Introduction to Mauritius
Just 20 degrees south of the equator with postcard-perfect powdery white sand, translucent azure water and agreeable year-round tropical temps, you have to wonder why anyone would ever leave Mauritius? The republic is a small island nation bobbing some 2,000 kilometres away from the southeast coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean and includes the smaller isle of Rodrigues and the two sparsely populated Saint Brandon Islands.
Many countries came looking to colonise the verdant tropical locale starting with Arab sailors in the 9th century and then Portugal in 1507, but neither stayed. The Dutch settled in 1598, naming it after Prince Mauritz, but didn’t hang around, leaving in 1710. France sailed here in 1715 and renamed the island Ile de France but lost the colony to the British in 1810, who then ruled Mauritius until its independence in 1968. This influx of various nationalities left its mark on the island from introduced flora and fauna to using slave labour to work the sugar plantations.
Mauritius now has a population of almost 1.3 million with a mix of cultures and faiths, which means a huge variety of great food and colourful festivals all year round. The multicultural mishmash includes mainly Indian, Creoles, Chinese and French with major religions of Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. English is the official language but France has left its legacy in the place names and locals also speak French and Creole.
And while those idyllic sandy coves and azure waters lure luxury travellers and honeymooners from around the globe, Mauritius is also a mecca for the adventure seeker with plenty of outdoor pursuits, adrenaline-fuelled activities and watersports on offer. There’s abundant natural beauty too, with craggy rocks and bare-faced mountains, coral reefs, shallow lagoons, lakes and extinct volcanic craters – that’s if you can get out of your deckchair.