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Mauritius sits in the Indian Ocean surrounded by warm clear water. The Island of Mauritius has a great blend of diverse culture giving the Mauritius a lovely blend of ancestral countries. The delicious food of Mauritius also displays this heritage and regular festivals on Mauritius are celebrated in a spirit of peace and harmony. A vacation holiday to the Mauritius is an exciting blend of Island life, history and culture.
Mauritius, a volcanic and mountainous island in the Indian Ocean, lies 2,000km (1,240 miles) off the south east coast of Africa, due east of Madagascar. The Mauritius island state stands on what was once a land bridge between Asia and Africa called the Mascarene Archipelago.
From the coast of Mauritius, the land rises to form a broad fertile plain on which sugar cane flourishes and beyond, crater edges form a mountainous backbone. Some 500km (310 miles) east is Rodrigues Island, while northeast are the Cargados Carajos Shoals and 900km (560 miles) to the north is Agalega.
Mauritius is a blend of diverse cultures and religions which the immigrant population brought from their ancestral countries. Their festivities are celebrated in a spirit of peace and harmony throughout the year.
With world-class hotels offering the best service in the Indian Ocean and a renowned gastronomy as well as top spas and golf, Mauritius also offers more to do than many tropical islands, with trekking, mountain climbing and ecotourism playgrounds. And with its signature sunny days, the world's third largest coral reef surrounding a turquoise lagoon and silky, blonde, sandy beaches, this island certainly comes close to paradise.
Off major shipping routes, Mauritius remained uninhabited until the 16th century, allowing it to develop into one of the world's biodiversity hotspots. It was favoured by pirates and occupied briefly by the Dutch before the French brought African slaves to work the sugar plantations. Captured by the British in 1810, Mauritius achieved independence in 1968. Its diversification into textiles, tourism and, of late, financial services, telecommunications and cyber services has been an Indian Ocean economic success story. So too has its stable multicultural society. Descendants of Indian labourers brought in after the abolition of slavery in 1835 now comprise 70% of the population, and Chinese and Muslim traders add to a French and Creole cultural legacy. This friendly co-existence of cultures expresses itself in croissants for breakfast and curry for dinner, and garish Indian temples near French colonial mansions.
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.
Grand Baie is the centre of the Mauritius island's nightlife, with bars with live music, restaurants and nightclubs. Port Louis has mainly restaurants and bars. Rivière Noire is a Creole fishermen's district where sega dancing is especially lively on Saturday nights. Sega troupes give performances at most hotels. Gamblers are lavishly catered for; casinos are among the Mauritius island's attractions.
This ranges from sophisticated shopping for designer clothing, jewellery and handicrafts in Port Louis' Caudan Waterfront to rooting around for T-shirts and souvenirs upstairs in the capital's (Port Louis) bustling Central Market, while locals bargain hard over tea and other essentials while catching up on the gossip. Island crafts, found at the craft market at The Caudan include jewellery, Chinese and Indian jade, silks, basketry, glass and model ships. Cashmere is a particularly good buy.
Duty-free shopping is popular in Mauritius with around a 40% saving on textiles, jewellery, perfume and electrical goods. Mauritius is to be turned into a tax-free shopping haven by 2010, with 80% tax taken off around 2,000 goods. Tourist shopping centres are located around the island of Mauritius, with a good selection of designer shops at Grand Baie, but the locals shop at Curepipe, Quatre-Bornes and Rose-Hill.
Mauritius is a popular honeymoon destination, but all holiday makers looking for tropical paradise will find something to suit their tastes.
• For a spectacular 360-degree view of Port Louis and the north, climb Le Pouce or ‘the thumb', at 812m (2,664ft). It is an easy two-hour climb from the village of La Laura, and takes another two hours to walk into Port Louis.
• Tour the Moka mountains by quad bike, horse or 4-wheel drive at the accessible 1,500-hectare (3,700-acre) nature park of Domaine Les Pailles. Travel to the sugar mill and rum distillery by train or horse-drawn carriage before dining in one of four restaurants.
• Head to Grand Baie, for watersports such as parasailing, an underwater walk, submarine and semi-submersible scooters, or to La Cuvette, a long silky beach with clear water between Grand Baie and Cap Malheureux, for sailing, windsurfing and waterskiing.
• Go for a swim at the northern beaches such as Trou aux Biches, shaded by casuarinas, Mont Choisy, a 2km (1.2-mile) narrow white stretch of sand curving north from there, and Péreybère, a little cove between Grand Baie and Cap Malheureux.
• Go diving on the west coast around Flic-en-Flac or in the north, at Trou aux Biches or the Northern Islands from November to April. The Mauritius Scuba Diving Association (MSDA) can provide further information.
• Take a speedboat from Trou d'eau Douce to the popular island playground of Ile aux Cerfs for beaches, golf and watersports. Or, for a quieter day, a catamaran to the Northern Islands - Gabriel Island, Flat Island and Gunner's Quoin.
• Hike in the Black River Gorges National Park, a 6,794-hectare (16,788-acre) forest, to see indigenous plants, birds and wildlife. Black River Peak trail goes to Mauritius' highest mountain, while the Maccabee Trail starts nearby and plunges into the gorge to Black River.
• For an adventurous lunch of roasted wild boar, duck or deer curry with one of the best island views, try Domaine du Chasseur's alfresco Panoramour Restaurant. This domaine is the best place to glimpse the Mauritius kestrel in the wild.
• La Vanille Réserve des Mascareignes (website: www.lavanille-reserve.com) is commonly referred to as ‘The Crocodile Park', for its thousands of Nile crocodiles. It is the only place worldwide to breed aldabra tortoises and also has deer, monkeys, boar and an insectarium.
• Tiny, rugged, volcanic Rodrigues Island (website: www.rodrigues-island.org) lies 550km (340 miles) northeast of Mauritius and is known as the ‘anti-stress' island. The capital, Port Mathurin, is only seven streets wide, with a Creole population. Rodrigues offers walking, diving, kitesurfing and deep sea fishing.
• Walk around the capital, Port Louis, to see fine colonial architecture such as Government House atop the palm-lined Place d'Armes. Gaze at one of the world's rarest stamps at the Blue Penny Museum (website: www.bluepennymuseum.com) or gawk at dodo skeletons in the Natural History Museum (website: www.mauritiusmuseums.org).
• Go souvenir shopping at Port Louis' bustling Central Market, the craft market at The Caudan Waterfront (website: www.caudan.com) or shopping centres around the island. Bargain hunt in Chinese and Indian shops in the inland towns.
• Families should head to Casela Bird Park (website: www.caselayemen.mu) in the west. With 90 aviaries on 25 hectares (61 acres), it has more than 140 bird varieties, from five continents. The main attraction is the pink pigeon, one of the world's rarest birds.
• Stroll around Pamplemousses Gardens, the third oldest botanical gardens in the world, created in the 18th century. Its international collection of plants includes giant Amazon lilies and the talipot palm, which flowers once every 60 years, then dies.
• Visit Mauritius Aquarium (website: www.mauritiusaquarium.com) in the north, populated by 200 species of fish, invertebrates, live coral and sponges originating from the waters around the island. It also has a touch pool for children.
• Follow the pilgrimage route to Grand Bassin, a natural crater lake and sacred Hindu site up on Plaine Champagne. A new 33m- (108ft-) high Shiva statue heralds the entrance to the few temples heaving with colour, incense and people at festival time.
• Visit the National History Museum (website: www.mauritiusmuseums.org) in Mahébourg in the southeast to see the bell from the shipwreck of Le San Geran that inspired Mauritius' most famous romantic legend, Paul & Virginie, and rooms dedicated to the Dutch, French and British periods.
• Visit the most characterful town on the island, Mahébourg, and head to its new waterfront for gajaks (snacks) and a view across the bay of Grand Port, the site of the famous 1810 naval battle, to Lion Mountain.
• Snorkel or take a glass bottom boat out to see the fish and coral in Blue Bay, Mauritius' only marine park. Or better still, take a luxury excursion to the private island just off the coast, Iles des Deux Cocos, to explore it from there.
• Head to the untamed south coast to see unusual rock formations such as the blowhole at Le Souffleur, a natural rock bridge at Pont Naturel and at the wild clifftop of Gris Gris, near Souillac, a rock shaped like a witch.