Geography: 2,000 km off the South east coast of Africa at 20°S and 57.5°E, the island of volcanic origin covers 1865 km2 in area and 330 km of coastline.
Time Zone: GMT +4
Climate: Temperatures from 22°C in winter to 34°C in summer. Cyclonic period from November to March. Daylight from 5 am to 7 pm (summer) and 6 am to 6 pm (winter).
Population: 1.2 million (2003)
Culture: Mauritius, bridge between East and West, has a population of European, Indian, African and Chinese origin.
Languages: English (official), French and Creole currently spoken.
Media: 2 main dailies, a host of Sunday papers and foreign press (English, French and European). Public and private radios. 3 local TV channels and 2 cable TV channels. Post, GSM mobile providers, Internet and cybercafés offer maximum international communication. The telephone country code is +230.
Politics: Stable democracy based on the Westminster model
Economy: based on sugar, textile, tourism and ICT.
Entry requirements: Valid passport and return or onward ticket. Normal visitor's visa (on arrival) is two weeks, with a few exceptions.
Customs: Passengers over 18 may import 250 gm of tobacco, 1 l. of spirits, 2 l. of wine or beer, 250 ml Eau de toilette and 100 ml perfume. Drug trafficking is illegal and liable to high imprisonment penalties.
Health: No specific vaccinations. Free medical care in public hospitals. Fee-paying private clinics. Emergency nos: Police: 999; Fir: 995; Samu: 114
Currency: The Mauritian rupee is divided into 100 cents. Exchange: One euro: Rs 35; one $ dollar: Rs 28 and 1£: 50. Credit cards accepted by banks, hotels, restaurants and major shops. Wide ATM network.
Transport: bus services over the island. Taxis in towns and villages and hotels' taxi stand. Car rental. Driving is left-hand side giving way to traffic on the right.
Shopping: Most shops open from 9.30 to 19.30 from Monday to Saturday and until 1 pm on Sundays. Wide choice of products (knitwear, cut precious stones, jewellery, ship models, spices, food delicacies, etc.) in duty free shops and shopping centres (Caudan Waterfront, Happy World Centre (Port-Louis), Floreal Square, Sunset Boulevard (Grand-Bay). Local craft in Craft Market, Caudan and Central Market, Port-Louis.
Food: A melting pot of Indian curries, Chinese delicacies, classic European and Creole dishes as well as fresh seafood (lobsters), palm hearts, venison and wild boar, can be eaten in restaurants at varied prices. Fast food outlets include KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut in most towns.
Places of interest
The capital and harbour, the core of all activities
Caudan and Port-Louis Waterfront: a modern and busy waterfront, famous for shopping, relaxation and food outlets; the Blue Penny Museum exhibits maps, paintings, sculptures and famous stamps from the Mauritius Commercial Bank collection.
Chinatown: picturesque with its small traditional shops with lots of bargains, its noodle and fish/meat/vegie balls sellers on the pavement;
Central market: representative of the Mauritian melting-pot, you'll find fruits and vegetables, typical local cakes as well as local and regional handicraft.
Historic places: Government House, the Natural History museum, the cathedrals (Catholic and Anglican); Champ-de-Mars (the racecourse), the Supreme Court, Line Barracks.
Domaine les Pailles: natural reserve over 1 500 hectares 15 mins from Port-Louis: drives in 4WD, horseback, horse-drawn carts; traditional rum distillery, mask museum; Indian, Chinese, Italian et European restaurants; casino, mini-golf;
Eureka: 19th century colonial house in a parc bordered by a waterfall; gastronomic restaurant.
Trou-aux-Cerfs: in Curepipe, extinct crater 85 m deep and a diameter of 200m, which testifies of the volcanic origin of the island. Panoramic view over the island.
Grand-Bay: typical tourist village (bars, discothèques, shopping and excursions)
Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens: famous for its indigenous and exotic trees, giant water-lilies and variety of palm trees.
Sugarworld (L'Aventure du Sucre): the history of the country and its peoples through that of sugar in the 5 000 m2 of a sugar factory converted into an interactive museum. Souvenir boutique and typical restaurant.
Les Vergers de Labourdonnais: Colonial estate dating from 1858, where are grown tropical fruits (mangoes, pineapples, passionfruit…) and exotic flowers (andréanums, paradise birds, hibiscus, etc.). Fruit and candy tasting. Guided tour on foot or bike.
Domaine du Chasseur: 900 hectares, between sky and sea, the home of Java deer, wild boar, monkeys, and rare birds in lush vegetation. Tours on foot, in 4WD or quads; hunting parties;
Mahébourg: witness of the French-British battle for the island; historic museum and waterfront. Beach in Blue-Bay, protected marine park.
Ile aux Aigrettes: natural sanctuary for endangered species and endemic plants.
La Vanille Réserve des Mascareignes: farm of Nile crocodiles, giant Aldabra tortoises, insectarium et small zoo in a lush tropical park. Guided tour and souvenir shop.
Ile aux Cerfs: white sand beaches, water sports and 18-hole golf.
Belle-Mare: kilometres of white sand beaches.
Waterpark Leisure Village: huge water slides and fun attractions for the family in Belle-Mare.
Casela nature & Leisure Park/Yemen reserve: 2 000 coulourful birds from the five continents, fishponds, tortoises, monkeys, leopards, Java deer, zebras and antelopes; discover on foot, on quads or join the photo safari in mini-buses.
Black river gorges national park: endemic fauna and flora protected in their environment.
Parc Aventure: trekking over 12 hectares of tropical forest in the vicinity of the Chamarel Waterfall and Coloured Earths.
Ecuries de la Vieille Cheminée: guided tours on horeseback or bicycle through tropical forests and banana, coffee, pineapple and sugarcane plantations on a 250-hectare mountain estate in Chamarel.
Public holidays and festivals
Co-existence among Mauritians of Indian, African, European and Chinese origin has led to a cosmopolitan sharing of cultures and values, participation in festivals and understanding between people of different backgrounds. Mauritius is a unique melting pot of peoples, languages and cultures.
The main festivals and religious events are: Cavadee (PH), Abolition of Slavery(PH), Chinese Spring Festival (PH), Maha Shivaratree (PH), Independence and Republic Day (PH), Ougadi (PH), Labour Day (PH), Eid-ul-Fitr(PH), Ganesh Chathurti (PH), Père Laval Pilgrimage, Divali (PH) , Arrival of Indentured Labourers (PH), Christmas (PH).
Cavadee, celebrated in January/February, is among the most spectacular Tamil events. The body pierced with needles and the tongue and cheeks with skewers, the devotee, trance-like and in penance, walks in procession to the temple bearing the Cavadee, a wooden arch covered with flowers with a pot of milk at each end of its base which he or she places before the deity.
Chinese Spring Festival (New Year), is celebrated in February/March, depending on the lunar calendar. Red, symbol of happiness, is the dominant colour. The traditional wax cake is distributed to relatives and friends. Firecrackers are lit to ward off evil spirits.
Divali is the most jovial of all Hindu festivals. Celebrated in October/November it marks the victory of good over evil in Hindu mythology. Clay oil lamps used to be placed in front of every home; they have been replaced mostly by electric lights.
Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. Prayers are offered at mosques in the morning and there is sharing of cakes.
Ganesh Chaturthi in September on the 4th day of the lunar month of the Hindu calendar, marks the birthday of Ganesha, who embodies wisdom and removes all obstacles in Hindu mythology.
Holi is the festival of colours and rejoicing It celebrates the beginning of spring and Hindus enjoy themselves by squirting coloured water and powder on one another.
Maha Shivratree is celebrated in honour of Shiva in February. Hindu pilgrims, clad in spotless white, carry the "kanwar" - wooden arches covered with flowers – go to Grand Bassin, to fetch holy water from the lake. It is reminiscent of the rituals on the banks of the Holy Ganges in India.
Père Laval Pilgrimage. In September, people of all faiths flock to the shrine in Sainte Croix of Father Jacques Désiré Laval, a 19th century French missionary.
Ugadi is the Telegu New Year, usually celebrated in March.
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