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Mauritius is located in the South West of the Indian Ocean, approximately 230 km from Reunion Island and 860 km from Madagascar. It has a surface area of 1,872 square kilometers with a central plateau rising at 600 meters above sea level and 330 km of coastline. It is the second largest island of the Mascareignes Archipelago. Mauritius offers natural, secured, crystal clear lagoons and golden sandy beaches.

Arab sailors reportedly visited the island during the Middle Ages. Portuguese navigator Pedro Mascarenhas discovered the island in 1505,. In 1598 a Dutch squadron landed at Grand Port and the first attempt at Dutch settlement on the island was made in 1638. In 1715 the French landed in Mauritius and renamed the island Isle de France. In 1810, a powerful British expedition conquered the island. The British administration lasted 150 years was marked by rapid social and economic change. Independence was proclaimed on the 12th March 1968.

The capital of Mauritius is Port-Louis. The Mauritian population forms a mosaic of different races, cultures and religions. It is composed of Hindus and Muslims, Creoles, Chinese or Tamils. Mauritians are generally bilingual, being fluent in both French and English. English is the official language but Creole and French remain the most commonly spoken languages. Various oriental languages are also spoken.

Situated in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Mauritius has a pleasantly tropical climate. The Northern and Western regions are known to be warmer and less rainy. With a culminating point of 800 metres above sea level, the climate on the Central Plateau is generally cooler. Temperature varies between 25º and 31ºC in summer. Cyclones may occur between November and May. In Winter, temperature varies between 15º and 25ºC. Sea temperature varies from +/- 27ºC in summer and +/- 22ºC in winter.

The Economy
On the eve of independence in 1968, Mauritius was essentially a mono-crop economy based on sugar production. In the early 1970s and onwards, the island set out to diversify its economy by encouraging the establishment of export-oriented companies and by setting up the tourism industry. The 1990s saw significant diversification into more sophisticated industries and the service sector. Today, Mauritius is considered as an upper-middle-income economy. The country can boast one of the best track records on economic growth, political stability and human rights in Africa. Preservation of the environment is also a priority and the island's natural beauty has been maintained despite the high rate of economic development and industrialization.

Mauritius is a melting pot of cultures. While Indians came primarily as indentured labourers, Chinese and Muslims were mainly traders. Slaves were imported from Africa to work in the sugar cane fields whose owners were of European descent. Today, the Mauritian population has a rich cultural heritage. Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Chinese and Creoles co-exist in peace and celebrate several religious festivals together. The Festival International Kreol is organized in December by the government of Mauritius. It is a showcase for musicians, dancers, singers, poets, designers and speakers of the Creole culture.

Places of interest

Port Louis, the Capital of Mauritius, was founded by the French Governor, Mahé de Labourdonnais in 1735. Situated on the north-west coast and protected by a curve of mountains Port Louis is the home to big businesses and financial institutions. It is also renowned for its markets, street hawkers, colonial buildings, shops, churches and mosques. The main cultural and historical sites of interest of Port Louis are Champ de Mars, Government House, Theatre of Port-Louis, Citadelle and the Aapravasi Ghat.

The North of Mauritius was one of the first areas of the island to welcome tourists. It offers a great range of accommodation and restaurants, water sports facilities, shopping opportunities and entertainment. The most renowned place is Grand Bay. It is one of the best areas for sailing, windsurfing and water skiing. The bay is also one of the favourite anchoring places for sailboats and the meeting point for day excursions on the islets around the main land. Other places of interest are Trou aux Biches, Pereybere, Cap Malheureux, Balaclava and the botanical garden of Pamplemousses with its endemic species.

The east coast harbors some of the best beaches of Mauritius from Blue Bay and its marine reserve to the sandy beaches of Belle Mare and Ile aux Cerfs which is one of the most frequented islets of Mauritius. The village of Mahebourg is built on the bay of Grand Port, and named after the French Governor Mahé de Labourdonnais. The main sites are the National History Museum at Vieux Grand Port, where there are the ruins of the first Dutch fortifications.

The South and inland reveal a different landscape from the rest of the island: Gris-Gris and its cliffs as well as the authentic villages of Souillac and Riambel. The centre of the island is home to Trou aux Cerfs, an extinct volcano and Curepipe, one of the main commercial centres of the island. There is also the site of Ganga Talao, a spectacular religious site where Hindus gather in February for the Maha Shivratree festival.

The West & South West is dedicated to nature and water sports. Flic en Flac with its white beaches fringed with filaos trees is a popular place for weekend beach activities. Grande Rivière Noire and Tamarin were fishing villages that have been transformed with luxury villas. Le Morne, including its World Heritage Site, offers kilometres of beach for tanning and swimming, at the foot of a most stunning mountain backdrop. The Peninsula boasts some of the best surfing spots, attracting the most talented kite and surfers from all over the island. The National Park of Black River is the biggest natural reserve on the island.

Tourist products

There are 44 diving centres in Mauritius. They operate on 30 diving sites around Mauritius like Coin de Mire (North), Passe Saint-Jacques (South), Passe du Puits (East) and Cathedral (West). On the North coast and the East coast, there are specialized centers for non-divers. They propose undersea walks, sub scooter excursions or submarine trips.

The spas are now regarded as a must for all tourists. They are sponsored by international leading names such as Clarins, Givenchy, Guerlain , La Prairie, and Shisheido. The competitive nature of the market has resulted in an amazing range of pampering treatments and state-of-the-art health and beauty centres.

Mauritius has shopping opportunities for all. Furthermore, duty-free items now include photographic and cinematographic equipment and accessories, watches and clocks, cellular phones and other types of telephony elements, paintings, engravings and antiques, sunglasses and binoculars. There is also no duty on leatherwear and jewels.

Green tourism is rapidly growing with huge domains opening up to the visitors such as the Tea Route, Moka, L’Etoile, Casela, La Vanille. From Chamarel in the west to Anse Jonchée in the east they offer many activities ranging from trekking to canyoning and horse riding. One of the main attractions is the Black River Gorges National Park which extends over 6,754 hectares, with special attention paid to the highly endangered native plants and animals.

Mauritius was the third country where golf was played after the UK and India and most of the golf courses in Mauritius are spectacular with views of the sea in the background. There are eight 18-hole golf courses and five 9-hole golf courses around the island. Some of these golf courses have been designed by prestigious players such as Bernhard Langer, Ernie Els and Rodney Wright.

Deep sea fishing can be practised between November and April. The species found in Mauritius are blue and black marlins, sharks, tuna, bonito. A number of deep sea fishing competitions have become regular events over the years. The most prestigious one is the Marlin World Cup, which is organized in December. The main fishing centres are in Rivière-Noire, Le Morne, Flic-en-Flac, Trou-aux-Biches and Grand-Baie.

The islets around Mauritius offer a good potential for excursions on catamarans. The excursions include snorkeling, barbecue and sega. Other sea excursions include sub sccoter, under sea walk and submarine.

Other activities range from dolphin watching mainly on the West coast, kite surfing at Anse-la-Raie, Cap Malheureux, Poste Lafayette, Belle-Mare, Pointe d’Esny and Le Morne and even sky diving over the north coast.

Integrated resort schemes (IRS) are available for rich foreigners who want to buy a property for not less than 500 000 dollars, on specific sites. They also offer accomodation for tourists. The first to open were Tamarina on the West coast and Anahita on the East coast. Others are opening soon. They are: Valriche in Bel-Ombre, Sorep-Accor in Bel-Ombre. Flic-en-Flac, La Gaulette, Roches-Noires, Albion and Black-River are other regions to host IRS projects.
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