When Mark Twain said “Mauritius was made first and then heaven” he was not far from reality. Located in the Indian Ocean just off the coast of the Africa and to the east of Madagascar; beautiful tropical waters, sandy beaches and dense forests typify Mauritius. These scenic qualities bring visitors from all over world, from island trekkers to newly married couples.
Mauritius’ charm is derived from its rich cultural heritage; inhabitants from African, Indian, Chinese, and European backgrounds mingle and co-exist – “Unity in Diversity” as they say. One fine example of the island’s eclectic character is the hip swaying Sega dance that was originally brought over by African slaves but now symbolizes Mauritian national identity. The island has its quirky side too. It was home to the now extinct dodo bird and for the adventurous it even has shipwrecks dating back to the seventeenth century!
Mauritius is the most developed of the Mascarene Islands, but with a bit of effort and resourcefulness you can escape the crowds and find your own patch. The smells, noises and bustle of the mercantile capital Port Louis, Africa’s wealthiest city, are never far away, while the busy garment markets in the Central Plateau towns of Quatre Bornes and Curepipe and Black River Gorges National Park’s dramatic virgin forests give the lie to Mauritius being just another beach destination. But what beaches! From the stunning sand-rimmed lagoons and popular wide public beaches to the picturesque islands off the country’s coastline, there’s truly something for everyone here. Add to this the joys of Chinese, Indian, French and African cuisine, the rousing beat of sage music and the infectious party spirit of the locals, and you soon understand why Mauritius really is so many people’s idea of paradise on earth.
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- Facts you need to know about
- Mauritius’s name is a derivation of Maurice de Nassau, a Prince of Orange.
- Originally, Mauritius was known as Revis Island. The first people to set foot on this land were Portuguese in 1505. The Dutch followed later.
- The colors red, blue, yellow and green in the country’s flag represent the following: Suberbe Flamboyant tree, Indian Ocean, light of independence and the sunshine, and the island’s vegetation.
- The national animal of Mauritius is Dodo, which is now extinct. The bird was brutally hunted by the early settlers as it provided good meat and was easy to hunt.
- Inspired by the Dodo, Lewis Carroll published his famous book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” in 1865.
- The national flower of Mauritius is Trochetia Boutoniana, which is commonly seen during June to October.
- This leaf shaped island is the most populated one in Africa. It also ranks number 17th amongst populated countries of the world. However, it also happens to be the richest and most developed nation in Africa.
- Aapravasi Ghat and Le Morne Cultural Landscape are two world heritage sites in Mauritius, which is owned by the United Nations since 24 April, 1968.
- The highest mountain in Mauritius, the Piton de la Petite Riviere Noire is around 828 metres (2,717 ft) high and stands in the southwest of Mauritius.
- Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanic Garden boasts 500 different species of plants. The Talipot Palm, said to flower once every 60 years after which they die after fruiting, is found here.
- Mauritius is about 720 square miles in area. Its length is around 40 miles and it width is around 30 miles.
- Out of 18 former species of tortoise that flourished on the islands, the Aldabra tortoise is the only remaining species. This was one of the first species to be protected on the island.
- Mauritius boasts some of the finest beaches in the world such as Grand Bay, Pereybere, Belle Mare, Blue Bay, La Morne and Tamarin and Flic en Flac. Their scenic beauty makes this island one of the most sought after destinations for holidays and honeymoons, all over the world.
- ‘Sega’ a folk dance which originates in Africa is also the dance of the Mauritians. In the recent years, Sega and Reggae have been the background music for this dance form. The fusion music is now being called ‘Seggae’
Time Difference Mauritius is One and a half hours behind India time.
Weather and Climate Mauritius enjoys a typically tropical climate with year-round heat, although the southeast trade winds help it never to feel too muggy.
- There are two main seasons; the summer season runs from November to April, temperatures during this time are between 26 Degrees C and 32 Degrees C. Winter is from May to October where the temperature can drop a few degrees between 20 Degrees C and 26 Degrees C but nothing to put off the avid sun seekers.
- The island’s micro-climate can make predicting the weather a tricky business, you may experience varying weather conditions; from heavy rain to clear blue skies just a few kilometers away. The southeast usually receives almost twice as much rainfall. The wettest period is from December to April. It is also during these months that tropical cyclones pass through the island, leading to heavy rainfall and strong winds.
- The best months to visit Mauritius are May to early December. January and February, the peak cyclone months, are best avoided by water-sports enthusiasts and divers. Cyclones rarely hit Mauritius (although Rodriguez has suffered far more regularly than the mainland) but cyclones way out at sea can bring days of gusty rain.
- For the diving enthusiast December through to March is the best time to go and for optimum surfing conditions between June to August is ideal.
Daily maximum and minimum averages are guides only and may vary
National carrier (Airlines) Mauritius’s National Carrier is Air Mauritius (MK)
- A value added tax of 15% is payable on goods and services including hotel and restaurant bills.
- There is no system of sales tax refund for foreign visitors to Mauritius.
- Tipping is not compulsory and still remains a gesture of appreciation from the guest.
- English is the official language. French and Creole are commonly used.
- Hindi & Bhojpuri are also spoken.
- Many hotel employees are fluent in German, Italian and Spanish.
- Below are some key phrases that maybe useful during your stay on the island.
|Good Morning/afternoon||Alo / Ki maniere||Bonjour|
|Good Bye||Aurevoir / Bye||Au Revoir|
|My name is?||Mo apelle?||Mon apelle?|
|Excuse me||Excuse moi||Excusez moi|
|How much?||Combien?||Combien ca cou|
- The international access code of Mauritius is +230
- There are no area codes for Mauritius
- Local calls from public phones cost a one-off charge for unlimited talk time. If you want to make international calls you have to use a phone card, purchased from newsagents, hotels or post offices. Several networks operate phones and cards are not interchangeable between them.
- There are Internet cafes in Port Louis and Grand Baie. Elsewhere, you’re unlikely to be able to get Internet access easily, though most up market hotels will have internet access.
- There is a wide choice of local papers printed in both English and French L’Express, Le Mauricien, Le Matinal and Week End. International newspapers are only available in hotels and supermarkets.
- Electricity Plug Details Power supply throughout the island is 220 volts
Mauritius uses a Type C & G plugs. Type C is two round pins which converge slightly and Type G is British three-pin rectangular blade plug
Cuisine MAURITIUS / CREOLE CUISINE:
The cuisine of Mauritius is a blend of Creole, Chinese, European and Indian influences. It is common for a combination of cuisines to form part of the same meal.
The eating habits of the Mauritians inevitably reflect the ethnic diversity of its people: Creole rougailles, Indian curries, Muslim bryanis, Chinese sweet-and-sour pork, French traditional dishes, English bacon and eggs, …. you name it, you’ll get it there.
If you like your taste buds to be frazzled and dazzled then welcome to Mauritius the island of Creole cuisine. You can try some shark fin, munch through biryani, have fried noodles, and finish off by having the national dish dhol puri and roti. For those gastronomes that like European food don’t despair, daube or coq au vin are just a few of the French dishes the islanders serve. If that’s not enough then you can savour the spicy dishes guaranteed to titillate the taste buds. Chilli mongers should take note of the Mauritius proverb “a good curry must burn twice: the moment you eat it and the day after”.
Food & Eating Guide
- Basic ingredients of the Creole cuisine are the tomatoes (known as pommes d’amour), onions, ginger, garlic and chilies. Nothing beats a rougaille sauciness or a cari poule. Palm heart and camarons (giant prawns), daubes, venison and wild boar are favorite items of French cuisine. Fresh fish and seafood set the keynote for Chinese cooking.
- Mauritian cuisine reflects the multiculturalism of the island’s inhabitants. The average local cook will know how to make a delicious French crab gratin, a range of spicy Indian curries, Chinese noodle and rice dishes, and the whole gamut of Creole cuisine. The latter will be the most unfamiliar to the visitor and range from perky coconut chutneys and pickles to the simple but tasty meat and fish dishes cooked with tomatoes and herbs and known as ‘rougailles’ and ‘daubed’.
- Unfortunately, most of the island’s hotels tend towards that type of international cuisine that is universally recognized whilst the restaurants in the coastal resorts are mostly Chinese. Some of the Indian restaurants generally serve the creamy Mughal type dishes, which British take-away customers will recognize, but do not resemble in the slightest what the average Mauritian eats at home.
- It is well worth bribing a local person to invite you home for a feast of bouillon Cresson (watercress soup served as a side dish to main rice courses) Bredes (green vegetables also served as side dishes) and a typical local fish or meat ‘cari’. If you are really adventurous, ask a Mauritian to make Rougaille corn beef made using corned beef out of a can, but surprisingly tasty with onions, tomatoes and chili.
- Some of the Specialties are as follows:Rougaille: A tomato based sauce that is served with salted meats and fish usually served on a mound of rice. Biryani: Of Indo-Muslim origin prepared with basmati rice and served with spices, meat or fish.
- Fish Vindicate: Marinated cold and eaten with bread and rice; the fish is prepared with vinegar, mustard seeds and cooked with onions, garlic, ginger and chilies.
- Gateau-piment: This is an excellent cocktail snack that can be served as a starter and is prepared with lentils and chillies.
- Foong moon choo niouk (red braised pork): A stew of pork prepared with rice wine and red rice.
- Dhol puri and roti: This ia a common lunchtime snack for Mauritians; a rolled up chapati stuffed with mashed peas served with spicy tomato chutney and is usally sold by street vendors.
- Mauritian Bouillabaisse: Originally French seafood soup that is jazzed up with spices such as turmeric and saffron, making the prawn and mussels taste great!
- Alouda: This is one of the locally prepared soft drinks it is served cold and made with milk, rose syrup, jelly and sweet basil seeds, its a perfect way to cool down the body on a hot day.
- Napolitaine: Enough to satisfy anybody’s sweet tooth this is a very basic pastry but nevertheless delicious, it’s made with two biscuits stuffed with jam and then topped with a thick layer of pink icing.
- Chicken and prawn curry: This is a must, no trip to Mauritius is complete without bombarding your taste buds with the classic combination of chicken and fresh prawns served with rice and salad…yum yum!
- A word of warning about shark’s fin. Although dishes containing this highly prized ingredient are considered a local delicacy the cruel and unsustainable way in which shark’s fin is obtained is proving highly destructive to many species of shark. Fins are often the only part of the fish landed or consumed, with helpless live animals being dumped back into the ocean to face inevitable death following the removal of their fins on board industrial fishing vessels. Although the domestic market for fins will undoubtedly cause the animals’ destruction you are urged not to contribute to the market by purchasing any dish containing shark’s fin.
- The legal drinking age in Mauritius is 18 years.
- To accompany your meal the award-winning locally brewed Phoenix beer is unlikely to disappoint. For a lighter beer try Stella, and for something stronger maybe Blue Marlin. Other non-imported brands include Warsteiner and Guinness.
- Locally bottled mineral water is also available. Vital make both still and sparkling varieties and are a lot cheaper than the imported alternatives.
- All wine is imported: South African and Australian wines are slightly cheaper, and having traveled far less, usually make good alternatives to French reds.
- Onerous import duties used to make wine the rich man’s tipple, but nowadays it is no more expensive than in European restaurants.
- The opening of a couple of French supermarket chains in Mauritius has also meant that table wine is relatively inexpensive when purchased in-store. However, the ordinary man’s drink in Mauritius is still cane liquor. Powers and No 1 are among a number of local brews, which are ridiculously cheap.
- For a classier rum, look for the export quality Green Island label.
- Given the amount of fruit and sugar in Mauritius it is surprising that more enterprising souls have not started rum punch manufacturing; you can buy a selection at the airport and in big stores, for gifts, but they are likely to be from neighboring Reunion.
- Duty free
- Passengers over 18 years of age may import the following duty-free items: 250 grams of tobacco (including cigars and cigarettes), 1 liter of spirits, 2 liters of wine, ale or beer, one quarter liter of Eau de Toilette and perfume not exceeding 100 ml.
- A plant import permit must be obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture, prior to the introduction of plants and plant material including cuttings, flowers, bulbs, fresh fruits, vegetables and seeds.
- It is prohibited to introduce sugarcane and parts thereof, soil micro-organisms and invertebrate animals.
- All imported animals including animal products need an import permit from the Ministry of Agriculture and a health certificate from the country of origin.
- Drug trafficking is illegal and carries very heavy penalties.
- Firearms and ammunition need import permits and must be declared on arrival
Culture & Customs:
- One of the first of many contradictions of Mauritius is the fact that the ex-British colony, with its English road signs and left hand drive, is in most other respects overwhelmingly francophone. The newspapers and other media are in French, shop assistants, bus conductors, and taxi drivers will all initially address you in French. This is partly a result of the local Creole language, which developed at a time when the colonial masters of the island were from France, but has today absorbed a rich vocabulary which reflects the diverse origins of its people: Tamil, Malagasy, Chinese and English words – like fair play and goal – are all part of this rich linguistic and ethnic heritage of Mauritians.
- Nowadays the population is predominantly of Indian origin – mostly descendants of cane workers imported to replace the slave labor outlawed by British reformers, but Chinese, French, and Afro – Creole minorities all take a share in defining the island’s complex cultural characteristics.
- The Creoles, for example, have had a major impact on shaping Mauritian song and dance traditions: the sage music is witty and upbeat, and popular with all locals at their family gatherings, but the dance performances put on in the hotels bear little resemblance to the one performed by ordinary islanders today.
- The tiny Chinese population plays an extraordinarily important role in the retail and restaurant trades, out of all proportion to their numbers. Their colorful pagodas are also a cheerful highlight of any tour of the capital, where they traditionally settled in large numbers.
- The Asian traditions of Mauritius are coupled with a degree of westernisation which makes the island generally safe, and an enjoyable holiday venue for young Europeans; however women travelers should be aware that they are likely to excite attention and interest, which sometimes turns into displays of sexual aggressiveness and exhibitionism if they attempt to strip off on an isolated public beach, or venture out alone after dark beyond the confines of hotel and beach resorts.
- In general, tourists will find the islanders very friendly, but single visitors looking for romance should understand that they might be seen primarily as a passport to life in the ‘wealthy West’.
- Remove your shoes when you enter people’s homes. Sometimes people wear house slippers but generally go barefoot.
- While wearing a swimsuit on the beach is acceptable do not wander around the town in it or go topless.
- In general Mauritius is a very safe destination for travelers and crime levels remain relatively low. Care should be taken in more isolated areas and on the back streets of Port Louis and Grand Basie, especially after dark.
- You should take great care on the beach where items can easily be mislaid accidentally and even taken while you are distracted. Do not leave your belongings unattended while you go for a swim or stroll along the beach. You should use straps on bags and cameras and keep valuables in zippable pockets or bag compartments. Use the hotel safe for very valuable items.
- Be careful when swimming or snorkelling as there are often strong currents, so it’s advisable to seek local advice.
- Thieves riding mopeds have been known to snatch bags in major cities and towns, and you should take care that you carry your bag on the side of your body furthest away from the street you are walking down.
- Try to remain in the tourist areas as much as possible and never follow anyone promising to show you a “fun” bar or club. At best you will be taken to an over-priced, probably X-rated place, at worst you will be robbed once you are off the main thoroughfare. Take care in hotel lobbies and at airports. Thieves have commonly been known to simply walk off with unattended bags and suitcases. Do not let your luggage out of your sight.
- Take your best beach and casual wear. In the winter months (June -September), carry some light woolen clothing for the cool evenings.
- Please show due respect when visiting religious places. Wear appropriate clothing (and remove leather shoes and belts) when entering the premises.
- Watch your language. Cursing is generally frowned upon.
- Carry your ID. If you are wary of pickpockets or snatch thieves, at least carry a copy with you.
- Wear your seat belt when in the passenger’s seat of a vehicle. The police are particularly strict about this and will fine you if you don’t.
- Don’t walk along the beach alone at night, or at least tell someone your plans for the evening.
- It’s a good idea to wear clothes that are adaptable to the rain and sun. A cape, sun cream, hats and sun glasses will all prove to be useful.
- When exploring muddy waters it’s a good idea to wear protective shoes, there are types of fish that emit poisonous venom when trodden on.