A bit north off the tropic of Capricorn lies the emerald island of Mauritius, embraced by the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, surrounded by wonderful white coral beaches, protected by a large barrier reef. Its coastal sceneries change with every bend of its roads.
It’s ranging mountains with their many streams and rivers bear ancient forests and nature reserves home of deer, monkeys and wild boar, sanctuaries for rare birds such as the Mauritian kestrel.
Mauritius, however, offers more than just nature. It harbours the vivid history of a cultural melting pot with many interesting places to see. Such as Pamplemousses Gardens, famous for their giant water lilies and rare species of palm trees. Port Louis, the capital, where old times meet the new millennium. Stop by the old market place and discover the shops at its new waterfront. Do not miss the colonial Eureka Mansion, The Martello Towers, Grand Bassin, Souillac or Chamarel while exploring the island.
Being a multi cultural society, the Mauritians celebrate religious festivals throughout the year. These events add an exotic touch to the already interesting and colourful island.The kindness of the people, their readiness to smile and their generous hospitality enable the luxury hotels to provide a service which cannot be found better anywhere in the world. Together with the warm climate, this fulfils our secret dream of a tropical paradise; of an island in the sun, surrounded by precious corals that took thousands of years to grow, home for many kinds of rare marine life such as shrimp and colourful tropical fish. Of lagoons embraced by protective reefs and thus safe for swimming and snorkelling. Of encounters with playful dolphins. Of a warm caress by the South Equatorial Current which carries large fish such as shark, whale shark, blue marlin, sailfish and tuna close to exotic shores.
Take a dive into the islands iridescent waters and be truly enchanted.
More than half the population of Mauritius originates from indentured labourers, brought in from India by the British, to work in the sugar cane fields. Some of the resident Sino-Mauritians were also brought in as labourers, but most of them came to Mauritius as entrepreneurs, and many still control the lion's share of village-based commerce. The remaining population mainly consists of Creoles, descendants of African slaves. The whites or Franco-Mauritians, original settlers of the island, represent a minority.
One of many highlights during a visit to Mauritius is certainly the experience of its magnificent culinary diversity. The main cuisines are Creole, European, Chinese and Indian, with seafood often served as a specialty on the side. Common dishes include a variety of kari (curry), rougaille (tomatoes, onions, garlic and any kind of meat or fish) and daube, a local stew. Favourite local beverages include lassi, a refreshing yoghurt and ice-water drink, and alouda, a syrupy brew of agar, milk and flavourings which are sold by local vendors everywhere.
With its host of cultures and multinational residents, it comes as no surprise that Mauritius celebrates an equally high number of holidays and special events.
Tamils celebrate Thaipoosam Cavadee in January or February with long processions throughout the island. Around the same time, the end of the harvest season is marked by feeding rice pudding to decorated cows in the festival of Pongal.Tamil fire-walking ceremonies take place throughout the year.
The abolishment of Slavery is Celebration of joy and sadness by the Creole. Chinese Spring Festival is celebrated generally in February with the standard barrage of fireworks and foodstuffs.
Maha Shivaratree lasts 3 days at the end of February and into March. It is the largest and most important Hindu festival outside of India. Most of the island's Hindus embark on a pilgrimage to the holy volcanic lake Grand Bassin, to sacrifice food and flowers and stockpile vessels of the holy water.
Independence/Republic Day is celebrated on the 12 March. Père Laval Day in September marks the anniversary of the Catholic doctor and healers’ death. Mauritian expatriates from all over the world gather at his shrine in Ste-Croix to pray.
The Hindu light-festival Divali and the Muslim Eid-ul-Fitr feast after the fasting month Ramadan mark the end of the year and usually occur shortly before Christmas.
Arab traders knew of Mauritius as early as the 10th century but never actually settled on the island. Portuguese naval explorers stumbled upon it in the event of Vasco da Gamas’ voyage around the Cape of Good Hope in 1498. When the Dutch visited in 1598, the island was virtually untouched. After 40 years of merely using it as a supply base on their route to Java, they built their first settlement. The Dutch colony, however, never really flourished, and they departed for good in 1710, leaving in their wake the extinction of the dodo and the introduction of African slaves, Java deer, wild boar, tobacco and sugar cane.
Five years later, French captain Guillaume Dufresne d'Arsal claimed Mauritius for his king, naming it l’Ile de France and turning it over to the French East India Company as a trading base. The island blossomed under the French, but the Civil War in the American colonies, which had greatly contributed to its wealth, also attracted the attention of the British, who eventually took over the island in 1810 after an initial defeat at the Battle of Vieux Grand Port.
The British landed at a small place in the far north of the island, which was duly named “Cap Malheureux “(the Cape of Bad Luck) after the event and turned Mauritius into a British colony. After a visit by Gandhi in 1901, the talks of liberty and independence never ceased on the island, specifically the Workers Party pushed for political independence. But it took a long time for things to happen, and only after a visit to London by representatives of that same party in 1965, did England turn around.
Finally, on the 12 March 1968, it granted independence to Mauritius. The doctor Sir Seewosagur Ramgoolam was elected first Prime Minister.
Today, in 2006, elected Prime Minister is Sir Anerood Jugnauth, an Indo Mauritian. President of Mauritius is Mrs. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim.