You Should Know: Mauritius
Mauritius, or, the Republic of Mauritius, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 1200 miles from the Southeastern coast of the African continent.
The country, which includes the islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues, Agaléga and Saint Brandon lies east of Madagascar and southeast of the Seychelles.
The island, which is the most developed of the Mascarene Islands mentioned above, was first discovered by Arab sailors in the 9th century and colonized by the Dutch in 1598. “Ownership” has then switched hands several times since, when the Dutch left the island in 1710, it was taken over by the French in 1713 till 1810 when the British defeated the French in a war over the island. It maintained British rule till gaining it’s independence in 1968. Because of this, varied history, the country’s populace is composed of several ethnicities – Indians, Africans (from various nations), Chinese and people of European descent. Most Mauritians are multilingual speaking English, French, Creole and Asian languages fluently. Mauritius is one of very few countries where there is no official language (though in Parliament, English is the official language), however, if you want to blend in with the locals, a good command of Creole will do you very well.
For many reasons, Mauritius is regarded as one of the most beautiful and most coveted island destinations in the world. For one, the subtropical and predictable climate is appealing to a lot of Westerners. The relative seclusion is also appealing for those who desire peace and tranquility and an atypical tourist location for vacationing. Not to mention, pristine white sand beaches, amazingly blue waters and some of the most unique and beautiful flora and fauna in the world. It is also quite affordable (the dollar goes far here). And then of course, the culture and people.
Some random facts about Mauritius
– Mauritius was the only home to the now extinct Dodo bird and the bird remains the nation’s national animal
– Mauritius enjoys a subtropical climate with temperatures ranging from 68.7 Fahrenheit (20.4 Celsius) to 76.46 Fahrenheit (24.7 Celsius) – all year round
– Mark Twain once famously said “You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then heaven, and that heaven was copied after Mauritius.”
– Sugarcane production and tourism are the primary revenue drivers for the country
– Port Louis is the capital and the largest city
– The population of Mauritius is just over 1.2 million people
– Mauritius has a high HDI of 0.737. (HDI stands for Human Development Index, which is a composite statistic of composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and income indices used to rank countries into four tiers of human development – the higher the HDI, the better. By a measure of comparison, the HDI of the United States is 0.937, and the lowest HDI on record for a nation is 0.304. Read more about the HDI measure here.)
– Average Life expectancy is around 74 years which is one of the highest of any developing nation
– Birth rate is on average 1.95 children per woman
– The literacy rate is just over 85%; also the government of Mauritius provides free education to its citizens from pre-primary to tertiary level (tertiary includes colleges, universities and other technical institutions)
– A majority of the republic’s residents are the descendants of people from the Indian subcontinent; according to the CIA World Factbook, here’s the breakdown of ethnicities and religions:
Ethnic groups: Indian 68%, Creole 27%, Chinese 3%, French 2%
Religions: Hinduism 52%, Christianity 28.3% (Roman Catholicism 26%, Protestant 2.3%), Islam 16.6%, other 3.1%.
Want to go?
The main airport is the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport or simply MRU (IATA code) in Port Louis. If you are located in the United States, getting to Mauritius won’t be cheap, but at this point, you have decided it is worth it, so you are ready for the approx. $2200+ ticket cost.
There are, of course, no direct flights to Mauritius from the USA, but South African Airlines offers a relatively easy flight experience from JFK with just one connection in Johannesburg for around $2262. Emirates also offers a flight with one connection from Dubai for $3000.
When I visit Mauritius, I’d likely combine with a visit to South Africa, so I can see myself buying a round trip to Johannesburg, then another round trip to Mauritius from Jo’burg (comes up to around the same total cost).
For Americans and Canadians, a valid passport, onward/return ticket, and proof of sufficient funds are required. The passport should be valid for the duration of stay, and have at least one blank visa page. Travelers must provide a local address where they will be staying in Mauritius. Visas are issued at the point of entry. Visas are free of charge.
There are several hotel choices to choose from on the island. I find 4 to 5 star hotels including the including the Hilton Mauritius Hotel & Spa and the InterContinental Hotel Mauritius to be relatively affordable of hotels in that caliber and in that type of location at around $200/night for standard rooms.
If you really want to “go big or go home“, you may opt to splurge on the St. Regis Mauritius..
or the Four Seasons Mauritius…
..at around $480 and $650 a night respectively for standard rooms, they may be more ideal choices for a special occasion like a honeymoon, a milestone anniversary or a “honey, I just signed that $50 million contract and got a few extra coins to blow” occasion :).
As with all hotels/trips, advance planning is important. If you have points at any of the major hotel chains, you may be able to book at free or reduced rates as long as you plan ahead. Remember, hotel rooms that can be booked on points availability may also get sold out as your travel dates approach.
Mauritius is on my list, but I likely won’t be visiting anytime soon. I’d actually prefer to visit when I am married – perhaps for our one year anniversary, so whenever that happens :). Meanwhile, if you are heading there, happy travels and have a virgin daiquiri on my behalf! : )
Orevwa! (goodbye in Creole)
Disclaimer: Since I have not yet visited Mauritius at the time of this posting, this post was written through my research and textbook knowledge only and not from in person experiences. This post is for informational purposes only. Please note, experiences may vary.