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Republic of Mauritius
Repiblik Moris
République de Maurice
Flag Coat of Arms
Motto: "Stella Clavisque Maris Indici"  (Latin)
"Star and Key of the Indian Ocean"
Anthem: "Motherland"
Capital Port Louis
Official languages English
Vernacular English
Mauritian Creole
French
Government Parliamentary Republic
 -  President Kailash Purryag
 -  Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth
Legislature Parliament
 -  Lower house National Assembly
Independence
 -  from the United Kingdom 12 March 1968 
 -  Republic 12 March 1992 
Area
 -  Total 2,040 km2 (179th)
787 sq mi
 -  Water (%) 0.05
Population
 -  2015 estimate 1,323,483 (154th)
 -  2000 census 1,179,137
 -  Density 630/km2 (18th)
1,636.5/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $19.008 billion
 -  Per capita $14,746
GDP (nominal) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $10.299 billion
 -  Per capita $7,989
HDI (2011) Increase 0.701
high · 77th
Currency Mauritian rupee (MUR)
Time zone MUT (UTC+4)
 -  Summer (DST) (DST not observed) (UTC+4)
Date format dd/mm/yyyy (AD)
Drives on the left
Calling code 230
Internet TLD .mu

The Republic of Mauritius is an African country. Port Louis is its capital. Mauritius is also the name of the main island the country is on. In the 2000 census, the country had a population of 1,178,848 people.

The island of Mauritius is well known for being the only known home of the dodo.

Location

The island is in the southwest Indian Ocean. It is about 900 km (559 mi) east of Madagascar. The country includes the island of Mauritius as well as the islands of St. Brandon, Rodrigues and the Agalega Islands. Mauritius is part of the Mascarene Islands along with the French island of Réunion 200 km (124 mi) to the southwest.

Flag

The Mauritian flag is made up of four colours of equal width. The colours represent the following:

  • Red represents freedom and independence,
  • Blue is for their Indian ocean which surrounds the island,
  • Yellow for the sun, and
  • Green for their agriculture.

History

Stamp Mauritius 1954 5c
Postage stamp with portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, 1954

Mauritius, an island of volcanic origin sheltered by barriers of coral reefs forming natural, safe, crystal clear lagoons, has long been a dream destination. Known to the Arabs as early as the 10th century, but officially explored by the Portuguese in the 16th century and subsequently settled by the Dutch in the 17th century. The Dutch were the ones who named the island in honor of Prince Maurits van NASSAU. Mauritius was occupied successively by the Dutch (1598-1712) and later by the French (1715-1810). The French assumed control in 1715, developing the island into an important naval base overseeing the Indian Ocean trade, and establishing a plantation economy of sugar cane. The British captured the island in 1810, during the Napoleonic Wars through the Treaty of Paris. Mauritius remained a strategically important British naval base, and later on, an air station playing an important role during World War II for anti-submarine and convoy operations, as well as the collection of signals intelligence. On 12 March 1968, Mauritius became Independent.

Geography

Mauritius
A panoramic view of a part of Mauritius Island

The total land area of the country is 2,040 km2 (790 sq mi) (about 80% the size of Luxembourg). It is the 170th largest nation in the world by size. The Republic of Mauritius is constituted of the main island of Mauritius and several outlying islands. The second-largest island is Rodrigues with an area of 108 km2 (42 sq mi) and situated 560 km (350 mi) to the east of Mauritius; the twin islands of Agalega with a total land area of 2,600 hectares (26 km2; 10 sq mi) are situated some 1,000 km (620 mi) north of Mauritius. Saint Brandon is an archipelago comprising a number of sand-banks, shoals and islets. It is situated some 430 km (270 mi) northeast of Mauritius and is mostly used as a fishing base by the Raphael Fishing Company Limited. The nation's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) covers about 2.3 million square kilometres (890,000 sq mi) of the Indian Ocean, including approximately 400,000 km2 (150,000 sq mi) jointly managed with the Seychelles.

Mauritius Island

Mauritius is 2,000 km (1,200 mi) off the southeast coast of Africa, between latitudes 19°58.8' and 20°31.7' south and longitudes 57°18.0' and 57°46.5' east. It is 65 km (40 mi) long and 45 km (30 mi) wide. Its land area is 1,864.8 km2 (720.0 sq mi). The island is surrounded by more than 150 km (100 mi) of white sandy beaches, and the lagoons are protected from the open sea by the world's third-largest coral reef, which surrounds the island. Just off the Mauritian coast lie some 49 uninhabited islands and islets, several used as natural reserves for endangered species.

The island of Mauritius is relatively young geologically, having been created by volcanic activity some 8 million years ago. Together with Saint Brandon, Réunion, and Rodrigues, the island is part of the Mascarene Islands. These islands have emerged as a result of gigantic underwater volcanic eruptions that happened thousands of kilometres to the east of the continental block made up of Africa and Madagascar. They are no longer volcanically active and the hotspot now rests under Réunion Island. Mauritius is encircled by a broken ring of mountain ranges, varying in height from 300–800 m (1,000–2,600 ft) above sea level. The land rises from coastal plains to a central plateau where it reaches a height of 670 m (2,200 ft); the highest peak is in the southwest, Piton de la Petite Rivière Noire at 828 metres (2,717 ft). Streams and rivers speckle the island, many formed in the cracks created by lava flows.

Districts of Mauritius Island

DSCN6349 stitch (6393865603)
Alexandra Waterfall

Mauritius is subdivided into nine Districts, they consist of different cities, towns and villages.

Rodrigues

Rodrigues BasalticShore
A basalt shoreline on the island of Rodrigues

The autonomous region of Rodrigues is located 560 kilometres (350 mi) to the east of Mauritius Island. Rodrigues is a volcanic island rising from a ridge along the edge of the Mascarene Plateau. The island is hilly with a central spine culminating in the highest peak, Mountain Limon at 398 m (1,306 ft). The island also has a coral reef and extensive limestone deposits.

Outer Islands

Agelega

The Agaléga region forms part of the Outer Islands of Mauritius. It is located 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) north of Mauritius Island. Its North Island is 12.5 kilometres (7.8 miles) long and 1.5 kilometres (0.9 miles) wide, while its South Island is 7 kilometres (4.3 miles) long and 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles) wide. The total area of both islands is 26 square kilometres (10 square miles).

St. Brandon

St. Brandon, also known as Cargados Carajos Shoals, is located 430 kilometres (270 mi) northeast of Mauritius Island. The archipelago consists of five island groups, which include many shoals and islets.

Biodiversity

Phelsuma ornata - journal.pbio.1001382
Mauritius ornate day gecko
Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius
Black River Gorges National Park
Dronte dodo Raphus cucullatus
Mauritius was the only known habitat of the extinct dodo, a flightless bird.

The country is home to some of the world's rarest plants and animals, but human habitation and the introduction of non-native species have threatened its indigenous flora and fauna. Due to its volcanic origin, age, isolation, and its unique terrain, Mauritius is home to a diversity of flora and fauna not usually found in such a small area. Before the Portuguese arrival in 1507, there were no terrestrial mammals on the island. This allowed the evolution of a number of flightless birds and large reptile species. The arrival of man saw the introduction of invasive alien species and the rapid destruction of habitat and the loss of much of the endemic flora and fauna. Less than 2% of the native forest now remains, concentrated in the Black River Gorges National Park in the southwest, the Bambous Mountain Range in the southeast, and the Moka-Port Louis Ranges in the northwest. There are some isolated mountains, Corps de Garde, Le Morne Brabant, and several offshore islands with remnants of coastal and mainland diversity. Over 100 species of plants and animals have become extinct and many more are threatened. Conservation activities began in the 1980s with the implementation of programmes for the reproduction of threatened bird and plant species as well as habitat restoration in the national parks and nature reserves.

In 2011, The Ministry of Environment & Sustainable Development issued the "Mauritius Environment Outlook Report" which recommended that St Brandon be declared a Marine Protected Area.

In the President's Report of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation dated March 2016, St Brandon is declared an official MWF project in order to promote the conservation of the atoll.

In April 2016, a seven-day fact-finding mission composed of three highly acclaimed international experts (Professor Henk Bauwman (Ecotoxicology, Environmental Pollution, Bird Ecology); Professor Tony Martin (world’s foremost expert on marine mammals) and Dr. Nick Cole (herpetologist; MWF Islands Restoration Manager) inspected the islands to raise awareness about the need to protect the islands and to investigate, for the longer term, the effects of plastic and heavy metal pollution in the Indian Ocean.

In 2016, a documentary was made on Conservation on the St Brandon islands held on permanent lease.

When it was discovered, Mauritius was the home of a previously unknown species of bird, the dodo, descendants of a type of pigeon which settled in Mauritius over four million years ago. With no predators to attack them, they had lost their ability to fly. Arabs became the first humans to set foot on Mauritius, followed by Portuguese around 1505. The island quickly became a stopover for ships engaged in the spice trade. Weighing up to 50 pounds (23 kg), the dodo was a welcome source of fresh meat for the sailors. Large numbers of dodos were killed for food. Later, when the Dutch used the island as a penal colony, new species were introduced to the island. Rats, pigs, and monkeys ate dodo eggs in the ground nests. The combination of human exploitation and introduced species significantly reduced the dodo population. Within 100 years of the arrival of humans on Mauritius, the once abundant dodo became a rare bird. The last one was killed in 1681. The dodo is prominently featured as a (heraldic) supporter of the national coat of arms of Mauritius.

Environment and climate

Mauritius beach
A tropical beach in Trou-aux-Biches

The environment in Mauritius is typically tropical in the coastal regions with forests in the mountainous areas. Seasonal cyclones are destructive to its flora and fauna, although they recover quickly. Mauritius ranked second in an air quality index released by the World Health Organization in 2011.

Situated near the Tropic of Capricorn, Mauritius has a tropical climate. There are 2 seasons: a warm humid summer from November to April, with a mean temperature of 24.7 °C (76.5 °F) and a relatively cool dry winter from June to September with a mean temperature of 20.4 °C (68.7 °F). The temperature difference between the seasons is only 4.3 °C (7.7 °F). The warmest months are January and February with average day maximum temperature reaching 29.2 °C (84.6 °F) and the coolest months are July and August with average overnight minimum temperatures of 16.4 °C (61.5 °F). Annual rainfall ranges from 900 mm (35 in) on the coast to 1,500 mm (59 in) on the central plateau. Although there is no marked rainy season, most of the rainfall occurs in summer months. Sea temperature in the lagoon varies from 22–27 °C (72–81 °F) The central plateau is much cooler than the surrounding coastal areas and can experience as much as double the rainfall. The prevailing trade winds keep the east side of the island cooler and bring more rain. There can also be a marked difference in temperature and rainfall from one side of the island to the other. Occasional tropical cyclones generally occur between January and March and tend to disrupt the weather for only about three days, bringing heavy rain.

Largest urban centers

No Name Districts Population
(Census 2011)
Image
Cities
1. Port Louis Port Louis
Rivière Noire
140,608
Port Louis, Mauritius
Towns
1. Beau Bassin-Rose Hill Plaines Wilhems 103,098
Plaza (Mauritius)
2. Curepipe Plaines Wilhems
Moka
90,845
Curepipe carnegie library (11291448586)
3. Quatre Bornes Plaines Wilhems
Rivière Noire
90,810
Mauritius QuatreBornes Mairie
4. Vacoas-Phoenix Plaines Wilhems
Moka
105,559
Vacoas

Economy

Sugarcane plantation in Mauritius (reduced colour saturation)
Sugar cane plantation in Mauritius
Ebene MCB Building Aerial
Mauritius Commercial Bank building in Ebene CyberCity
2011-06-25 15-14-26 Mauritius Port Louis Port Louis
A harbour with yachts in Mauritius

Since independence from Britain in 1968, Mauritius has developed from a low-income, agriculture-based economy to a middle-income diversified economy, based on tourism, textiles, sugar, and financial services. The economic history of Mauritius since independence has been called "the Mauritian Miracle" and the "success of Africa" (Romer, 1992; Frankel, 2010; Stiglitz, 2011).

In recent years, information and communication technology, seafood, hospitality and property development, healthcare, renewable energy, and education and training have emerged as important sectors, attracting substantial investment from both local and foreign investors.

Mauritius has no exploitable natural resources and therefore depends on imported petroleum products to meet most of its energy requirements. Local and renewable energy sources are biomass, hydro, solar and wind energy. Mauritius has one of the largest exclusive economic zones in the world, and in 2012 the government announced its intention to develop the marine economy.

Mauritius is ranked high in terms of economic competitiveness, a friendly investment climate, good governance and a free economy. The Gross Domestic Product (PPP) was estimated at US$22.025 billion in 2014, and GDP (PPP) per capita was over US$16,820, one of the highest in Africa.

Mauritius has an upper middle income economy, according to the World Bank in 2011. The World Bank's 2018 Ease of Doing Business Index ranks Mauritius 25th worldwide out of 190 economies in terms of ease of doing business. According to the Mauritian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the country's challenges are heavy reliance on a few industry sectors, high brain drain, scarcity of skilled labour, ageing population and inefficient public companies and para-statal bodies.

Mauritius has built its success on a free market economy. According to the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom, Mauritius is ranked as having the 8th most free economy in the world, and the highest score in investment freedom. The report's ranking of 183 countries is based on measures of economic openness, regulatory efficiency, rule of law, and competitiveness.

Tourism

Ile maurice 1423a
Antique ship models are a prominent souvenir and export of Mauritius

Mauritius is a major tourist destination, ranking 3rd in the region and 56th globally. It enjoys a tropical climate with clear warm sea waters, beaches, tropical fauna and flora complemented by a multi-ethnic and cultural population. Mauritius received the World's Leading Island Destination award for the third time and World's Best Beach at the World Travel Awards in January 2012.

Tourists can now climb the Le Morne Brabant mountain, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Issues often encountered by foreign tourists include scams, overcharging and dual pricing.

Transport

Since 2005 public bus transport in Mauritius is free of charge for students, people with disabilities and senior citizens. There are currently no railways in Mauritius, former privately owned industrial railways having been abandoned.

The harbour of Port Louis handles international trade as well as a cruise terminal. The sole international airport for civil aviation is Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport, which also serves as the home operating base for the national airline Air Mauritius; the airport authority inaugurated a new passenger terminal in September 2013. Another airport is the Sir Gaëtan Duval Airport in Rodrigues.

Financial services

Financial services is one of the growing sectors of the economy. Mauritius has an outsize offshore sector which it built on a low tax regime and extensive treaty network. Mauritius accounted for 42 per cent of India’s foreign direct investment between 2000 and 2011.

Culture

Art

Marie DUHEM Portrait d'Henri le SIDANER 1894
Henri Le Sidaner

Prominent Mauritian painters include Vaco Baissac, Henri Le Sidaner and Malcolm de Chazal. Gabrielle Wiehe is a prominent illustrator and graphic designer.

Architecture

Gaetan Siew, Gaetan
Sino-Mauritian architect Gaetan Siew

The distinctive architecture of Mauritius reflects the island nation’s history as a colonial trade base connecting Europe with the East. Styles and forms introduced by Dutch, French, and British settlers from the seventeenth century onward, mixed with influences from India and East Africa, resulted in a unique hybrid architecture of international historic, social, and artistic significance. Mauritian structures present a variety of designs, materials, and decorative elements that are unique to the country and inform the historical context of the Indian Ocean and European colonialism.

Decades of political, social, and economic change have resulted in the routine destruction of Mauritian architectural heritage. Between 1960 and 1980, the historic homes of the island’s high grounds, known locally as campagnes, disappeared at alarming rates. More recent years have witnessed the demolition of plantations, residences, and civic buildings as they have been cleared or drastically renovated for new developments to serve an expanding tourism industry. The capital city of Port Louis remained relatively unchanged until the mid-1990s, yet now reflects the irreversible damage that has been inflicted on its built heritage. Rising land values are pitted against the cultural value of historic structures in Mauritius, while the prohibitive costs of maintenance and the steady decline in traditional building skills make it harder to invest in preservation.

The general populace historically lived in what are termed creole houses.

Music

The major musical genres of Mauritius are Sega and its fusion genre, Seggae; Bhojpuri songs and Western classical music, opera and drama.

Cuisine

Rum from Mauritius
Mauritius is notable for its rum production

The cuisine of Mauritius is a combination of Creole, French, Chinese and Indian, with many dishes unique to the island. Spices are also a big part of Mauritian cuisine.

Related pages

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