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Mauritius

About

“Mauritius was made first and then heaven; heaven being copied after Mauritius” was the first thought of the writer Mark Twain when visiting the Indian Ocean island. It was no wonder that Mauritius was described this way. The island namely is famous for its crystal-white beaches, the turquoise lagoons, the reefs full of ocean life and a vast tropical outland. A combination of relaxation at the beach and an interesting midland that asks to be explored makes Mauritius the perfect holiday destination.

History of Mauritius

Located in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius is the pearl operating as the gate from Africa to Asia. The island is characterised by a hypnotic blend of Indian, African and European influences, as a result of numerous navigators from all over the world that have left their tracks on the island over the past centuries. It were the Dutch who first set foot on Mauritius when they reached the island in 1598. They named the country after their stadholder at that time, Maurits of Nassau, but left the island when it turned out that their established base in Cape Town was considered to be more profitable. The French quickly got notice of the departure of the Dutch and saw this as an opportunity for them to settle on the island. In order to develop agriculture, Governor Mahe de Labourdonnais brought in slaves from Madagascar and Mozambique, leading to a steady population growth. Under the French rule, trade flourished in Mauritius, but this success was challenged when the British Royal Navy attempted to conquer the country in 1810. Even though the British eventually won, the French were allowed to stay and keep their language and religion. It is because of this that nowadays most Mauritians speak French, English and Creole, of which the last is the local language of the inhabitants. When slavery got abolished in 1835, lots of Indian labourers were brought in to resolve the shortage of labour. Nowadays, the Indian influences can still strongly be detected, as the prevalent religion of the country is Hinduism. It was only quite recently, in 1968, that the country became an independent state. Despite this, the vivid history of the island can still be noticed all across the country as it has an interesting blend of different cultures, that live together in harmony and provide the island with an interesting background, asking to be explored.

What to see

Port Louis: Port Louis is the island’s largest and capital city, situated in the west. It resembles a walk across several continents, as it forms the centre of the many cultural societies of the island such as the Africans and the Chinese. See the ships coming and going in the harbour, hear the shouting of street sellers and smell the many herbs and spices at the central market. Port Louis has several museums that are worth visiting, such as the Natural History Museum and the Blue Penny Museum, where you can learn more about the colonial period. Also, the central market, the Champ de Mars horse-race track and the Citadel fortress should definitely be on your to-see list.


Le Morne: This south-western peninsula is particularly famous for its mountain, Le Morne, which is classified as a World Heritage Site. The basaltic mountain has a height of 556 metres and encapsulates a great part of the Mauritian history. It was here to which the slaves fled from their masters, escaping the harsh life on the sugarcane fields. Nowadays, the area is a scarcely inhabited place, and most visitors come to enjoy the breath-taking view from the top of the mountain over the west and south coast of Mauritius.

Black River Gorges National Park: In the south you can find rolling hills carpeted in green, home to over 300 species of flowering plants. Black River Gorges National Park is a protected natural area and often referred to as the most spectacular corner of the island. It is here where you can sight macaque monkeys, wild boar and fruit bats, but also the three most endangered bird species of the island: the Mauritius Kestrel, the Pink Pigeon and the Echo Parakeet. Sightings are not uncommon, so visiting this national park is definitely worth the ride.

Chamarel: If spectacular natural attractions and rum tastings are on your wish list, then Chamarel is the best place to go. Chamarel is a small village located in the Savanne district. One of the highlights of the area is the highest waterfall of Mauritius, at 100 meters, being the Chamarel Falls. After bringing a visit to this impressive sighting, the next stop should be the 7-coloured earths: remarkable sand dunes of different distinct colours. These colours probably are an effect of the cooling, at different temperatures, of volcanic rocks. End your chamarel-day with a proper rum tasting at Rhumerie de Chamarel, set among the vast hillside plantations of the area.


La Vanille Crocodile park: Without a doubt this park is all about crocodiles, but also other creatures such as giant turtles, monkeys and many insects make an appearance on this park’s stage. A visit to the park is a great way to learn more about the endangered endemic species of Mauritius. The day can be ended by having a real crocodile curry in the restaurant.


Pamplemousses Botanical Garden: This garden is also known as the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden, which plot covers 60 acres of land. Likely to be the most unique feature of the garden is the giant lily pond, in which you can admire the Victoria Amazonica. Also, the giant turtles form up an interesting site, as well as the many trees planted by famous figures, including Nelson Mandela and Indira Ghandi.


Île Aux Cerfs: Enjoy one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, get mesmerised by the underwater world or sail on a luxurious catamaran; Île aux Cerfs has it all to offer. The picture-postcard lagoon is the perfect place to relax whilst enjoying the beautiful surroundings. The islet was named after the deer population that used to live there, but nowadays it is the five stars hotels and golf course that characterise the small idyllic island. When visiting Mauritius, make sure you visit this paradise-like hotspot.

Grand Basin: The Grand Basin is an extinct volcano, with the appearance of a lake high up in the mountains, which is considered to be the most sacred Hindu place on Mauritius. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, you can find a colourful temple. But this is not the only holy place; actually, the entire lake is to be called holy, as it is believed that the lake was filled with water from the holy river Ganges in India. It is because of this that during Maha Shivaratree, Hindustan Mauritians make pilgrimages from their homes to the crater, carrying religious carts the entire way.


The northern islets: Coin de Mire, Île Plate and Îlot Gabriel are all three to be found in the north of Mauritius. There could not have been a greater contrast: whereas sea-waves break with huge impact against rock faces at Coin de Mire, the other two islands are small paradises on earth. Île Plate and Îlot Gabriel are surrounded by a common coral reef, which is a dream spot for snorkelling tourists. Visiting all three islands can be done by sailing boat and are a must-visit when wanting to discover the north of Mauritius to a further extend.

Practical information
Mauritius has a tropical maritime climate, which results in relatively little seasonal variation. Because of this, it is a wonderful destination all year round, even though it must be noted that cyclones occur between January and March. It therefore is advisable to bring both tropical lightweights and sun-care products. Furthermore, in Mauritius one pays with Rupees, which can be obtained at the airport on arrival, in exchange bureaus, banks and hotels. As has been described earlier, Mauritians belong to a great diversity of religions; to all religious sites it is advised to dress appropriately.
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