40 Intriguing Facts About Mauritius - The Tropical Paradise
If you are the kind of person who needs to get his facts straight before he sets out on vacation, then guess what? You're in luck if you are headed towards the sparkling jewel of the Indian Ocean - Mauritius. Mauritius is indubitably a heavenly destination for anyone looking for a vacation away from the hustle and bustle of metropolitan cities and is perfect for those who want to wind down in peace, while nestled in nature's lap.
While the sparkling white beaches and deep, impenetrable azure waters are what Mauritius is best known for in the tourist circles, there is much more to this island than meets the eye. Read on to get a taste of some lesser-known facts about Mauritius.
1. While Mauritius is the island most people know about, The Republic of Mauritius comprises of the islands of Rodrigues, Agalega, St. Brandon and two more disputed territories as well.
2. These islands were formed a relatively young 9 million years ago, from the lava spewed out by underwater volcanoes.
3. The entire island of Mauritius is just 2040 km2 in area, making it the world's 170th largest nation. In fact, the island is just 45 km wide and 65 km long.
4. The island of Mauritius is surrounded by a ring of dormant volcanoes, streams, waterfalls and rivers in all four directions.
5. Mauritius is a proud possessor of the United Nations Development Program's highest Human Development Index (HDI) in all of Africa.
6. When first discovered by Arab Sailors back in 975, the island was called Dina Arobi. It was christened as Mauritius several centuries later when the Dutch Squadron landing at Grand Port in 1598 named it Mauritius in honour of Prince Maurice Van Nassau, stadtholder of the Dutch Republic
7. Three nations have over the years colonised Mauritius - the Netherlands (1638-1710), France (1715-1810) and Great Britain (1810-1968). It has remained independent since 1968.
8. While being ruled by the French East India Company, sugarcane plantations prospered, making it one of the most significant contributors to the economy. Mauritius also remained an important stopping point on the trade routes from Europe before the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.
9. These sugarcane plantations were worked upon mostly by slaves. After the abolition of slavery in 1835, the Britishers brought over more than half a million labourers from India whose descendants form the largest community in Mauritius today.
10. More than 1.2 million people reside on these islands leading to a high population density (highest in the entire African continent). There are more women than men on the island, leading to a very healthy gender ratio.
11. Almost 90% of the Mauritian population is literate, and the life expectancy is a reasonably high 75 years.
12. Mauritius is the only African nation with Hinduism as the dominant religion.
13. An estimate reveals that Mauritians on an average spend of more than 700 hours each year participating in religious activities.
14. English and French are the two most widely spoken languages on the island. The locals converse in Mauritian Creole, a unique language deriving its structure from French with some African influences.
15. Mauritius' most popular native music and dance style is the Sega music which traces back its origin to the slave population. The songs are sung in Creole, and while dancing, the dancers never let their feet lose contact with the ground.
16. Owing to a heavy presence of Indians on the island, Bhojpuri is a widespread native language spoken by a sizeable chunk of Mauritians. Bhojpuri music is on the rise in Mauritius owing to the surging popularity of Bhojpuri bands such as The Bhojpuri Boys. 17. Public Transport in Mauritius is free for students, people with disabilities and senior citizens!
18. Mauritius' national flag is also referred to as the Four Bands owing to the four colored stripes each with its significance - Red symbolizes the bloodshed for abolishing slavery and attaining independence, Blue symbolizes the vast and mighty Indian Ocean surrounding Mauritius, Yellow symbolizes the bright and shining future ahead, and Green symbolizes the lush green vegetation on the island.
19. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, also referred to as Chacha is to Mauritians what Mahatma Gandhi is to Indians. He played a vital role in Mauritius' freedom struggle and is often referred to as Father of the nation.
20. Mauritius was one of the only four countries in the world in 2017 which were not engaged in any domestic or international conflicts with other countries including neighbouring countries.
21. Mauritius' peaceful atmosphere allows it to exist without needing to raise a standing army.
22. Legendary American writer Mark Twain was once quoted saying: "Mauritius was made first and then heaven, and heaven was copied after Mauritius." Well, that's some praise!
23. Ironically, the national football team of Mauritius is nicknamed as The Dodos - a bird commonly associated with slumber and lethargy.
24. Mauritius is believed to be the only known habitat of the now extinct flightless Dodo bird. The bird, once present in huge numbers on the island was flightless owing to a shortage of predators and thus remained safe on the ground. The arrival of humans in the form of sailors saw vast numbers of dodos being killed for their meat. With humans came rodents and primates who destroyed and consumed the dodo's eggs. The entire dodo population was wiped out within a century.
25. It is said that a stuffed dodo at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History stirred world-famous author Lewis Carroll to pen down Alice in Wonderland, one of the most popular children's novels of all time.
26. One of the world's rarest birds, the Pink Pigeon is found in the lush green forests of Mauritius.
27. One of Mauritius' most popular tourist destinations is the Seven-coloured Earth in Chamarel which consists of dunes of myriad colours owing to the volcanic eruptions which cooled off at different rates.
28. Mauritius' famed model ship building workshops are home to some of the most skilled wood artisans who build incredibly detailed and intricate miniature replicas of large water vessels.
29. Mauritius is surrounded by the World's third-largest network of coral reefs which makes it a scuba diver's paradise.
30. Mauritius has received the World's Leading Island Destination Award thrice in this decade.
31. Mauritius is often awarded as the best travel destination in the world for a honeymoon. Its breathtaking beach at Trou Aux Biches was awarded the coveted title of the world's best beach destination in 2011.
32. Winter horse racing is the island's most famous and highly attended sporting events of the year.
33. The famous hairpin bend at Baie Du Cap is considered by many as one of the best driving destinations on the planet.
34. The La Vanille Nature Park in Mauritius boasts of the world's most extensive collection of captive-bred Giant Aldabra tortoises. Their count stretches into the thousands and visitors can pet them as well!
35. The Southern hemisphere's oldest botanical garden - Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical garden resides in Mauritius and is home to countless varieties of indigenous and exotic plant species.
36. Mauritius is also home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites - the first is Aapravasi Ghat where Indian labourers were brought over by the Britishers to work on the sugarcane plantations. The name translates to immigration depot
37. The second World Heritage Site - Mont Le Morne Brabant was once a sanctuary for the slaves who escaped their master's oppressive rule in the 18th and early 19th centuries. This mountain is a popular trekking destination and can provide trekkers with views of a lifetime.
38. Mauritius' local cuisine is a sumptuous blend of Creole, Indian, French and Chinese cuisines. Spices play an essential role in enhancing the food's taste and seafood including fish, crabs, lobsters, squid, prawns, shrimps and octopus is extremely popular throughout the island.
39. The Grand Bassin Lake also known as Ganga Talao is considered as Mauritius' most sacred pilgrimage site for Hindus. A towering statue of Lord Shiva resides beside the lake and Hindus travel to this place each year during Maha Shivratri to pay their respects to the Almighty.
40. More than 1.36 Million tourists flock to the islands of Mauritius each year, outnumbering the natives by a significant margin!
So there you go, forty intriguing facts about Mauritius that'll surely enhance your trip to the islands. It never hurts to know a bit more than the tourist guide itself, does it?