Mauritius

 

History of Mauritius

Mauritius Flag
Flag

Mauritius was first discovered by the Arabs in 975 AD, and then the first Europeans to have visited Mauritius were the Portuguese at the beginning of the sixteenth century between 1507and 1513. In 1598, the Dutch landed in a bay in the south-east. The Dutch admiral, VanWarwyck was in command of the fleet and he named the bay after himself (Warwyck haven).The bay is now known as Grand Port. He named the island "Mauritius" after Prince Mauritius Van Nassau, the stadtholder of Holland.

Among other things, the Dutch introduced sugar cane and the Java deer before leaving in 1710 where they had found in the mean time a far better settling place: The Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. About five years later, in 1715, the French occupied the island, renaming it "Isle de France".

Although the Dutch called occasionally for shelter, food and fresh water, they made no attempt to develop the island. The beautiful bird, The DODO, which was described as a feathered tortoise was an easy target for the laziest hunter. Unfortunately, it was fat and couldn't fly.

French settlement
It was under the French Governor, Mahé de Labourdonnais, that Mauritius knew its first development: a harbour was built. Port Louis, named after the ruling king Louis XV, became the capital of Mauritius. Trade on the island thrived; Mauritius could supply enough sugar and rum to the surrounding islands and visiting vessels. From this strategic position in the Indian Ocean, the French were plaguing English vessels on their way to and from India.

British settlement
In 1810, the British conquered the island which they occupied, and Mauritius was formally ceded to them in the "Traiti de Paris" of 1814. Most of the French settlers, remained on the island and were allowed to keep their customs, religion and laws. A few years later, in 1835, the British abolished slavery - slaves at the time came from Madagascar, Senegal and Mozambique mainly - and this led to the importation of Indian indentured labourers to work in the sugar cane fields. They eventually settled in Mauritius and their descendants constitute nowadays the majority of the population.

Rapid development of the infrastructure continued. Free primary education was given to the population so that local civil servants could be trained to run the affairs of the country.

Independence
Mauritius achieved independence on 12 March 1968 and adopted a constitution based on the British parliamentary system. The first post-independence years were difficult but after more than 15 years of planning and hard work, Mauritius achieved economic and political stability. Mauritius changed its status to that of a Republic on 12 March 1992. The Mauritian Constitution is based on the Westminister model. Political power is vested in the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. Elections are held every five years.

Mauritius Places to visit

Mauritius Map Mauritius Map - Click for larger view

The island is almost entirely surrounded by coral reefs. The resulting lagoons are full of marine life and are ideal for diving. Its beaches with fine sands are renowned throughout the world.

Mauritius is the most accessible island in the Indian Ocean, boasting as much tropical paradise as Maui or Martinique and, better still, offering it at a bargain price. Though nestled up alongside Africa, it's actually more influenced by its British and French ties and massive Indian workforce.

In Mauritius a number of places to worth to visit during your stay. Apart from the many beach resorts with their sandy white beaches and blue lagoon, there are other sites that you might find interesting. The Black River Gorges, Macabee Forest and Yemen are regions, which you might discover on foot or by car. Trou aux Cerfs (an extinct volcanic crater), Chamarel (with its 7 coloured earth), Ile aux Aigrettes (an island of the South East Coast which is a natural reserve) are among the many sites you can experience during your stay in Mauritius.

North Mauritius

Grand Bay Grand Bay was the first area of the island to fully experience the tourist boom. A shopping and leisure paradise, Grand Bay also happens to be the area where Mauritians head for when they want a fun-filled night out (restaurants, bars and discos). Recently renovated, La Cuvette beach is well worth a visit.

Pereybère The wonderful Pereybere public beach is popular because of its shopping facilities, restaurants and pubs.

Balaclava Ruins A few metres away from Baie aux Tortues, which 17th century sailors named after the many tortoises in the area, can be found the ruins of the old Balaclava estate. Visitors will be able to see the sea walls, whose initial foundations were laid down by Mahé de Labourdonnais.

The Triolet Shivala The longest village on the island, Triolet offers an opportunity to visit the biggest Hindu temple, the Maheswarnath, first built in 1819 in honour of the Gods Shiva, Krishna, Vishnu, Muruga, Brahma and Ganesha.

The Labourdonnais Orchards Discover a large variety of tropical fruit trees, colourful and perfumed exotic flowers. Trips on mountain bikes or hiking are possible.

East Mauritius

Flacq Market Flacq is one of the most important villages in Mauritius. This meeting point for inhabitants of the East boasts the country’s largest open air market. The extremely colourful market attracts a large number of people.

The Waterpark Leisure Village Enjoy unforgettable moments sliding on the giant chutes, with family or friends. Relaxation and pleasure guaranteed. Coastal road, Belle Mare.

Ile aux Cerfs Ile aux Cerfs is a paradise for water sports and has the most beautiful beach in Mauritius. You cannot afford to miss this tiny island, delicately poised on the ocean, a real pearl in the Mauritian landscape.

South - East Mauritius

Dutch Ruins At Vieux Grand Port, the oldest settlements in Mauritius, you can see the ruins of the first Dutch fortifications. Excavation work is underway in a bid to uncover an important part of Mauritian history.

Ile aux Aigrettes Owing to the remarkable work accomplished by the Mauritius Wildlife Fund, the island has become an international standard for the protection of natural resources and endangered species. A few of the world’s rarest birds, including the kestrel, can be seen there. You can also discover the extremely rare Pink Pigeon, the Green Gecko Phelsuma and the Aldabra giant tortoise. Tel : (230)631 2396 E-mail: mwfexec@bow.intnet.mu

Mahebourg Mahébourg is one of the main fishing villages on the island. Built on the magnificent Grand Port Bay it was founded in 1804 by the French Governor Charles Decaën

Domaine du Chasseur Nestling in the Anse Jonchée hills, the Domaine des Grand Bois has splendid hunting grounds covering an area of 900 hectares. Stags, monkeys and boars live amidst the luxuriant vegetation of the hillside.One can watch a few species of endangered birds, including the kestrel. The Domaine contains four thatched-roof bungalows and a restaurant with a panoramic sea view. Take an opportunity to enjoy a delicious meal of venison and seafood.

Souillac A small seaside resort along the rugged coast of the Savanne district. A famous feature is the garden overlooking the sea and named after Dr. Charles Telfair. A popular viewpoint is found at the southern end of the village, right on the cliff top : Gris Gris.

West Mauritius

Martello Towers The Martello Towers represent the scene of the ancient rivalry between old colonial powers and the ingenuity of mankind. They are a milestone in the island’s history; they symbolise the end of slavery and the beginning of Indian immigration.

Chamarel A winding road leads from Case Noyale village to the coloured earths of Chamarel: an undulating landscape of different and contrasting shades of colours. The different shades of blue, green, red and yellow are apparently the result of the erosion of the volcanic ash. The neighbouring waterfalls of Chamarel rise from the moors and the native plant life. The site possesses a rare beauty. Some have been recently created in the Chamarel Village where you can enjoy the taste of typical Mauritian cuisine.

Salt Pans Owing to the exceptional high level of sunshine the district receives, Tamarin is naturally the heart of salt production in Mauritius.

Casela Situated in the Rivière Noire district, the bird park stretches over 25 hectares and contains more than 140 bird species from all five continents. Other attractions include fish ponds, tigers, tortoises, monkeys, deer and orchids. Yemen Yemen Reserve may not be the largest game reserve on the island, but there is still lots to see. You will be able to get close to the herds of deer, as well as admire some splendid species of Mauritian fauna. A few rustic kiosks available in the reserve provide an unobstructed view of the sea. There you can sip a local punch while watching the sun going down.

Inland Mauritius

L’Aventure du Sucre Visit an interactive and ultra modern exhibition situated at the heart of an ancient sugarmill and discover the fascinating history of Mauritius and its sugarcane adventure exposed over 5000 sq meters! Then, let yourself be tempted by our tropical boutik with its unique gifts, souvenirs and tasting of special unrefined sugars as well as local rum. Do not miss the opportunity to relish authentic Mauritian cuisine with refined flavours at our restaurant "Le Fangourin". Open 7 days a week from 09h00 to 18h00 - Free access to the restaurant and the Village Boutik Beau Plan-Pamplemousses Tel: 243 06 60

Ganga Talao - Grand Bassin Beyond La Marie and Mare-aux-Vacoas is found one of the two natural lakes of Mauritius. It rests within the crater of an extinct volcano. Ganga Talao is an important pilgrimage site and many Mauritians of the Hindu faith walk there during the Maha Shivaratri festival or the night fasting dedicated to Shiva.

Black River Gorges This national park of 6,574 hectares was created in 1994 for the protection of Mauritius’ remaining native forests. Visitors can enjoy magnificent landscapes, with endemic plants and rare bird species. A trail leads from the Pétrin information centre to an area of typical plant life and to a conservation area. orchids.

Eureka An old Creole residence built in 1830, Eureka is an essential place to visit during your stay in Mauritius if you wish to immerse yourself in tropical sweetness

Mauritius Districts

Mauritius is divided into nine districts which consist of different cities, towns and villages. The island of Rodrigues used to be the country's tenth district before it gained autonomous status in October 2002.

Society and Culture

Visa Informations and Requirements in Mauritius Visa to MAURITIUS? - Read more information

The culture of the this country involves the blending of several cultures from its history, as well as individual culture arising indigenously.

Location and Geography.
A total of 790 square miles (2,046 square kilometers) of land cover Mauritius. These include the island of Mauritius, with 720 square miles (1,865 square kilometers); the island of Rodrigues, about 350 miles (563 kilometers) east of Mauritius; the small Agalega Islands, 580 miles (933 kilometers) north; and the Cargados Carajos Shoals, 250 miles (402 kilometers) north. The island of Mauritius, where the overwhelming majority of the people live, lies 500 miles (805 kilometers) east of Madagascar and 2,500 miles (4,023 kilometers) southwest of India. Mauritius was formed by volcanic activity that left a plateau in the middle of the island rising 2,200 feet (671 meters) above sea level. This plateau slopes downward to the north until it reaches the sea. In the south and west the plateau drops sharply to the coast. The driest part of the island in is the southwest, which receives about 35 inches (89 centimeters) per year. The center can receive up to 200 inches (508 centimeters) a year. The capital is Port Louis, on the northwestern roast of the island of Mauritius.

Environment
Mauritius environment is typically tropical in the coastal regions with forests in the mountainous areas. Seasonal cyclones are destructive to the flora and fauna, although they recover quickly. Mauritius ranked second in an air quality index released by the World Health Organization in 2011. Situated near the tropic of Capricorn, Mauritius has a tropical climate. There are 2 seasons: a warm humid summer from November to April, with a mean temperature of 24.7° and a relatively cool dry winter from June to September with a mean temperature of 20.4°. The temperature difference between the seasons is only 4.3°. The warmest months are January and February with average day maximum temperature reaching 29.2° and the coolest months are July and August when average night minimum temperatures drops down to 16.4°. Annual rainfall ranges from 900 mm on the coast to 1,500 mm on the central plateau. Although there is no marked rainy season, most of the rainfall occurs in summer months. Sea temperature in the lagoon varies from 22° to 27°. The central plateau is much cooler than the surrounding coastal areas and can experience as much as double the rainfall. The prevailing trade winds keep the East side of the island cooler and also tends to bring more rain. There can also be a marked difference in temperature and rainfall from one side of the island to the other. Occasional tropical cyclones generally occurs between January to March and tend to disrupt the weather for only about three days bringing a lot of rain.

Religion
Religious Beliefs. Religious freedom is the major key to peace on Mauritius and is a constitutionally guaranteed right. Hindus make up 52 percent of the total population. Christians (28.3 percent), Muslims

Economy
The basic economy in Mauritius is centered in agriculture and manufacturing. Commerce and services jobs also are evident. The currency is the Mauritian rupee.

Language
Most people in Mauritius are bilingual and are equally fluent in English and French. Creole and French are the main languages in the everyday environment and several oriental languages are also spoken.

Cuisine
Mauritius cuisine is a blend of Creole, Chinese, European and Indian influences. It is common for a combination of cuisines to form part of the same meal. Mauritius has strong ties with French culture throughout its history and was left with a very French "savoir vivre". Even today, the popularity of French dishes like the bouillon, tuna salad, daube, civet de lièvre or coq au vin served with good wine show the prevalence of French culture in Mauritius. As years passed by, some have been adapted to the more exotic ingredients of the island to confer some unique flavor. Chinese restaurants are common int the cities, and they combine different ethnic foods on the same menu. Street food also is quite common for snacks and includes samosas, roti, curried rolls, soups, and noodles.

Transportation
Since 2005 public bus transport in Mauritius is free of charge for students, people with disability and senior citizens. There are currently no railways in Mauritius, previous privately owned industrial railways have been abandoned. To cope with increasing road traffic congestion, a Light Rail Transit system has been proposed between Curepipe and Port Louis. The harbor where international trade is handled and Cruise Terminal is found at Port Louis. The sole international airport for civil aviation is Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport, which also serves as the home operating base for the national airline Air Mauritius.

Driving
People in Mauritius drive on the left-hand side of the road and give way to the right. Foreigners with a driving licence issued by a Competent Authority in their respective countries are allowed to drive during their stay in Mauritius.

Arts and Humanities
In Mauritius music which is popular from the West and from India are widely listened. The only original music and the national music is Sega, a tribal-based drumbeat based on African rhythms. It has a ritualistic dance that is often done in tandem. The women dance in sensual ways to lure partners, but they are not allowed to kiss or touch.

Health Care and Medicine
You will find Public and private hospitals are on the island of Mauritius. The private hospitals are generally considered to be of better quality and are more expensive than the public hospitals. Both are adequate, if a little below Western standards. Malaria is very rare and exists only in the rural areas. Hepatitis A is fairly common. The more severe hepatitis B and C are rare. Men have an average life expectancy of sixty-six years; women, of seventy-five years.

Etiquette
Most outsiders think of Mauritians as being aloof at first. Among themselves they are quite social and friendly, and this ultimately prevails with visitors and locals alike. Dress is culturally dependent but somewhat conservative. Lightweight and colored fabrics are usually worn. Attire among women can vary from one-piece bathing suits to complete covering, especially among Muslims. Toplessness and nudity are not condoned for either sex.

Weather and Climate

Mauritius Current Weather Find more about Weather in Port Louis, MA

Mauritius enjoys a perenially sunny climate, in general. Midwinter occurs in June and July with midday temperatures of 25 degrees Celcius on the coast and 19 degrees Celcius on the plateau. Midsummer occurs in January and February with midday temperatures around 25 degrees Celcius on the plateau and 31 degrees Celcius on the coast.

Best time to travel to Mauritius
If you're planning to stay on the coast - Arguably the best time to travel to Mauritius is during the cooler months of the year. That is, from the late autumn to mid spring (i.e. May to mid October). These months generally have plenty of sunshine, lower humidity levels and less rain than during the summer months. During August and September you'll be pleased to learn that the average daytime maximum temperatures sit around 23-26°C. At night, the minimum temperature hovers around 15-17°C.

However, just be aware that both July and August are the windiest months of the year. So if you think that this is not the best time to visit Mauritius, then plan to arrive in mid September or October. By November, you'll find that it's quite hot and humid on the coast. If you want to experience hot steamy weather in Mauritius then the best time to visit is during January, February or early March. February is the most humid month and if you don't have access to air conditioning at night, then you won't get much sleep.

The best time to travel to the mountainous parts of Mauritius is from September to early November.
During the hot, humid summer months, the mountainous regions of Mauritius receive torrential rain (far more than on the coast). In fact, it can rain all day almost everyday in the mountains during the wet season (November to April) and so for this reason you may find that many roads over the inland areas become blocked by flood waters.

So obviously if you're planning to get a hire car, then stick to the main coastal roads during the summer months. If you want to venture inland then find out from the locals which roads are the least likely to flood during the wet season.

Public Holidays

The number and diversity of public holidays and festivals indicate the rich heritage of the island's people and its ethnic diversity.

Public Holidays on fixed dates:

  • New Years – 1 and 2 January
  • Abolition of Slavery – 1 February
  • National day (Independence Day) – 12 March
  • Labour Day - 1 May
  • Arrival of indentured Labourers – 2 November
  • Christmas – 25 December

Public Holidays with varying dates:

The festivals listed below are not celebrated at the same date every year. Therefore only the months when they are likely to be celebrated is given.

  • Chinese Spring Festival (Between January and February)

The Spring Festival, which is the Chinese New Year, is celebrated in January/February, depending on the adjustment of lunar days. Red, symbol of happiness, is the dominant colour. Food is piled up to ensure abundance during the year and the traditional wax cake is distributed to relatives and friends. Firecrackers are lit to ward off evil spirits.

  • Thaipoosam Cavadee (February) Hindu Festival

Cavadee is celebrated in January/February, more precisely by the Tamil community in Mauritius. Along with the fire-walking and sword-climbing ceremonies, Cavadee is among the most spectacular Tamil events. The body pierced with needles and the tongue and cheeks with skewers, the devotee, trance-like and in penance, walks in procession to the temple bearing the "Cavadee", a wooden arch covered with flowers with a pot of milk at each end of its base which he or she places before the deity.

  • Maha Shivratree (Between February and March) Hindu Festival

Maha Shivaratree is celebrated in honour of Hindu god Siva (February). Hindu devotees, clad in spotless white, carry the "kanwar" - wooden arches covered with flowers – on pilgrimage to Grand Bassin, to fetch holy water from the lake. The whole scene is reminiscent of the great rituals on the banks of the Holy Ganges in India.

  • Ugadi (March) Hindu Festival

Ugadi is the Telegu New Year.

  • Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – 15 August

The 15 August becomes a public holiday in even years, for example 2006, 2008 and 2010. During odd years (2005, 2007, 2009), it is not a public holiday; instead, 1 November will be a public holiday, in commemoration of All Saints' Day. The decision to alternate between the two dates was a government decision to avoid increasing the number of unworked days after abolition of slavery (1 February) and Arrival of Indentured Labourers (2 November) were declared public holidays in the early 2000s.

  • Ganesh Chaturthi (Between August and September) Hindu Festival

Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated on the 4th day of the lunar month of the Hindu calendar. It marks the birthday of Ganesha, the God of wisdom and remover of all obstacles according to Hindu mythology.

  • Diwali (Between October and November) Hindu Festival

Diwali is the most jovial of all Hindu festivals. Celebrated in October/November it marks the victory of righteousness over evil in the Hindu mythology. Traditionally, clay oil lamps were placed in front of every home turning the island into a fairyland of flickering lights; these have now been replaced mostly by decorative electric lights.

  • Eid ul-Fitr (Between October and November) Muslim Festival

The exact date of this festival is subject to confirmation as its celebration depends on the visibility of the moon. Eid-ul-Fitr is celebrated to mark the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. It is a day of thanksgiving and rejoicing for Muslims. Prayers are offered at mosques during the morning.

Working Hours in Mauritius
Private Sector : Monday to Friday: 8.30 am - 4.15 pm Saturday : 9am -noon (Some offices)
Public Sector : Monday to Friday: 9 am - 4 pm
Saturday : 9 am - noon (Skeleton service).

Travel Tips and Advisory

The island is almost entirely surrounded by coral reefs. The resulting lagoons are full of marine life and are ideal for diving. Its beaches with fine sands are renowned throughout the world.

Mauritius is the most accessible island in the Indian Ocean, boasting as much tropical paradise as Maui or Martinique and, better still, offering it at a bargain price. Though nestled up alongside Africa, it's actually more influenced by its British and French ties and massive Indian workforce.

Here, you can enjoy a dish of curried chickpeas or a nice Yorkshire pudding on the terrace of a French café, sipping imported wine or a thick malty ale while listening to Créole music and the conversation of locals in any number of lingoes.

Its range of visitors facilities runs the gamut from pamper-happy beach resorts and organised excursions to locals who'll put you up in their homes and rent you their cars for daytrips. If you're looking for a lazy beach vacation, you could certainly do worse, but don't forget the rambling interior and the multicultural capital Port Louis. Waves from the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 completely submerged a village in the north of the island. There have been no reports of casualties.

What to wear
Take your best beach and casual wear. In the winter months (June -September), carry some light woollen clothing for the cool evenings. Please show due respect when visiting religious places. Wear appropriate clothing (and remove leather shoes and belts) when entering the premises.

Nudism
In Mauritius nudism and topless sunbathing are frowned upon public beaches. No hotel permits nude sunbathing on beaches. Topless sunbathing is sometimes tolerated.

Security
A tourist police service has been set up to ensure security in tourist zones. An anti-terrorist law has also been proclaimed. A specific law relating to all tourist activities and corrupt practices has also been voted.

The following essential pieces of advice are meant for you :

  • Keep an eye on all personal belongings at all times.
  • Be careful when withdrawing money from a cash point.
  • Avoid wearing expensive jewellery.
  • Do not leave anything inside your car.
  • (For trips or purchases) use only recognised operators or suppliers.
  • Keep your passports, plane tickets, jewellery of value and large sums of money in safe custody.
  • For sea excursions, do not rent boats with inadequate security standards.
  • During individual sea trips, always notify the person responsible for the boat house.
  • Do not go swimming in areas where it is forbidden.

Tipping
Tipping is not compulsory.

VAT
A value added tax of 15% is payable on goods and services including hotel and restaurant bills.

Credit Cards
Credit cards are normally accepted by banks and most hotels, restaurants and tourist shops.

Visa & Entry (For those citizens who require visa to enter Mauritius)
A visitor must be in possession of a valid passport and a return or onward ticket. A visitor’s visa is normally granted for a period of two weeks to one month upon arrival, to almost all holders of a valid passport, with one or two exceptions. Visitors are strongly recommended to contact the Passport and Immigration Office in Mauritius or the nearest Mauritian Embassy or Consulate. The visa can be extended upon request at the Passport and Immigration Office, Sterling House, 11-19 Lislet Geoffroy Street, Port-Louis.