Mauritius is a beautiful island in the Indian Ocean, situated just above the Tropic of Capricorn, some 160km away from Reunion Island, which also forms part of the Mascarene archipelago, and 900km to the east of Madagascar. It measures 65km long and 45km wide, with a surface area of 1,865km².
This volcanic island is between 100,000 and 700,000 years old and counts three main massifs. None of its volcanoes are considered active and over the time, numerous extinct craters (Trou aux Cerfs, Trou Kanaka, Bassin Blanc…), which are evidence of previous volcanic activity, have become tourist attractions.
The island’s highest peak, the Piton de la Petite Rivière Noire, is 828m high. The Central Plateau rises at some 500m above sea level and a plain lies in the northern part of the island.
Mauritius has a relatively flat landscape compared to neighbouring Reunion Island. Its coastal plains and Central Plateau have long been under extensive sugarcane and tea cultivation.
The island’s 160km of coasts are another gift of nature and they are nearly totally surrounded by coral reefs, which form a magnificent and sheltered lagoon bordered by exquisite beaches which are popular tourist attractions.
The island is crossed by various rivers with evocative names such as Rivière Bain des Négresses, Rivière des Anguilles, Rivière des Créoles and Rivière Papaye.
However, Mauritius has been subject to massive deforestation. Few areas of primitive forest remain in some mountainous reserves.
The weather is always nice in Mauritius with temperatures varying between 20°C and 31°C. The average rainfall in coastal regions is lower than in the centre of the island.
The capital city of Port Louis is also the main town and port of the island. The four other main urban conglomerations are Beau Bassin/Rose Hill, Curepipe, Quatre Bornes and Vacoas/Phoenix. The island is divided in 9 districts, namely Rivière du Rempart, Port Louis, Plaines Wilhems, Savanne, Grand Port, Moka, Black River, Pamplemousses and Flacq.
The Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport is located in Plaisance, in the South of the island, 48km away from the capital, Port Louis.
Various languages are spoken on the island, the main ones being English, French, Mauritian Creole. Hindi, Bhojpuri, Urdu, Mandarin, Hakka (Chinese dialect), Tamil and Telugu are other languages spoken. This plurality of languages (and cultures) is one of the distinctive features of Mauritius.
The island has a population of 1,268,835 inhabitants according to the most recent official census conducted in 2008. Its diverse multicultural society is the result of several waves of immigration: French and British settlers, slaves from Africa, Chinese and Indian migrants who came as merchants or to work in the sugarcane fields.
The majority of Mauritians are of Indian origin: over 68% of the population, of which 52% are Hindus and 16% Muslims. Mauritians of Chinese origin account for less than 3% of the population and are particularly active in trading. The rest of the population consists of Creoles (28%), descendants of slaves who are mainly of Catholic faith, and of Mauritians of French or British origin (less than 1% of the population).