Mauritius

Capital Port Louis
Currency Mauritian rupee (MUR)
Population 1,328,589 (2015)
Electricity 230V/50Hz (C or G plug)
Country code +230
Time zone MUT (UTC+4)

Mauritius (French: Maurice, Mauritian Creole: Moris) is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) from the African continent. The country consists of the main island of Mauritius and the smaller islands of Rodrigues, the Agalegas and the Cargados Carajos shoals. Mauritius is mostly appreciated by visitors for its natural beauty and man-made attractions, multi-ethnic and cultural diversity, tropical climate, beautiful beaches and water sports.

Cities

Other destinations

Understand

Chamarel Falls

History

The island of Mauritius was first discovered by Arab sailors, at some time in the 9th century, the exact date is unknown. At that time the island was uninhabited and covered in a dense forest. The Arab sailors were not interested in settling on the island which they named Dina Arobi or Dinarobin. Fernandez Pereira, a Portuguese sailor found the island in 1505 and decided to give it the name of Cerne. However, the Portuguese did not settle permanently on the island either.

The first to colonise the island were the Dutch. They took possession of the island in 1598. The Dutch settlers landed on a bay in the south-eastern part of the island which was named Warwyck Haven after the commander Van Warwijck, the bay is now known as Grand Port. Mauritius also got its name during this period; the island was named after the Stadtholder of Holland, Maurits van Nassau.

In 1710, the Dutch abandoned the island, leaving behind macaques, the java deer, sugar cane, fugitive slaves and, also, an irreversible damage to the endemic and indigenous flora and fauna of the island - the Dodo was, by then, extinct due to extensive hunting, the bird being very easy to capture, while the once abundant black ebony tree population was almost completely depleted due to over-exploitation for its timber.

The French settled on the island in 1712, also landing at the bay in the south-east. They renamed the bay Port Bourbon and renamed the island Ile de France. They settled on the north-western side of the island and established their main harbour there, Port Louis, the present-day capital of Mauritius. During the French settlement there was a lot of development in the country. Mahé de Labourdonnais, whose statue can be seen across from the harbour in Port louis,is known as the founder of the capital city and the island prospered under his governance (1735-1746).

In August 1810, the British tried to take over the island but lost after a fierce battle against the French in the famous Battle of Grand Port - the only naval victory of the French over the British during the Napoleonic period. However, the British came back in December 1810 and successfully defeated the French. From then on, the island was renamed Mauritius and remained under British rule until it attained independence, although the British agreed to allow the locals to continue using the French language.

In 1835, slavery was officially abolished and, as most of the African slaves chose to abandon the agricultural fields and move to small coastal villages, indentured labourers ("coolies") were brought in from India to work in the growing sugar-cane industry.

On March 12, 1968 Mauritius became an independent nation within the Commonwealth. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam also known as the "Father of the Nation" led the island to independence and did a lot to develop the country but during his reign the country faced a lot of economic difficulties and political turmoil following postponing of elections for more than 9 years. On 12 March 1992, Mauritius became a republic under the leadership of the then Prime Minister Sir Aneerood Jugnauth.

A stable democracy with regular free elections and a positive human rights record means that it has attracted considerable foreign investment and has one of Africa's highest per capita incomes. Recent poor weather and declining sugar prices have slowed economic growth leading to some protests over standards of living in the Creole community.

Climate

Tropical, modified by southeast trade winds; warm, dry winter (May to November); hot, wet, humid summer (November to May); Natural hazards : Tropical cyclones can occur between November and April, however are most likely from late December until March. Mauritius has only two seasons, winter and summer. Temperatures do not differ greatly over the seasons. The climate on the central plateau is cooler than on the coastal areas.

Get in

Nationals of many countries, including Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and most other OECD countries do not need a visa in advance. For more information, visit the Passport and Immigration Office website.

If you require a visa to enter Mauritius, you might be able to apply for one at a British embassy, high commission or consulate in the country where you legally reside if there is no diplomatic post of Mauritius. For example, the British embassies in Al Khobar, Amman, Belgrade, Guatemala City, Jakarta, Jeddah, Pristina, Rabat, Riyadh, Rome and Sofia accept Mauritius visa applications (this list is not exhaustive). British diplomatic posts charge GBP50 to process a Mauritius visa application and an extra GBP70 if the authorities in Mauritius require the visa application to be referred to them. The authorities in Mauritius can also decide to charge an additional fee if they correspond with you directly.

By plane

Air Mauritius is the national carrier.

Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport (IATA: MRU +230 603 6000) at Plaisance in the southeast of the island is the major gateway for travellers coming from abroad.

The arrivals hall can get rather congested in the morning when most of the flights from Europe arrive. Immigration officers tend to be rather slow and the whole immigration process can be a frustrating experience.

Visitors are required to provide accommodation details to the immigration service on arrival. If you arrive in Mauritius from a country where malaria is endemic, you may receive a visit from the government health service and be required to give a blood sample for malaria screening.

By sea

Vessels that arrive at the port are mainly cargo ships. The Mauritius Pride and the Trochetia are the Mauritian vessels that usually sail to and from Reunion Island, Rodrigues Island and Madagascar. Costa Cruises ships have recently started an Indian Ocean cruise including a visit to Mauritius.

As of April 2008, one way passage prices to travel from Tamatave in Madagascar to Mauritius by boat were €275 first class or €255 second class, compared to €212 to fly from Antananarivo on Air Madagascar. The journey takes at least four days, possibly more if transiting through Reunion. A boat leaves every other Wednesday.

The prices quoted are for a passage in a first or second class cabin. In attempting to go directly to the port in Tamatave to negotiate with a boat captain for a non-cabin berth, tourists are turned away at the gate. Visiting the Nautical Club in Tamatave to enquire about yachts that might be heading to Mauritius also yields no results.

Get around

Bus and taxi services are best used in urban areas. Bicycles and motorbikes are also available for hire.

By plane

By helicopter

Helicopters are available for transfers and sightseeing tours

By car

One major highway runs north to south, otherwise a good network of paved, if sometimes narrow, roads cover the island. Traffic drives on the left.

Numerous car hire firms include major international and independent firms. Prices vary widely starting from MUR800 per day. To be on the safe side, with full insurance, visitors should rent cars from companies holding a tourism enterprise license. These cars are identifiable by their yellow number plates, while private cars ( unsuitable for rent ) have black plates. If you hire a car at the airport keep in mind that you will need to pay a MUR20 charge when you are leaving the car park, and this has to be paid in cash.

Regulations: drivers are required to be over 18 years old. Speed limits are 110km/h (68mph) on the motorway and 50km/h (31mph) in built-up areas. Seatbelts are compulsory. Foreign licences are accepted.

The following chart gives approximate travel times (in hours and minutes) from Port Louis to other major cities/towns/resorts in Mauritius.

By bus

Several fairly good bus services ply the island. Taking the bus is the most economical way of travelling. Air-conditioned buses have been recently introduced on some routes.

The major bus companies are:

Buses are still manned by a driver and a conductor who walks around collecting fares and issuing tickets after passengers have boarded. Tell the conductor where you want to go and he'll tell you the fare amount. Upon payment, he'll give you a ticket with the charged amount printed on it.

Most conductors are very helpful in providing directions to tourists. In the local Creole dialect, the conductors are called con-tro-lair (literally controller).

Bus routes and schedules are available from the Ministry of Transport and Mauritius Buses who list all the main operators and their schedules.

Try to pay with small denominations or the conductor may not have enough change. Intentional over-charging of tourists is not common.

By taxi

Taxis are the best way to visit the island. Various tours are available as from MUR2,500: The holy lake, Chamarel 7 coloured earth, Le Morne, dolphin tours in Tamarin and Ile aux cerfs are among the most appreciated by visitors.

Taxis in Mauritius do not use any meter. Negotiate the price of your trip before you enter a taxi; otherwise, you may be overcharged.

By boat

Talk

See also: French phrasebook

Although the official language of Mauritius is English, in practice French is by far the most commonly spoken language, and is widely used in professional and formal settings. In fact, even English language television programmes are usually dubbed into French. Most subjects are taught in and examined in the Commonwealth variety of English in the education system, meaning that you will be able to communicate with locals in English with varying levels of difficulty.

Mauritian Creole is a French-based creole which has incorporated some words from diverse sources including but not limited to English, Dutch and Portuguese, and has slight pronunciation differences from standard French. Although locals generally converse with each other in Creole, standard French is also universally spoken and understood. Virtually everyone working in the tourism industry will be able to speak fairly decent, albeit heavily accented English, and all government departments will have English-speaking staff on duty. Other languages spoken by much smaller numbers include: Hindi, Urdu, Hakka, Bhojpuri and Mandarin. Tamils constitute around 10% of the population and speak Tamil.

See

Northern touristic zone

Please note that the photos included in this section are heavily modified and thus the colours do not accurately represent reality.

Grand Bay from offshore

East

South east

West

Flic en Flac beach
Le Morne peninsula

The interior

Do

Climbing Le Pouce
Glass bottomed boat in Grand Bay

Buy

Money

The Mauritian rupee (French: roupie mauricienne) has been in use since 1877 and we use the ISO 4217 international currency code of MUR placed before the amount in all our articles. However, when you're shopping locally, you may also see the ₨ sign, both with and without a full stop and placed before or after the amount.

Banknotes come in MUR25, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000, and 2,000 denominations and you may find MUR1, MUR5 and MUR10 coins in circulation.

Approximate exchange rates in September 2013 were:

USD1 = MUR32.0
€1 = MUR39.6
GBP1 = MUR46.9
CHF1 =MUR32.0
CAD1 = MUR28.8
JPY100 = MUR29.8
CNY1 = MUR4.84
ZAR1 = MUR2.99
XAF100 = MUR6.03

Shop

Mauritius is not at all like Bali or Thailand. Don't expect the local merchants to be interested in a long bargaining game. Many shops will not come down on price at all and even at the markets don't expect more than a 10-20% discount. There are bargains to be had however. Many large brand names in the textile world are manufactured in Mauritius and you can often find over runs or slightly flawed items at a fraction of the European prices. It is also a good place to find unique designed jewellery, wide range of hand crafts such as: artificial flowers, model boats, wooden art and more. It is possible to reach the main shopping centres by public transportation, or to take a full day shopping tour which includes a driver to take you to the main centers and handcrafts workshops.

The Caudan Waterfront in Port Louis offers an variety of shops (including designer shops) and is an ideal place for shopping by Tourist. If you are looking for traditional articraft, the place to shop is Port Louis Central Market (Bazaar Port Louis).

Eat

Bengali rasagulas originated in Orissa, but they are very popular in Mauritius.

Mauritius is a paradise for the senses, not only for the eyes with its beautiful landscape, but also for the palate. Gastronomes will find a variety of flavours and aromas inherited from the different migrations through its history. Culinary traditions from France, India, China and Africa, the best-known and appreciated cuisines in the world, have been passed on through generations.

Depending on the region, rice or a variety of flat bread called chapattis or roti, called farata (paratha) by the local people, is eaten with curries. The extensive use of spices like saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves and herbs like thyme, basil, and curry leaves are the common ingredients that provide some powerful, yet subtle, savour. Dal, a variety of lentil soup, are many and varied according to which type of lentil is used; vegetables, beans, and pickles accompany the dishes. Dholl puri and roti, originally an Indian delicacy have become the fish and chips of Mauritians.

Biryani from Mughal origins is a dish expertly prepared by the Muslim community, with meat mixed with spiced rice and potatoes.

You can buy many snacks on the streets of Mauritius including the famous gateaux piments (a variant of the Indian vadai ; literally, chilli cakes), and vegetable or meat samosas (puffs), along with octopus curry in bread. The tomato and onion based dish called Rougaille (pronounced rooh-guy) is a variation of the French ragoût . The dish usually consists of meat or seafood (corned beef and salted snoek fish rougaille are very popular with the locals) and all Mauritians eat this dish often if not daily.

Mauritians have a sweet tooth and make many types of 'gateaux', as they are called. The cakes vary and you can find cakes very much like those in France and others similar to Indian sweets like Gulab Jamun and Rasgulla among many others.

Check out the queues where the street sellers are selling their type of snacks and the longest queue will probably have the tastiest food on sale and is very cheap.

When leaving Mauritius, don't wait until you go through passport control if you want to have a snack. The coffee shop after passport control is not value for money. You would be better off visiting the snack bar before check-in and taking your purchases through with you; however, remember that due to the liquids, aerosols and gels rules, you are limited to the amount of liquids you can take through the passport control.

Drink

Mauritius produces a wide range of cane rum. It is very cheap and is a nice drink when mixed with cola and ice. Don't forget the coconut water with a dash of lime and a splash of local rum over ice. The serious amateur will try to find a bottle of five years old (or older) rum. Worth the price difference!

If you are staying in a hotel where the drinks are wildly expensive consider collecting your tipples while you are out and about from the local village shops or supermarkets where the prices are much cheaper.

The local beer Phoenix costs around MUR30 (little more than one pound sterling) for a pint. Usually served very cold.

The local Black Eagle beer, brewed in Nouvelle France is one to watch out for as well. Definite refreshment to match the sweltering summer heat.

Try visiting the Medine Estate Refinery shop at Bambous (4 km from Flic en Flac), on the west of the Island, for a wide variety of locally produced rums and liquors.

Sleep

There are many international brand hotels in Mauritius but there are some luxurious hotels which are owned by Mauritian companies as well. An increasing trend is for tourists to chose self catered bungalows and apartments, many of them located directly on the beach. .

There are also possibilities for foreigners to buy villas (many of them in compound located directly on the beach) in Mauritius through the IRS or RES Scheme.

Stay safe

The crime rate has decreased in recent years and Mauritius is a much safer country for visitors than most other destinations. The Tourism Police and Coast Guards patrol regularly in areas frequented by tourists, and most cities, beaches and other major attractions are under camera surveillance. Nevertheless, you should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would anywhere in the world as tourist are usually more vulnerable to theft.

Be a smart traveller. Before your trip: Organize comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy. Register your travel and contact details, so that you can be contacted in an emergency.

Some advice:

Telephone numbers

Stay healthy

Mauritius is a risk area for infection with dengue fever (also known as "breakbone fever" from the muscular paroxysms sometimes induced). No vaccine is available. However no cases of dengue fever have been recorded in the country for several years now.

Since 2005 during the high season a certain type of mosquito called the Aedes albopictus causes the viral illness Chikungunya and the insect is more likely to be around in the daytime.

It is important to use anti-mosquito protection at all times. Mosquitoes are more prevalent in rural areas but they can also inhabit the beach in the tourist zone and may lead to swollen joints and/or rashes. Symptoms last from one week up to several months depending how seriously you are affected. Some people recover quickly but it can take several months to recover completely.

It shouldn't put you off visiting Mauritius. Just take good care to cover yourself completely in the best mosquito repellent you can find and re-apply again after swimming. Sleep under a mosquito net. Spray the bedroom well before going to bed with a good repellent and take an electric repellent to plug into the power supply. You can buy plenty of repellents of all types locally in Mauritius quite cheaply including bracelets for kids.

Here is a website with comprehensive information on the Chikungunya virus - Health Protection Surveillance Centre’s website:

In 1991 86% of the population had antibodies indicating that they had been exposed to the hepatitis A virus, following an epidemic of the disease in 1989. Hepatitis A vaccination is generally recommended for travel in East Africa (and most other places) by the CDC.

Depending on the time of the year, many of the beaches are infested with sea urchins, and it is not uncommon to see broken glass on the beach or in the water. It is a very good idea to either buy or bring plastic/wet shoes when venturing into the water. This is generally not a problem at the big hotels as the designated swimming areas on the beaches are regularly cleaned of urchins and debris. Use wet shoes nonetheless.

Reef fish in Mauritius have been found to contain a neurotoxin similar, but not identical, to that found in Caribbean reef fish.

It is important not to eat peanuts or take alcohol if you eat coral or reef fish like sea bass, snapper, mullet, grouper, there are many more. The fish eat the toxic algae that grows on the coral reefs. Don't eat intestines or testes of the fish as higher concentrations of the toxin collect here. The symptoms include gastrointestinal upset, vomiting and diarrhea and sometimes numb feelings of the arms and legs.


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