Mauritius is a bustling multicultural island blessed with fabulous beaches, lagoons and gorgeous coral reefs. Most visitors are attracted to the luxury resorts and warm waters of the Indian ocean, but Mauritius has much more to offer than just a pretty place to sunbathe. The landscapes beyond the beaches are lush and tropical, a paradise for birders. Mauritians are well known for their warm hospitality and delicious food (a blend of Indian, French, African and Chinese cuisines).
Hinduism is the predominant religion and festivals are celebrated in typical colorful style. Shopping is world class, with the capital Port Louis offering upmarket fare, in contrast with the lively open air markets where bargaining is the order of the day.
Mauritius Basic Facts
Location: Mauritius lies off the coast of southern Africa, in the Indian ocean, east of Madagascar.
Area: Mauritius is not a large island, it covers 2,040 sq km, about the same size as Luxembourg and twice the size of Hong Kong.
Capital City: The capital of Mauritius is Port Louis.
Population: 1.3 million people call Mauritius home.
Language: Everyone on the island speaks Creole, it's the first language for 80.5% of the community. Other languages spoken include:, Bhojpuri 12.1%, French 3.4%, English (official despite it being spoken by less than 1% of the population), other 3.7%, unspecified 0.3%.
Religion: Hinduism is the predominant religion in Mauritius, with 48% of the population practicing the religion.
The rest is made up of: Roman Catholic 23.6%, Muslim 16.6%, other Christian 8.6%, other 2.5%, unspecified 0.3%, none 0.4%.
Currency: The Mauritian Rupee (code: MUR)
See the CIA World Factbook for more details.
Mauritians enjoy a tropical climate with temperatures averaging around 30 Celsius year round.
There is a wet season that lasts from November to May when temperatures are at their warmest. The dry season from May to November coincides with cooler temperatures. Mauritius is affected by cyclones that tend to blow by between November and April bringing lots of rain.
When to Go to Mauritius
Mauritius is a good year round destination. The water is warmest during the summer months from November to May, but this is also the wet season, so it's more humid. If you want to enjoy the towns of Mauritius as well as the beaches, the best time to go is during the drier winter months (May - November). Temperatures can still reach 28 Celsius during the day.
Mauritius Main Attractions
Mauritius is more than just gorgeous beaches and lagoons, but they are the main reason most visitors find themselves on the island. The list below just touches on some of the many attractions in Mauritius. Every watersport is available at numerous beaches on the island. You can also go canyoning, diving, quad-biking, kayaking through mangrove forests, and so much more.
- Trou aux Biches - a mile long beach with fine sand on the northern coast. One of the best beaches in Mauritius, this public beach has calm waters, making it very family-friendly, and excellent for divers. There are lots of restaurants serving fine cuisine that reflects the cultural melting pot of Mauritius. Numerous water sports will keep the children and active adults content.
- Blue Bay Marine Park - a great place to take a glass-bottomed boat out and go snorkeling. The park is near the international airport, in the southeast of the island. It's very quiet here during the week.
- Jardin Botanique de Pamplemousses - The botanical gardens are known to botanists throughout the world for their countless species of indigenous trees, spices, water lilies and exotic plants, including the talipot palm, said to flower once every sixty years and then die. The gardens were created by Pierre Poivre in 1767 to provide fresh vegetables and spices for incoming ships and the Governor's household. Also on premises, is the former French Governor Mahe de Labourdonnais's Chateau de Mon Plaisir, built in 1735.
- Le Morne Brabant - a spectacular beach, nice and remote in the southwest corner of Mauritius, for those who want to ditch the crowds. Kite-surfers love it here, which means it can get windy. The most notable feature is a giant rock, that reaches over 500m in height. Two luxury resorts are nestled at the foot of the rock.
- Chamarel - located in the southwest of Mauritius, Chamarel village and its surroundings are home to some unique scenic spots. These include the Seven Coloured Earths, the Chamarel Falls and the Black River Gorges National Park. The surrounding area is also known for its locally grown coffee, pineapples, sugarcane and surprisingly large tortoises!
- Grand Baie - the party town of Mauritius and the tourist capital. Grand baie is a crowded, cosmopolitan beach haven, famous for its nightlife and shopping.
- Port Louis - is the first port of call for cruise ships. The bustling capital offers a waterfront mall, markets, cathedrals and even horse racing.
Travel to Mauritius
Most visitors to Mauritius will arrive at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport at Plaisance in the southeast of the island. Airlines operating from the airport include British Airways, Air Mauritius, South African Airways, Air France, Emirates, Eurofly, and Air Zimbabwe.
Getting Around Mauritius
Mauritius is a good self-drive destination. You can rent a car from any leading international companies like Hertz, Avis, Sixt and Europcar, who have desks at the airports and major resorts. Local rental companies are cheaper, check out Argus.
A decent public bus system will get your round the island if you are on a budget but have more time. See their website for routes and rates.
Taxis are readily available in all the major towns and are the quickest way to get around and also quite reasonable if you want to hire them for the day to take in some sights. Hotels also offer day and half day excursions for reasonable rates. Bicycles can be rented at some of the bigger resorts. Find Mauritius hotels, resorts and vacation rentals.
Mauritius Embassies/Visas: Many nationals do not need a visa to enter Mauritius, including most EU nationals, British, Canadian, Australian, and US passport holders. For the latest visa regulations check with your nearest local embassy. If you are arriving from a country where Yellow fever is endemic, you will need proof of vaccination to enter Mauritius.
Mauritius Tourist Board: MPTA Tourism Office
Since independence in 1968, Mauritius has developed from a low-income, agriculturally based economy to a middle-income diversified economy with growing industrial, financial, and tourist sectors. For most of the period, annual growth has been in the order of 5% to 6%. This remarkable achievement has been reflected in more equitable income distribution, increased life expectancy, lowered infant mortality, and a much-improved infrastructure. The economy rests on sugar, tourism, textiles and apparel, and financial services, and is expanding into fish processing, information and communications technology, and hospitality and property development. Sugarcane is grown on about 90% of the cultivated land area and accounts for 15% of export earnings. The government's development strategy centers on creating vertical and horizontal clusters of development in these sectors. Mauritius has attracted more than 32,000 offshore entities, many aimed at commerce in India, South Africa, and China. Investment in the banking sector alone has reached over $1 billion. Mauritius, with its strong textile sector, has been well poised to take advantage of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Mauritius' sound economic policies and prudent banking practices helped to mitigate negative effects from the global financial crisis in 2008-09. GDP grew more than 4% per year in 2010-11, and the country continues to expand its trade and investment outreach around the globe.
Mauritius Brief History
Although known to Arab and Malay sailors as early as the 10th century, Mauritius was first explored by the Portuguese in the 16th century and subsequently settled by the Dutch - who named it in honor of Prince Maurits van NASSAU - in the 17th century. The French assumed control in 1715, developing the island into an important naval base overseeing Indian Ocean trade, and establishing a plantation economy of sugar cane. The British captured the island in 1810, during the Napoleonic Wars. Mauritius remained a strategically important British naval base, and later an air station, playing an important role during World War II for anti-submarine and convoy operations, as well as the collection of signal intelligence. Independence from the UK was attained in 1968. A stable democracy with regular free elections and a positive human rights record, the country has attracted considerable foreign investment and has earned one of Africa's highest per capita incomes. Read more about the history of Mauritius.