Whether you’re planning a trip to the beautiful island of Mauritius, or you just want to find out more about what the nation has to offer, we’ve rounded up 20 top facts.
A history of conquest and culture
Mauritius was colonized over 300 years ago by the intrepid trio of the Dutch, French, and British, after initially being discovered by the Portuguese and Arabs. Its name is derived from Maurice van Nassau, later known as Maurice, Prince of Orange, and it was known as The Star and Key of the Indian Ocean, due to its strategic position along trade routes.
Vieux Grand Port, on the southeast coast of the island, was the scene of the sole French naval victory over the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars – and the only naval battle commemorated on the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris.
Having only become an independent state as recently as the 1960s, the multicultural influences of its past guests still reside, with French, British, and its own creole the local vernaculars.
While it is long since the island was the British Empire’s main sugar-producing colony, sugar cane remains one of the island's main exports, with around 600,000 tons produced annually, from the plantations that cover 85% of the island’s arable land.
Unusually for an African country, Mauritius’ most populous religion is Hinduism, with exquisite temples like Surya Oudaya Sangam reflecting the distinct Asian influences also ingrained in the culture.
Peaceful resorts and wildlife
Comfortingly less varied than its historical influences, Mauritius’ mild, tropical, maritime climate covers only two distinct seasons; a warm summer, from November to April, and a reasonably cool winter, from June to September. October and May are locally known as “transition months.”
The island lies in what meteorologists call the Indian Ocean’s “Cyclone-Belt,” and between January and March, the island will occasionally feel the mild periphery of a balmy storm as it passes from West to South, way out at sea.
Subsequently, holidays in Mauritius can be taken at a time to suit any traveler, with the milder winter perhaps satisfying the more intrepid trekker as they explore Black River Gorges National Park, while the more lassaiz-faire may prefer the sandy beaches of Haute Rive or Rivière Noire.
In the shores of the surrounding blue lives the world’s third largest coral reef, along with all the flittering, iridescent underwater life that inhabits it – only the purchase of a snorkel or the hire of a local guide away. For those with a dryer palette,
For those with a dryer palette, The Seven Coloured Earths is an intriguing tourist attraction at Chamarel, in the southwest of the island. Like the coral, these pastel-dunes were formed by volcanic eruptions, but never seem to erode, despite the tropical climate above.
West, across the Indian Ocean, Madagascar may boast its own lemur-laden DreamWorks movie franchise, but Mauritius is also home to its own world-renowned indigenous species.
The Dodo may have been extinct for centuries, but it remains an enigmatic symbol of the curious nature of nature itself. Endemic to Mauritius, it never evolved to learn to fly from the island (which, perhaps ironically, is also home to several genus of Pteropus – or Flying Fox!). Said to be one of the inspirations for Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, The Dodo is still the island nation’s national animal.
Along with the Mauritian Kestrel also soaring overhead, and giant tortoises roaming free below in Mauritius’ Ile aux Aigrettes nature reserve, those with a passion for nature can indulge to their heart’s content, for the duration of their stay.
While Asia and Europe have shaped Mauritius’ religious and economic history, one of its strongest African influences comes in the form of its music and dance; the Sega – the musical expression of the Mauritian way of life – joy and liveliness.
Often accompanied by the limb-loosening local rum, the music is produced by the Ravanne, a drum made of goat skin, the Triangle, a traditional guitar, and the Maravanne, a wooden box containing seeds or sand.
Derived from its empirical, slaving history, the lyrics are traditionally sung in creole, while there are no rules on expression – just let yourself go and dance!
The expressive art form also holds significant nostalgic and spiritual meaning to the island’s residents. Its temporary freedom is a symbol of the native and innate human desire to transcend beyond the boundaries of the everyday, albeit to return to the necessities of the real world.
It is no surprise, then, that alongside being a unique destination for both the intrepid and tranquil tourist, the island has been the scene of nearly two hundred Bollywood movies in the last forty years.
This story was brought to you in partnership with Imagine Holidays.