Like a rich green emerald, swathed in the translucent turquoise silk of the southwest Indian Ocean, Mauritius is a small island which has only recently, since the early 1980s, made a sizeable impact on the world tourism.
Only 67km in length and 46km at its widest point, and with an area of 1865km², it is about the size of the English county of Surrey, or South Africa’s Cape Peninsula and False Bay.
The warm climate and the blue-green sea gently lapping the sandy shores within the protective belt of the coral reef make for a tropical paradise with equally warm people whose friendliness is legendary. Indeed, the motto most people who know the island will associate with Mauritius is the easy-going “No problem”.
Nothing is too much of a problem for these hospitable islanders, whose roots reach back in history to India, Madagascar, East Africa, China, France and England. With this rich mix of cultures and a population of just over a million people, Mauritians have realised that the only viable option is peaceful coexistence.
The seasons can be divided broadly into a hot, wet season, lasting from December to April, and a pleasantly cool, dry season from May to November, making Mauritius a year-round tourist destination.
Maximum summer coastal temperatures average 33⁰C and winters average 24⁰C – usually about 5⁰C warmer in the interior. The coolest months are July, August and September, but even then the sea water is warm and most enjoyable, with a temperature of not less than 20⁰C.
Plant & Animal Life
Exotic and brilliantly colourful fruits and flowers thrive in the island’s tropical climate. Purple-flowering jacarandas, 60 different species of orchid, pink, red and white anthuriums, the sweetly perfumed frangipani, scarlet flamboyant, pink cassia, and bougainvillea in brilliant purples, reds and pinks are just some of the lush vegetation bedecking the island.
Among the tropical fruits are bananas grown on the island, pineapples, guavas, litchis and mangoes.
Mauritius’s most notable contribution to the world’s natural history gallery of extinct creatures is the dodo, whose presence was first recorded by the Dutch in 1681. Unfortunately this large and flightless bird has been hunted to extinction, along with giant tortoises and turtles.
The island has only one indigenous mammal – the Mauritius fruit bat or golden bat. Monkeys, hares and deer also exist in the wild, the latter having been introduced by the Dutch settlers in the 17th century from Java, while mongooses were brought from India at the turn of the century to control the rats which were overrunning the cane fields.
The third largest employer and supplier of foreign exchange is tourism, which has, however, proved to be a double-edged sword.
Although large numbers of visitors place heavy demands on the island’s resources, tourist arrivals in 2007 amounted to around 900,000 people and the Mauritius government planned growth to around 10% annually until 2015.
Sport and Recreation
As a warm, year round destination with calm, turquoise, coral-belted lagoons, Mauritius is certainly a water sport playground. Scuba diving, snorkelling, windsurfing, sailing and big-game fishing are among the wide range of activities catered for on the island, many of them by the big hotels as well as by independent organisations.
Out of the water, Mauritians are particularly fond of soccer, basketball and volleyball.
Mauritius is a delight for anyone who wishes to try a variety of culinary treats. Reflecting the country’s diverse cultural heritage, Mauritian dishes are derived from French, Creole, Indian and Chinese traditions, all of which have evolved to take advantage of local delicacies.
For more information on Mauritius, purchase your copy of Globetrotter Travel Pack: Mauritius (including a detailed map), Globetrotter Mauritius eBook Travel Guide or call our telesales consultants on 0860 10 50 50.