“You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius.” – Mark Twain (1896)
Mauritius is a volcanic island nation off the coast of Africa, measuring 58km (36m) from north to south and 47km (29m) from east to west. It lies in the Indian Ocean, roughly 800km (500m) east of Madagascar.
As a country, it includes the inhabited island of Rodrigues, some 560km (350m) to the north-east, and other scattered coral atolls such as Cargados Carajos and Agalega.
Mauritius has no active volcanoes, although remnants of volcanic activity – such as Trou aux Cerfs crater in Curepipe and millions of lava boulders – pepper the island. The island of Mauritius is renowned for having been the only known home of the dodo.
Mauritius is surrounded by a coral reef and lined with long stretches of white sandy beaches. The reef is broken in several places, with the largest break evident in the pounding surf along the black cliffs between Souillac and Le Bouchon on the southern coast. A smaller, less spectacular break occurs at Flic en Flac on the west coast.
Mauritius is an all-year-round holiday resort. In the Mauritian summer months – from November to April – the temperature varies from 20°C to 28°C on the Central Plateau and from 25°C to 33°C on the coast. From May to October, the average temperature is 19°C in the centre of the island and 24°C on the coast. The sea temperature is 27°C in summer and 22°C in winter. Though nestled up alongside eastern Africa, Mauritius is actually more influenced by its British and French ties and massive Indian workforce than by the African mainland.
English is the official language of the island, although you will also hear French, Créole and a smattering of Indian languages.
Mauritius offers a magnificent mixture of cuisines. The most common varieties are Créole, European, Chinese and Indian, with seafood almost always the specialty.
Favorite local beverages include lassi, a refreshing yogurt and ice-water drink, and alouda, a syrupy brew of agar, milk and flavourings. Locally produced beer and rum are potent, plentiful and cheap; wines are expensive and usually imported from France or South Africa. Locally bottled wine and imported South African and French wines can be purchased from 45 – 200 Rupees per bottle. An excellent beer called ‘Phoenix’ is brewed on the island and has proved to be very popular with our guests. Tea and an excellent ground coffee drink called coffee chamarel is grown on the island.
Mauritius has a thriving textile industry so you might consider leaving some space in your suitcase for locally-produced clothes. Talking of clothes, some restaurants may expect men to wear long trousers to evening meals.