Named after the Portuguese sailor Fernandez Rodriguez, Rodrigues was discovered in the 1500s by sailors using the island as land point on their way to India. With longitude 62°25E and latitude 19°42S, Rodrigues became inhabited only in 1691 by Francois Leguat and some other men. Located some 560km off the north east of Mauritius, Rodrigues is also known as the tenth district of the island of Mauritius. In 2001, the Rodrigues Regional Assembly was set up and came into operation in 2002 thus making Rodrigues autonomous. Access to Rodrigues from Mauritius is mainly by planes twice daily (1.5hrs flight) or by boat once per 2 weeks (24hr voyage). Covering an area of 108 km2, Rodrigues is mostly hilly in nature with numerous mountains and deep valleys. There are also numerous interesting caves that have retained their original beauty of well carved stalactites and stalagmites. The climate is that of a tropical one with hot summers of temperatures varying between 29°C-33°C from November to April and cool and mild winters of temperatures between 14°C-27°C during the months of May to October. Rodrigues is characterised by a very dry climate with water distribution usually a major problem and a very biting sun. The population of the island counts up to about 40,000 people with a majority of African descendants, Creoles, and a minority of European settlers, Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. The main religion on the island is Roman Catholism and this is an integral part of the everyday life of Rodriguans. The way of life on Rodrigues is a very simple and slow one which adds to the general personalities of Rodriguans making them very hospitable, friendly and calm people. The spoken language on the island is mostly Creole though French is occasionally used with English being the language of administration. The economy of the island is based on agriculture, fishing, farming and tourism. Agriculture is mainly in the form of the plantation of maize, potatoes, garlic, and cassava mostly for personal use while surplus is exported to Mauritius; farming of cattle, pigs, poultry and goats is also for personal use. Traditional fishing is another trait of the island, which is one of the main constituents of the daily meals while extensive octopus catch is done to be exported to Mauritius. Given the almost pristine nature of the island, eco tourism has gained a lot of grounds in Rodrigues where people are provided with an original peaceful setting of wild beaches, calm waters in an undeveloped environment. Another important revenue source in Rodrigues is the handicraft industry where people make artisanal hats, clothing, shoes, jewellery, frames, notebooks, dolls etc usually for sale to tourists. The capital of Rodrigues is Port Mathurin which also holds the only port of the island while the only airport is at Plaine Corail. There are also a number of small islets offering first class natural settings like Ile aux Cocos and Hermitage Island. Some other places of interest on the island are Caverne Patate, Plaine Mapou, Trou d’Argent, Anse Bouteille, Anse Philibert, Riviere Banane. Typical Rodriguan products are fruit pickles, pickled chilli, dried octopus, salted fish and honey.
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