10 Facts About Mauritius
28th May 2019
The dazzling tropical gem of Mauritius, situated off the east coast of Africa and which spans over 65 km in length and a 45 km in width, is a tourist haven, drawing travellers of every kind from around the world. In this tropical paradise, created by volcanic activity some 8 million years ago, adventurers and sun worshippers alike can enjoy the picturesque beaches, the teeming reefs and sapphire-blue lagoons as well as the lush interiors, characterised by fascinating natural wonders, vivid sugar cane fields and breathtaking terrain.
This fascinating country - home to an array of rare flora and fauna - is different to any other you might have seen before, thanks to its incredible history, which has led to a destination with a blend of cultures, culinary influences and religions and a people that typically speak English, French and Creole. A coastal paradise that boasts historic architecture and unbelievable natural surrounds - it truly is a once in a lifetime holiday destination.
If you are not already taken with this mesmerising country, which is equal parts beautiful and fascinating, then here are 10 interesting facts about Mauritius that you should know:
1. It was first discovered by Arab and Malay sailors
As briefly mentioned earlier, Mauritius has had an extraordinary past, having been colonised by the Dutch, French and British who introduced slavery (many of the slaves came from Africa) and later, indentured labourers (from India and China), which has resulted in a country with multiple influences and a wonderfully unusual culture. It eventually gained its independence from the British in 1968. Unbeknownst to many, however, it was Arab and Malay sailors who first discovered this little slice of paradise all the way back in the 10th century and the Portuguese who first explored the island in the 16th century. It was then colonised in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
2. The country of Mauritius is more than one island
Another lesser known fact is that the country of Mauritius actually comprises the islands of Mauritius, its neighbour Rodrigues and the outer islands of Cargados Carajos Shoals (or Saint Brandon) and the Agalega Islands. While this is hotly contested by Britain, Mauritians also claim the Chagos Archipelago some 2 000 km to the northeast.
3. Mauritius was the only known habitat of the dodo
The long-extinct Dodo bird was endemic to Mauritius, with the main island of Mauritius being the only known habitat of the flightless bird, which is still considered to be the national bird of Mauritius (it’s also represented in the national Coat of Arms). It is said that the dodo evolved from pigeons who had lost their way.
Their sad demise is said to be due to the Dutch settlers who probably first encountered the bird in 1598. Between the Dutch themselves, as well as ship rats and other animals that were introduced to the island by the Dutch, the dodo was last seen in the 1660s. It’s also been said that the author of Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll - was inspired to write his tale based on a stuffed dodo he had seen at Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
4. Le Morne Brabant played a significant role in the country’s history
The iconic Le Morne Brabant mountain played a surprising and significant role in a part of the country’s checkered past. In the 18th and 19th century, the mountain was actually a refuge for escaped slaves who used the caves in the mountain to form settlements. The slaves lived here for years until soldiers arrived - who actually came to tell them of their liberation, but who the slaves thought were there to bring them back to the plantations from which they escaped. As a result, many slaves jumped to their death, as the thought of returning to their dire circumstances was considered worse than ending their lives.
5. Indentured labourers were brought in when slavery was abolished
The British abolished slavery in Mauritius in 1835 but realised they still needed people to work on their sugar plantations. And so they brought in indentured labourers, who largely came from India to work on their fields between 1834 and 1920. Almost half a million people were brought to Mauritius from India in this period.
6. There is no official language in Mauritius
While English is seen as the main language in government and is used for official administrative purposes, much of the island also speak French. Even more prolific, however, is Creole, a French-inspired dialect spoken by 85.6% of the population. Despite the fact that Creole is spoken by the majority of the population, there is no formal official language in Mauritius.
7. Mauritius has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Two of the must-see sites when in Mauritius are also their two UNESCO World Heritage sites; Aapravasi Ghat and Le Morne Brabant, both of which stand today as reminders of the country’s past.
8. The country boasts an array of religions
People in Mauritius are free to practice whichever religion they desire. The majority of the population (48.5%) identify as Hindu (it’s the only African country with a Hindu majority) but there are many Roman Catholics (around 26.3% of the population) and Muslims (17.3%) and a number of other religions are represented in the country.
9. Mauritius has the highest population density in Africa
The small island nation is home to over 1.2 million people which means that it not only has the highest population density in Africa but one of the highest in the word. This incredible population is largely made up of people with Indo-Pakistani origin (around two-thirds of the population, many of which are descendants of indentured labourers). Around a quarter of the population is Creole (a mix of French and African descent) and there is a small population of Franco-Mauritians and Sino-Mauritanians (those with Chinese descent).
10. It’s a highly-rated beach and honeymoon destination
This gorgeous lush tropical wonderland - with over 700 species of indigenous plants - often ranks among the best beach and honeymoon destinations in the world. For example, Trou aux Biches was named the world’s best beach destination by the World Travel Awards in 2011.
There are many more fascinating facts about Mauritius - there’s no doubt this is a holiday destination to remember.