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Get to Know Mauritius - the Perfect Family Beach Vacation in Africa

Aug 1, 2008
Mauritius is a perfect beach destination for any serious holiday maker - whether as a couple on honeymoon or a family with children. Please get to know your destination.

Nestling some 3000 km off the east coast of Africa, just above the Tropic or Capricorn, is the beautiful tropical island of Mauritius. This jewel of the Indian Ocean boasts 160 km of beautiful coastline surrounded by coral reef, a breathtaking central plateau and dramatic picturesque mountains.

The Brief History of Mauritius

Mauritius was originally discovered by the Arabs in AD 975. Although they named it Dinarobin - meaning Silver Island - they left no evidence of their presence. In 12507, the Portuguese discovered it and gave it the name Ilha de Cerne, or Island of the swan. The Dutch, en route to their colonies in the East Indies - discovered it in 1598, naming it Maurits, after Prince Maurice of Nassau. In 1715 the French landed, calling it Ile de France. For years, pirates and bounty- hunters under French protection plundered the British vessels travelling to and from the spice and silk markets of the East. In 1810, the British launched a surprise attack against the French and conquered the islands, along with nearby Reunion. In 1968, Mauritius won her independence from Britain, remaining within the commonwealth. Today, Mauritius has little unemployment and a thriving economy, based mainly on sugar, tourism and textiles.

The Climate of Mauritius

The seasons can be divided broadly into a hot, wet season from December to April, and a pleasantly cool, dry season from May to November, making Mauritius a perfect year-round destination. Coastal air temperatures range from 22 degrees Centigrade in winder (72 degrees Fahrenheit) to 31 degrees Centigrade (88 degrees Fahrenheit) in summer. Water temperatures vary between 22 degrees Centigrade (72 degrees Fahrenheit) and 27 degrees Centigrade (81 degrees Fahrenheit)

Population and Languages

The population numbers just over 1 million consisting of Hindus, Muslims, Chinese, Creoles and Europeans. English is the official language and French is also spoken alongside Hindi, Creole and other oriental languages.

The Currency

The currency is the Mauritian rupee, divided into 100 cents. Notes are issued in denominations of 25, 50, 100, 200, 1000 and 2000 rupees: coins as 5, 20 and 50 cents and 1, 5, and 10 rupees.

Passports, Visas and Health

A valid passport is required by all visitors to Mauritius, as well as a return air ticket. Visa and vaccination requirements differ from country to country, please consult your nearest consular office or travel agent. There are no endemic diseases in the country and any poisonous insects or dangerous animals.

Packing - what to bring

Beachwear and informal clothing are perfect for daytime - cotton is ideal. The sun in Mauritius can be very strong so sunglasses and suntan lotion with the necessary sun protection factor should not be forgotten.

Dress cord in the evening is generally smart casual, and a light wrap can be useful.

The time zone

Mauritius time if fours hours ahead of GMT.

Getting there

Mauritius is served by a number is international airlines. Please consult with your travel specialist for further information. It is essential to reconfirm onward flights 72 hours prior to departure either with a ground operator or the airline direct.

Transfers

There are a number of options, from helicopters, through private transfers in chauffeur-driven air-conditioned limousines or 4x4 vehicles to minibuses and taxis. Several car hire companies are represented at the hotels.

Inter Island Transfers

Flying time to Reunion is 40 minutes and Rodrigues 90 minutes. Scheduled boat services operate to both islands.

Shopping

Mauritius is a shopper's paradise. There are several different shopping areas, as well as bargains with can be found at the various local markets and independent vendors. In Port Louis, there is a large and colourful market, specializing in clothing, hand-embroidered linen, stunning Indian fabrics, souvenirs and spices. Nearby is the brand new Caudan shopping precinct offering intricate model boats, clothing, jewellery, books, Persian rugs, beachwear and souvenirs. Curepipe is the main residential town and specializes in model boats, clothing and beautiful knitwear. Cosmopolitan Craned Bay on the north coast of the island also offers some great shopping opportunities as well as some interesting restaurants.

Sightseeing and excursions

Port Louis, the capital city and the world's latest Freeport, is a kaleidoscope of colour and activity, sights, smells and sounds. Scour the market for bargains, take a drive to the top of La Citadelle for the marvellous view, admire the grand 19th Century buildings, and see the re-constructed dodo and rare artefacts and the fascinating Natural History Museum.

Pamplemousses Royal Botanical Gardens, a short 15 minutes drive from the bustle of Port Louis houses, and astonishing array of rare indigenous flora as well as a small deer and some giant Aldabra tortoises from Seychelles, where they are an endangered species.

Grand Bay offers intimate art galleries and a wide variety of boutique clothing and fascinating souvenir shops.

Eureka House is a beautiful restored Creole-style house situated in Moka. Reputed to be one of the largest houses on the island, it has 109 doors and windows. Tea is served on the wide verandah.

Domaine les Pailles is a gracious estate which will delight nature lovers, gamblers, gourmets and horse-riders alike. Ten minutes drive south of Port Louis, the architecture is in traditional style.

Ile aux Cerfs, is five minutes on a taxi-boat from Le Touessrok, this idyllic tropical island has restaurants, bars and numerous water sports.

Domaine du Chasseur, a privately owned nature reserves nestles in the Bambous Mountains offering spectacular views down to the sea. Wild boars, hares, guinea fowls and monkeys abound. There rare Mauritius Kestrel can be seen by visitors at this naturalist's haven.

Maheboug, once the capital of the island has an unspoilt, rural atmosphere and a visit to the Naval Museum is well worthwhile. Relics from shipwrecks and battles, portraits and the bell of he renowned Saint Geran are housed here. Admission is free.

Black River Gorges, Grand Bassin, Plaine Champagne, Chamarel

The black River Gorges carve dramatically through the Black River National park, where the rare Paille-en-Queue and pink pigeon thrive. Marvellous place for a nature ramble through the park. An extraordinary phenomenon is the seven coloured earth at Chamarel on the Plaine Champagne. The sacred lake at Grand Bassin is a place of pilgrimage for the Hindu people of Mauritius.

Casela Bird Park allows visitors the opportunity to enjoy a peaceful stroll through beautiful gardens where some 2000 birds of 150 different species live in 85 aviaries.
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