To know what do to in Mauritius is useful when you are planning your trip. But it is also important to know some general things about the destination you would like to visit. It is favourable to know some things about the currency, political situation or means of tranpsortation (like driving taxi). But it is also important to know some about the geography, climatic conditions or even just some things about the flora and fauna. Thus, in this article I will give you some general information about Mauritius and try to stay as unbiased as possible. So read on, folks.
Why should you visit Mauritius or the legendary reputation of Mauritius demystified
There is scarcely any other island with a legendary reputation as Mauritius and for many people Mauritius is the great dreamy paradise. For others, Mauritius is the holiday destination par excellence with numerous regular guests flying there for years. The question is: why do many consider Mauritius as paradise, while there are many other paradisiacal places in the world, for example in the Caribbean or in Asia?
Some people could say: In Mauritius we enjoy a wonderful, tropical climate, as you would expect it on vacation. You will find palm trees of various kinds with coconuts and other fruits. The beaches are great, the ocean waves are discharged at the coral reef, so you don’t have any strong waves and no dangerous animals close to the beach. Under the water surface you will find a truly fascinating coral paradise with colorful fishes. And all this is not a secluded spot on earth, but a modern small state with shopping possibilities and offers, as we know it from our homes. Besides that, there are the friendly inhabitants that you can only imagine.
But I would answer: all of those things you can get in the Caribbean, Bali, Thailand and so on, too.
Hence, my opinion about the high reputation of Mauritius is different, and it is as follows: Mauritius has always been committed to luxury tourism. Although there are cheap hotels on the island, they are dwelling in the shadow of their big luxury brothers. For this reason, not everyone could afford a trip to Mauritius. If some people did, then it were often honeymoon trips when the whole family got the money together for the young bride and groom. In addition, the Mauritanian government did not want a disastrous and environmentally destructive mass tourism, as it is known for example from Thailand. In my opinion, these circumstances have led to the status, that Mauritius is now regarded as something unapproachable and completely extraordinary.
As I have been there, I can say that Mauritius is beautiful but there is nothing unapproachable about it. It is a normal holiday or vacation paradise, as you know it from the Caribbean or other exotic “pearls”. Nowadays, you don’t have to be exceptionally wealthy to spend your holidays on Mauritius. You just have to catch the right time, if the room rates are cheaper than usual.
So why should you go there, nevertheless? Why shouldn’t you go to Mexico, Thailand or Bali? For all of these places are great. The answer is simple: Mauritius is not Mexico. Maritius is not Thailand. Mauritius is neither Bali nor other holiday location on this world. And that’s the real and true reason you should visit this island, not because of the tropical beaches! In other words: although there are other paradisiacal places, Mauritius is unique, due to its history, its friendly population and when you visit this place, you will gain a new experience. And this is what really counts.
Geographical location and the size of Mauritius
A lot of people have heard about Mauritius but not everybody knows where Mauritius actually is. However, most of the people have an idea of where the island of Madagascar is located. “Next to it” is Mauritius, east of Madagascar.
Mauritius has an area of about 2000 square kilometers (about 1240 square miles). The island measures 64 km (40 miles) at the longest point and 47 km (29 miles) at its widest point. Thus, Mauritius is just a pinpoint on the map. Even compared to neighboring Madagascar the island of Mauritius is tiny, because the large neighboring island is about 300 times larger. On Mauritius, you can drive through from the one end to the other in about 1 to 1,5 hours.
Coral benches around Mauritius (demystified)
Mauritius is almost completely surrounded by a coral belt. Not least because of these coral reefs, the island is considered the paradise on earth. The corals serve here also as breakwaters and keep the sea surf off from the beaches. Therefore, it is usually very quiet in the area of the bathing beaches, although on the beach sometimes a strong wind can blow.
A brief story about Mauritius
Formerly, Mauritius was inhabited and it is not definitively clear who landed first on this island. But it is clear, that at the beginning of the 17th century, Dutch seafarers began to visit Mauritius regularly. However, the first serious attempts of colonization of Mauritius came not from the Dutch. They were actually interested in the demanded exotic wood and thus, they chopped down larger areas of the Mauretanian forests. They also brought goats to the island as a living provision. The Dutch people did no stay on Mauritius for more than a hundred years. But after this time the forests were severely chopped down and the native wildlife was seriously ruined, for example by rats which left the ships.
The French then took over the island and from 1735 the governor Mahé de Labourdonnais took over the business on the island. He is still considered the actual founder of Mauritius and his name can be found in numerous places. He built the port of Port Louis and made Mauritius an important base of the French East India Society. Only 9 years after taking office, the first sugarcane factories started their service.
At the end of the eighteenth century there were fierce battles between France and England, in which England ultimately emerged victorious. Thus, Mauritius fell into the hands of the English people, while the neighboring island La Reunión has remained French. The English then abolished slavery, let flourish the sugarcane trade and turned the administration over into the British system. Mauritius remained a British colony until 1968 and was subsequently granted independence. The first Prime Minister was Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, after whom the airport and the Botanical Gardens in Pamplemoussess were later named.
Population and religions
Anyone, who goes in holiday in Mauritius, will soon realize that there are different groups of people live peacefully together. Amongst the four main population groups, the Franco-Mauritian is the smallest one. It consists of an amount of French-born white upper class, whose ancestors were colonial rulers and merchants. Even today, these people still operate the sugarcane plantations or have gained a foothold in tourism. About a quarter of today’s population has African ancestors who were once brought to the island on slave ships. However, most of the Mauretanian population comes from India. Those are Indian “guest workers” who came onto the island after the slave trade was banned by the British people. The fourth and the smallest population are Chinese, who came to Mauritius as merchants.
According to the population, Hinduism is one of the largest religious groups in Mauritius. Christianity makes up the second largest part, to which the white population usually confesses. The Muslims (usually Sunnits) are in third place with their faith and are followed by Buddhism.
Languages on Mauritius
An official language by law does not exist in Mauritius. In practice, however, two languages are considered “official languages”, namely English and French. Whereby the French one is the dominant official language, because French was the language of the white upper class for a long time and still is. But the most widely spoken language in Mauritius is neither French nor English but a creole language called Morisyen. This is the language that the Mauritians speak to each other and it is based on the French language, but it sounds very differently than French. At least it did to me as a non-French speaker.
Economy in Mauritius
When you drive across Mauritius, you will see cane sugar plantations almost everywhere and you might think that this state makes its money from cane sugar. But in reality, cane sugar accounts for only about 2% of the gross domestic product. In fact, a real important part of the economy (if not the most important) is tourism. The banking sector also seems to play an increasingly important role. Because in larger cities, you will see some skyscrapers of the banks. Besides that, Mauritius is now considered a tax oasis. The textile industry also plays a major role in Mauritius, even though it is currently under pressure due to limited export quotas.
Income of the population in Mauritius
The next general information about Mauritius is regarding the income of the population. Although the economy is not the poorest in the world, the income of the population is in fact, pretty poor, considered with the incomes in our western countries. Thus, the monthly average income in Mauritius is about 670,- EUR (approximately 800,- US-Dollar or 600,- British Pound). The costs of living on the other side, are not as low as some one might think. When I visited a normal grocery store, the prices there had the same level we have in Germany or even higher levels. Thus, don’t expect to make great bargain buys on Mauritius.
Vegetation on Mauritius
About hundred years ago, Mauritius was covered by dense, tropical rainforest, with hardwood trees (such as teak and mahogany) on it. Especially the coveted ebony-trees were present in large numbers. Dutch and French seafarers exported the precious raw material to Europe, partly for furniture production. The rest was used for the shipbuilding. This lead to a massive destruction and damage to the environment on Mauritius. Today, only a small part of the original vegetation is present on the island.
Instead, sugarcane today covers much of the area of Mauritius, which was a bad decision regarding nature. Over the past few decades, it has been shown, how unfavorably the former exploitation has affected the ecological balance of Mauritius. It was permanently disturbed, because for example, the strong, slow-growing precious woods offered the smaller plants protection against cyclones.
Attempts are being made to reforest Mauritius, but there are problems with their implementation. Because the young, not yet firmly rooted plants are broken by the cyclones and die even before they can grow out. The filaos trees (also called casuarines) were imported from Australia and planted on the beaches for their resistance to cyclones. But of course, this tree is not native to Mauritius. Just like the tamarinds and the banyan tree that came from India. In many places there are flamboyant trees (also called flame tree) on Mauritius, which originates from Madagascar. However, this tree looks very beautiful in Mauritanian countryside. There also attempts to settle down the coconut palms again because it is useful and decorative at the same time. Thus, if you would like to visit Mauritius, you should know, that a lot of the vegetation (which is beautiful without question) has different origins.
To be continued…