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Ask the Mauritians
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All about Mauritius

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Mauritius is a small island 1865 km2 found in the Indian Ocean which together with Rodrigues and La Reunion forms the Mascarene Archipelago. It is situated at 900km off the coast of Madagascar with approximate coordinates of 20˚15’S and 57˚30E. The island was formed by volcanic eruption some 7.8 million years ago and as such the land all over the island is mostly of lava remains. The highest point on the island is the mountain Piton de la Petite Riviere Noire at 828 metres above sea level. Mauritius, being found in the inter tropical region, is subject to monsoon rains during the months of November to May which also corresponds to the period of summer on the island. Winter on the other hand is characterised by cooler conditions consisting mainly of the South East trade winds. Mauritius receives about 2100mm of rainfall per year while the average temperature varies from 16-28˚C. Based on Arab charts, it is estimated the island was discovered in 1300 A.D but was colonised only in 1600 A.D by the Dutch up to 1710. The French (1721-1810) then took possession of the island and turned it into a developed settlement under the governor Mahe de Labourdonnais. In 1810, there was a great battle between the French and British at Vieux Grand Port in the South of Mauritius where the British conquered the island under Commodore Josias Rowley. The Mauritian community is a mix of people from different countries such as Africa, India, Madagascar and China who were brought to Mauritius as indentured labourers when slavery was officially abolished on the 1st February 1835 and which today is a public holiday on the island. The different nationalities of the people on the island led to an obvious hybridisation thus giving rise to the Mauritian society. Today the island counts more than 1 million people of mixed ethnicities. Mauritius has a very rich biodiversity counting as one of the biological hotspot in the Mascarene Archipelago. But through extensive logging and human activities, most of the biodiversity has been lost leaving a very high rate of endemism and critically endangered species on the island. The trade mark of Mauritius which was the big flightless bird Dodo was overhunted to extinction. Also, the ebony trees once found all over the island have been cut down and exported in the past with few specimens remaining on the islets. Today only 5% of the original forest remains on the island. There are 49 smaller islets around the island many of which have been converted into nature reserves because of the fragile ecosystems they house. The main pillar of the economy is the tourism sector and so many developments have been carried out during the past years for this business. But being naturally beautiful with the lush green forests, white sandy beaches, blue lagoons, Mauritius is not only adored by its locals it also attracts people throughout the world once they set foot on it.

Peaches Published 04 Oct 2010


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