Mauritius is a volcanic island in the southwest part of Indian Ocean, located to the east of Madagascar and the southwest of India. It measures around 1,865m2 and is formed around a central plateau, boasting 350km of coast which is protected by colourful coral reefs. Mauritius has many mountains, but most are low lying. The verdant island is also home to various rivers and streams, as well as two crater lakes. Mauritian territory additionally comprises the Island of Rodrigues (around 600km east of the mainland) and the Mascarene Islands, also in the Indian Ocean and to the west of Australia.
Mauritius has a mild tropical climate which remains fairly constant throughout the year. The warmest period lasts from November to April (with an average temperature of 24.7ºC), while winter starts in June and ends in September (with a mean temperature of 20.4ºC). The rainiest months are February and March, while October is the driest.
Mauritius is famed above all for its paradisiacal beaches with warm waters and soft white sands. Some of its most famous beaches include Belle Mare Beach, La Cuvette Beach and Le Borne. This country is also hailed for its amazing cuisine, which bears a blend of Creole, Indian, African and Chinese influences, and for its tea – if you manage to make it to Mauritius, make it a point to visit a tea plantation and sample some of the many wonderful varieties.
Arab sailors were the first people to visit Mauritius, in search of trading opportunities. Because the Mascarenes Islands are way off the typical trading routes relied on by sailors, it is thought that a hurricane may have pushed them to the island. In 1498, Portuguese explorer, Vasco Da Gama, chanced upon the islands on his way to India, sparking a string of expeditions by his fellowmen to the many islands on the Indian Ocean. In the early 16th century, Portuguese sailor, Fernández Pereira, chanced upon Mauritius and called it Cerne. The group of islands comprising modern-day Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues was named Mascarenes after a Portuguese captain of the same name. The Portuguese never settled on the island, though the Dutch opted for settlement in the late 16th century, naming it Mauritius after an eminent prince. The French then colonised the island from 1767 to 1810, converting the main port and capital (Port Louis) into an important trading centre.
Mauritius has over 700 different species of indigenous plants, including over 60 orchid species. Many of these species are under threat of extinction because of industrialisation and the destruction of habitats. The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, National Parks and Conservation and Forestry Services are working to restore many lost species. Boucle d’Oreille, a shrub with vivid red-orange flowers, grows wildly and is Mauritius’ national flower. Red anthuriums are also considered one of the island’s most characteristic flowers. Some of the island’s most cherished animals, meanwhile, include the pink pigeon, echo parakeet, and Mauritian cardinal, which is now considered a rarity. The only mammals on the island are bats, though only four species remain.
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