Mauritius, an island covering 1,860 square kilometres (720 square miles), is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1242 miles) off the south East coast of Africa. More than 150 kilometres (93 miles) of white sandy beaches and transparent lagoon are protected from the open sea by the world’s third largest coral reef, which surrounds the island.
The population is estimated at 1,2 million. It forms a mosaic of different races, cultures and religions since Mauritians are descendants of immigrants from the Indian sub-continent, Africa, Europe and China. The cultural diversity and racial harmony of the island renders Mauritius a unique place. Most Mauritians are multilingual, being fluent in Creole, French and English. English is the official language. Bhojpuri, Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Marathi, Telugu and Mandarin are also spoken.
Mauritius is a democracy modelled on the British system of parliamentary democracy, which guarantees the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers. The President is the Head of State and Commander-in-chief while the Prime Minister has full executive powers and is the Head of Government. Sixty-two members of the National Assembly are elected every five years by universal adult suffrage. Democracy is well entrenched in Mauritius and all major political parties are represented in Parliament.
History and Economy
The Mascarene Islands ( Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues ) was discovered by a Portugese sailor, Don Pedro Mascarenhas.
Occupation of the island:
The Dutch period (1598-1710)
The French period ( 1715-1810)
The British period (1810-1968)
Mauritius gained its independence in 1968 and became a Republic in 1992.
A democratic state, its parliament is based on the model of Westminster, the President of the Republic is the chief of the state, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet has the constitutional power.
Currency: The Mauritian rupee ( 1 euro=40rupees approximately)
Originally, the economy was based on the sugar industry and textiles became the second sector. Now the four pillars of the economy are: Tourism, Sugar, Textiles and Services.
The island offers practically all the services and commodities that are found in Europe. Known group names like HSBC, Banques des Mascareignes ( BDM) for the banking sector for example.
Tourism in Mauritius is highly developed and very high standard hotels have contributed to the reputation of the island as the ultimate touristic destination thanks to their excellent service and legendary hospitality. Also, the geographical advantages and the quality of the infrastructure have enhanced the island’s passion for tourism.
Many airline companies are present on the island such as Air Mauritius, Air France, Corsair, British Airways, Emirates, SAA, Air Austral ect with flights everyday towards the major European cities such as London, Paris, Dubai, Reunion island and more than two flights per week to Germany, India, China, Australia, Singapore, South Africa and other sub Saharian African countries.
Mauritius enjoys a historical openness to the world thus giving way to several agreements with European countries and also Africa and Asia and more specially India and China. Several works of infrastructure have started thanks to these agreements.
Already dotted with a Cyber city like the major cities of Europe, many commercial centres and houses and also four major highways (by the end of 2012) will cater for the needs of the island. The island is also striving toward a greener Mauritius and this has brought positive effects in infrastructure and energy saving.
The economic activities have been boosted since 2002 by various economic decisions taken by the government and the most prominent one being the flat rates of all taxes at 15%.
Mauritius aspires in the long run to be an economic model in the area.
Many activities and gorgeous views can be appreciated in Mauritius. Certain places are even UNESCO classified. Places to visit are the Pamplemousses garden with its rare and endemic species, the Bird and Crocodile Parks, the Sugar Adventure, the Tea Route, the “Rhumerie de Chamarel”.
You have very nice restaurants for local and international food, some hotels offer gastronomic restaurants of international standard.
On the Sea side:
Activities such as Kite Surf, Wind Surf, Water ski, Parasailing and Big Game fishing can be enjoyed. The waters around the natural lagoon is ideal for diving and snorkelling or enjoying an excursion on a catamaran or Sail boat to the outer islands.
Discovering the inland
Telecommunication is accessible on the whole island and the code to access Mauritius from International is +230. Mauritius enjoys direct international lines with most of the world countries together with fax and internet services.
Port Louis , the Capital, situated on the North west coast of Mauritius is also the harbour, financial and administrative hub. The other major cities are on the central plateau, like Beau-Bassin, Curepipe, Rose-Hill, Vacoas and Quatre Bornes.
Facilities in these towns are however found all over the island.
Power and Drinkable water
Local tap water is not safe, bottled mineral water is available in all grocery shops and in hotels.
Voltage used on the island is 220V.
The island is a peaceful place, but, as with many international tourist destinations, caution should be exercised with valuables and normal safety precautions should be taken.
Shopping in Mauritius
Take your pick - packets of Mauritian spice, ship models, miniature dodos in copper or wood, Mauritian recipe books, Sega music cassettes, miniatures of island rum, anthurium flowers, Mauritian tea, T-shirts, Indian fabrics, basket work, quilts, hand-embroidered table cloths, pottery, casual wear and pareos. Knitwear and beachwear can be purchased at factory prices and duty free shopping includes designer wear, diamonds and gold jewellery.
Generally from 09H00 to 17H00 on Monday to Friday and a half-day on Saturdays. On the Central plateau, shops are open all day on Saturdays and half-day on Thursdays.
A valid passport and a return or onward ticket is a must for travellers entering Mauritius. Visas are not required by those from a Commonwealth country, Japan, South Africa, the USA, the EU and the Scandinavian countries. Those that do require a visa can usually obtain one for three months, and they are renewable on request. Mauritian Embassies and High Commissions issue visas free of charge. Passengers in transit require no visas but they must continue their journey within 72 hours of checking in.
Items to bring
Beachwear is a popular form of dress in Mauritius. Otherwise, dress is casual although most hotels do not allow guests to wear shorts or T-shirts in the restaurants or bars in the evenings. Between June and October, a jacket or tracksuit top is recommended. Dress appropriately when visiting religious shrines and remove shoes when entering mosques and temples.