Apart from some of the best beaches on the planet, Mauritius was the only known habitat of the extinct dodo bird. Mauritius consists of a group of islands situated in the heart of the Indian Ocean about 900km east of Madagascar. It is a melting pot of cultures, sights, sounds and experiences due to its colorful history influenced by invaders, immigrants, pirates, rum and sugar cane. Mauritius is renowned for its palm fringed beaches, world class hotels, luxurious spas and exquisite golf courses.
Mauritius forms part of the Mascarene Islands; a group of islands borne from a series of undersea volcanic eruptions as the African plate drifted over the Réunion hotspot. The islands form an ecological region that has given rise to many unique species of flora and fauna, of which the most famous was the dodo, but today consists of a great number of birds, bats and giant tortoises. The group also includes the islands of Réunion and Rodrigues.
The island of Mauritius covers an area of 1865km with 330km of stunning coastline protected from the swell of the Indian Ocean by the world’s third largest coral reef forming natural, safe and crystal clear lagoons. The island is well renowned for its natural beauty and Mark Twain is often quoted as writing ‘You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first and then heaven, and that heaven was copied after Mauritius’ in his personal travelogue, ‘Following the Equator’.
The history of Mauritius is one that is as complex and unique as the country itself. Originally known to the Arabs as early as the 10th century, it was not settled upon until the Dutch arrived in the late 16th century and has since been occupied, fought over and invaded by successive European countries such as the French and the British. With them came waves of workers and invasive species that have resulted in the current population consisting of people from Hindu, Creole, Chinese, Muslim and European origins along with the depletion of many of the island’s indigenous species. Mauritius has been an independent democracy since 1968.
Most people in Mauritius are bilingual; English is the official language of the country but Creole and French are the predominant everyday languages spoken throughout the country. The multicultural nature of the island means that there are festivals and celebrations occurring almost every week and if nothing else, a visit to Mauritius definitely would not be complete without at least seeing, if not taking part in, the traditional dance of the island, the vibrant and exhilarating Sega.
The cuisine of Mauritius is a blend of Indian, Creole, Chinese and European influences. It is common for a combination of cuisines to form part of the same meal. The production of rum, which is made from sugar cane, is widespread on the island. Sugarcane was first introduced to Mauritius by the Dutch in 1638. The Dutch mainly cultivated sugarcane for the production of "arrack", a precursor to rum. However, it was during the French and British administrations that sugar production was fully exploited.
Pierre Charles François Harel was the first to propose the concept of local distillation of rum in Mauritius, in 1850. Beer is also produced on the Island, by the Phoenix Brewery. The sega is a local folklore music. Sega has African roots and the main traditional instruments for producing the music are goat-skin percussion instruments called ravane and metallic clicks using metal triangles. The songs usually describe the miseries of slavery, and has been adapted nowadays as social satires to voice out inequalities as felt by the blacks. Men are usually at the instruments while women perform an accompanying dance which is often erotic.
In 1847, Mauritius became the fifth location in the world to issue postage stamps. The two types of stamps issued then, known as the Mauritius "Post Office" stamps, consisting of a "Red Penny" and a "Blue Two Pence" denomination, are probably the most famous and valuable stamps in the world.
When it was discovered, the island of Mauritius was the home of a previously unknown species of bird, which the Portuguese named the dodo (simpleton), as they appeared to be not too bright. By 1681, all dodos had been killed by the settlers or by their domesticated animals. An alternate theory suggests that the imported wild boars that were set free destroyed the slow-breeding dodo population. The dodo is prominently featured as a supporter of the national coat-of-arms
The island has also given rise to a diversified literature in French, English and Creole. Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, the 2008 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, is of Franco-Mauritian origin and lives on the island for part of each year.
In Mauritius, the following festivals — Diwali, Mahashivratri, Christmas, Cavadee, Chinese New Year, Père Laval, and Eid Al-Fitr — are celebrated.
Recreational activities in Mauritius are quite varied to support the local tourism industry. Water sports are facilitated as the island is surrounded with coral reef, providing plenty of relatively shallow and calm water. Activities such as deep sea fishing, surfing, windsurfing, water-skiing, cruising in yachts and even submarines are some of the many water based recreations available. Although it seldom breaks, Tamarin Bay is one of the world's most famous surfing spots.
Land-based leisure activities include golf, tennis, skiing, sea diving, deer hunting, quad & mountain biking, abseiling, zip lining, horse riding and trekking.