathing facilities.
The Cap Malheureux or 'cape of misfortune' forms the northern most point of Mauritius.
The Northeastern Villages of Mauritius
From Cap Malheureux toward the east, one can find isolated seaside hotels. It is a pleasant experience to travel along this quiet coastal road by road, moped or bicycle. Towns and areas in this region are: Anse la Raie, Grand Gaube, Goodlands, Poudre d’Or, Pointe Lascars which is a peaceful fishing village with a lovely small sandy beach, Ilot du Mort, Roche Noires, Pointe de Roches Noires, and the town of Poste Lafayette.
The Northern offshore Islands of Mauritius
The Northern islands of Mauritius are all nature reserves and a special permission is required to visit these islands. The island Coin de Mire is a bulky shaped island lying outside the coral reef, about 4 km away from the Cap Malheureux. The largest of the islands found here is Ile Plate which is covered by casuarinas providing several beaches. This island is linked at low tide with its very small neighbour Ilot Gabriel. Other islands are Ile Ronde, Ilse aux Serpents as well as Ile d’Ambre.
The East Coast and Rodrigues
In contrast to the hustle and bustle of Port Louis in the northern parts of Mauritius, the east coast of Mauritius with its districts of Flacq and Grand Port are quite and more isolated. The Grand Port region has a rich history: it is here where the first Dutch colonists landed and set up a colony, sugar cane and deer were first introduced to Mauritius as well as a battle took place between the British and the French over who should rule this small but strategically important island of Mauritius.
Beautiful beaches line the east coast of Mauritius, and the strong onshore winds during the winter months make this location for excellent sailing opportunities.
The Flacq Coast & the Poste de Flacq Area
Rough seas dominate Pointe Lafayette, which is located south of the village Poste Lafayette. Inland, one can find the open countryside of Plaine des Roches, is dotted with piles of volcanic rock. The sea at Poste de Flacq is unsuitable for swimming and is a popular oyster growing area.
Belle Mare is famous for its excellent swimming beaches, which stretch south for 8km to Palmar and Trou d'Eau Douce. Trou d’Eau Douce is a quiet fishing village and a secluded tourist spot. On the tip of this peninsula on the south side of this magnificent bay is Le Touesserok Sun Hotel, which is one of the island's oldest and most luxurious hotel. The island Ile aux Cerfs provides turquoise waters, pristine beaches and a 18 hole golf course. Covered by casuarinas and scrub, and being bordered by coves of white sand, this island is 280 ha in extend. The northern part of Ile aux Cerfs is the most tourist oriented. It is here where Le Touessrok Hotel is situated, providing a boathouse, windsurfing, water skiing, sailing, snorkeling and paragliding facilities.
Northern Grand Port Coast
The Grand Port region is a historical area, it is here where the first landing of the Dutch took place in 1598 and where the colonization of Mauritius took place during the 17the century. Le Domaine du Chasseur is situated among the Bambous Mountains on 1500 ha of land, providing.
The Indian Ocean Island of Rodrigues
The small volcanic island of Rodrigues, which is little known, lies about 560 kilometers to the east of Mauritius. This tropical paradise is only 18km long and 8km wide. The eastern side of Rodrigues is very hilly while in the southwest the land flattens out into Plaine Corail. A coral reef surrounds Rodrigues enclosing a lagoon. Popular activities are a boat trip to Ile Cocos and Ile aux Sables which are ideal areas for bird watching, beach hopping south if Pointe Coton, hiking up Mount Lubin for a panoramic view of the island, fishing and divining the southwest of Rodrigues as well as exploring Port Mathurin, the capital of Rodrigues which is located in the north of the island.
The most beautiful beaches of the Indian Ocean Island Rodrigues lie in the east and the southeast. Pointe Coton is the pearl of Rodrigues’ beaches due to its beautiful lagoon, its wide strech of white sand, the low coral cliffs and the magnificent casuarinas forests.
On Plaine Corail in the southwest is the Caverne Patate. These caves lie 18meters below sea level and feature strangely shaped stalactites and stalagmites. In this same region is a fascinating coral quarry at Petite Butte.
The South and Southwest of Mauritius
The south coast of Mauritius is rugged and dramatic, yet it is considered by some to be the most beautiful region. Towards the west, the inland terrain changes from green cane fields to mountainous landscape, culminating in the Savanne Mountains and Plaine Champagne of the southwest.
The coastline in this region of Mauritius is subject to the edge of the southeast trade winds. These blow throughout the year but are at their strongest in the wintertime. This area receives more rainfall than the west and north coasts.
The Savanne Coastal Belt is made up of the sugar estates of the southeast. The French colonists established the Bel Air Sugar Estate in 1804. The main road from La Vanille passed through the Union Sugar Estate at St Aubin. At Riviere des Anguilles, steep black cliffs rise on one side of the river. The small town of La Vanilla features the Crocodile Park, which is a crocodile breeding enterprise. Nile crocodiles as well as snakes and geckos, tame monkeys, a wild boar, giant tortoises and indigenous fruit bats can also be seen here. The most southern village in Mauritius is Souillac, which is, is home to some popular tourist attractions: Gris Gris beach, the Robert Edward Hart museum, and the Telfair Gardens.
The Rochester Falls, which are situated upriver of Souillac, are notable for the unusual columns of black basalt rock over which torrents of water cascade. It is said that the quick contraction of lava caused by cooling was responsible for this unique formation.
Le Morne Peninsula in Mauritius forms the southwestern region of the Black River district. Le Morne Brabant Mountain dominates the southwest and is visible from afar. At this mountain’s foot is a flat headland with 14km of unspoilt coastline. Le Morne Peninsula accommodates luxury hotels such as the Beachcomber Dinarobin Golf Hotel & Spa as well as Le Paradis Hotel. Activities in this region include: horse back riding, hiking, big game fishing, diving, parasailing, waterskiing, sailing, snorkeling and golfing. Casinos can be found at the Paradis and the Berjaya.
The West Coast of Mauritius
Mountains dominant the view inland from the west coast of Mauritius. Rising high above the region of coastline between Le Morne and Grande Riviere Noire, and the green lands near the coastline, are the Vacoas mountains. It is this mountain range, which includes le Piton de la Petite Riviere Noire which is the islands highest mountain. Edged by some of the highest mountains on the island, and in close proximity to the scenic Black River Gorges and Plaine Champagne area of the southwest, it is favored with good walking terrain. Tourists will enjoy a visit to the Casela Bird Park and the Black River Aviary.
The west coast is the driest and hottest region in Mauritius, lacking the benefit of the cooling onshore winds. The months from January to March are very hot. The wettest months on the west coast are February and March.
The village of Petite Riviere Noire revolves around deer breeding, fishing and the collection of salt in its salt pans. The climate is ideal here for salt production as it is dry and hot.
The Baie de la Grande Riviere Noire is the opening of the waterway passing through the roughest regions of Mauritius. This is the islands most popular launching site for deep-sea fishing trips. During the fishing season which is from October to April game fish such as marlin, sailfish, wahoo, tuna and shark can be caught just 1.5 km offshore. Diving conditions are ideal throughout the year on the western side of Mauritius with water temperatures from 22 – 28 degree Celsius. The most well know diving site on the west coast of Mauritius is Cathedral Cave which is home to tropical fish, coral and lobster in an arched rock formation.
Tamarin is situated at the estuary of the Tamarin River. The towns of Wolmar and Flic en Flac are linked by a coastal road, it is here where beautiful beach resorts and hotels can be found. The two villages share between them 12km of white coral sand. With a shallow lagoon and shade provided by casuarinas trees, Flic en Flac features the most popular beach on the west coast of Mauritius.
Port Louis and Surrounds
The capital city of Mauritius, Port Louis, is one of the oldest settlements and one can still find reminders of its colonial past in its wide roads and many gracious old buildings. Port Louis is beautifully located within the Moka mountains in the east and looking out to sea in the west. It is here in this multinational capital where three centuries of French and British colonialism is counterbalanced by the oriental influences of China and India.
Port Louis’ original name was the Dutch “Noordwester Haven”. The Town was called Port Nord-Ouest by the early French settlers. In 1722 the name was changed to Port Louis in honour of France’s King Louis the fifteen (1715- 1771). As the monarchy fell out of favour, the capital was called port Napoleon in 1806, but was then reverted back to Port Louis when it came under British control.
Port Louis, Mauritius, enjoys in general sunny climate with the same rainfall and humidity patters as those experienced at Grande Baie.
- Famous sightseeing places in Port Louise include:
- A stroll down the Place d'Armes with the Government House and the Mauritius institute and Museum
- Champ de Mars on race day
- The panoramic views of the city from La Citadelle or Signal Mountain
- The tourist resorts Caudan Waterfront and Port Louis Waterfront
- Domaine les Pailles for a glimps of the colonial past
- The beautiful Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden at Pamplemousses
- The Chinese Quarter with the Jummah Mosque and the Lai Min restaurant.
Sport and Recreation in Mauritius
Being a warm, year round destination with turquoise coral-belted lagoons, Mauritius is an outdoor and water sport playground:
- Scuba diving
- Big game Fishing is best off the west coast
- Glass bottom boat tours
- Surfing is best at Tamarin Bay on the west coast
- Walking, hiking and climbing
- Horse riding
- Hunting for deer
- Gambling in Casinos ( Trou aux Biches, La Pirogue, the Berjaya Le Morne and beachcomber Le Paradis,
- Belle Mare Plage, Le Toussrok, Le St Geran)
The Mauritian culinary flavours have been created through a combination of English, French, African, Indian and Chinese influences. The island has a trove of fresh produce that is complimented by flavours that bring combine these exotic trends. As with most of the islands seafood mostly eaten with rice which is a staple, with the menus at the various hotels and restaurants across the islands offering suburb buffets and tastes for any pallete.