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In the aquamarine waters of the Indian Ocean lies Mauritius, a paradise island with pearly white beaches, lush greenery, and smiling, friendly people. Mauritius is a place in which to wind down and recapture that sense of wellbeing so elusive in today’s hectic lifestyle. Primarily a beach destination, the island offers ideal conditions for honeymoons, weddings, and wellness holidays, as well as excellent golfing, watersports and diving facilities. Luxury resorts dot the island, from the long established northwest coast, with its rocky headlands and white sands, to the less developed east, with its quiet coves, casuarina-fringed beaches and exclusive hotel complexes. In the south and southwest, high mountain peaks and sugar plantations give way to a craggy coastline where diving and marlin fishing are popular pastimes. Nature lovers should not miss a visit to the Black River National Park, an unspoilt area of deep gorges and forested mountains, or the Ile des Cocos bird sanctuary and nature reserve. Shopping opportunities abound, in factory outlets and tax-free shops, where clothing, jewellery and local crafts, spices and model ships are popular buys. Mauritius offers a tempting cuisine, with dishes influenced by Indian and French traditions and wonderful fresh fish, vegetables and tropical fruits, to be accompanied by locally produced beer, rum, tea and coffee.
It is easy to run out of adjectives when attempting to describe the natural beauty of the small tropical Indian Ocean island paradise of Mauritius. The volcanic island Republic, covered with lush forest, streams and waterfalls, and fringed with palms, dazzling white sands and teeming coral reefs, lies east of Madagascar just south of the Equator. Mauritius, covering just 720 square miles (1,864 sq km), is the archetypal dream destination for an idyllic holiday, equipped with modern resorts that have been carefully developed to preserve the island's beauty and ecology.
Most of the tourist resorts in Mauritius are situated along the 205-mile (330km) coastline, with the capital Port Louis, on the west coast, being the centre of operations for most visitors. The bulk of the population, however, reside on the central plateaux around Curepipe, the island's other major town.
Although everyone who takes a holiday in Mauritius comes for the sandy beaches and blue lagoons, most are delighted to discover that the island has plenty of other attractions too, from some of the world's rarest stamps to the first ever race course to open in the southern hemisphere. Of course no holiday would be complete, either, without good food and entertainment. Mauritius offers both, with some delicious local cuisine that makes use of tropical fruits and vegetables, and the chance to learn the island's indigenous wild dance, the Sega, which originated among the African slaves of yore.
Things to see and do in Mauritius extend far beyond it's white sand beaches and clear turquoise waters. See a replica of the legendary Dodo at Port Louis' Natural History Museum, and explore the Central Market, a bustling hub of culture, colour and bargains. Visit the impressive and historic manor houses in Moka and take in Chamarel's rainbow of coloured sands, the 'Seven Coloured Earth'. Black River Gorges National Park is great for picnics, hiking and scenic drives, while La Vanille Reserve des Mascareigne is home to thousands of crocodiles and giant tortoises. Its lovely weather makes Mauritius a perfect year-round holiday destination.
Port Louis is the main business hub of Mauritius. Standard business practice applies to the island: punctuality and politeness is important, handshakes and the exchanging of business cards takes place at meetings and business attire is worn. It is however possible to be somewhat more casual in terms of dress and visitors can take the cue from their hosts. Lightweight materials are recommended due to the tropical climate. Business hours can vary though are usually from 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday, with some businesses open for a half-day on Saturdays.
Mauritius has only two seasons with minimal differences between them, making Mauritius a perfect year round destination. Summer runs from November to April, with temperatures reaching as high as 93ºF (34ºC) on the coast. Humidity is highest from December to April but is never unbearable, particularly on the coast where there is a constant sea breeze. The north-east (around Grand Baie) is more protected from the south-east trade winds. Cyclones, with strong winds and heavy rain, can occur between January and March. Mauritius will normally experience about three or four cyclones a year during this period, each usually lasting a couple of days. During winter the temperature drops a few degrees, however, there is still plenty of sunshine and it is a very pleasant time of year to visit. Sea temperatures vary between 75ºF (24ºC) in the winter and 82ºF (28ºC) in the summer. The peak holiday season runs from October to April, with hotel prices dropping over the winter months.
The international access code for Mauritius is +230. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 001 for the United States). City/area codes are not required. The whole island is covered by the mobile network; the local mobile phone operators use GSM networks, which are compatible with most international operators. Handsets and SIM cards can be hired at the airport. Internet cafes are widely available.
Homosexuality is illegal in Mauritius. Penalties for drug trafficking and use are severe, and any personal medicinal drugs should be covered by a prescription. Scheduled drugs, such as tranquillisers, morphine and other strong painkillers require by law, authorisation before import.
Travellers to Mauritius over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco; 1 litre spirits and 2 litres of wine, ale or beer; perfume and eau de toilette for personal use. Prohibited items include sugarcane and fresh fruit from parts of Asia. No dogs or cats from a 62-mile (100km) radius where rabies has occurred in the past 12 months are allowed into the country.
230 volts, 50Hz. Square three-pin plugs and round two-pin plugs are commonly used.
No vaccination certificates are required for entry into Mauritius, unless travelling from a country infected by yellow fever or where yellow fever is classified as endemic. It's a good idea to pack shoes that can be worn in the sea to protect against sharp coral, sea urchins and stonefish. Stonefish stings are uncommon but can in some cases be fatal. You should obtain urgent medical attention if stung; many hotels stock anti-venom serum. Visitors should take precautions against mosquito bites, as there have been several cases of the Chikungunya virus, which is spread by mosquito bites, although this is more common from October to May. Travellers should stick to bottled water. Medical facilities are good and free in public hospitals, but private clinics are expensive and medical insurance is recommended.
English is the official language of Mauritius, but the most widely used is French and the local dialect, Creole. Hindi, Urdu and Chinese are also spoken.
The currency of Mauritius is the Mauritian Rupee (MUR), which is divided into 100 cents. Travellers cheques and foreign currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and larger hotels. Travellers cheques usually exchange at a better rate than cash. ATMs are widely available in most towns and hotels, restaurants and large retailers accept major credit cards.
All foreign passengers to Mauritius must hold (i) a confirmed booking for accommodation in Mauritius, (ii) return or onward tickets to their country of origin or residence, (iii) the necessary travel documentation for their next destination, and (iv) sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country (a minumum of USD 100 per day). Note that the final decision to admit any passenger into Mauritius rests solely with the Immigration Authorities, and that any visitor who remains in Mauritius after the expiry the period granted on their visa or entry permit, shall be deemed to have committed an offence, and shall be liable for prosecution by a Court of Law. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Mauritius, if arriving within 10 days of leaving or transiting through an endemic area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
A holiday in Mauritius is usually trouble free, however petty crime can be a problem and it is not wise to wander alone at night outside the grounds of hotels. Visitors should be aware of pick pocketing in the central market in Port Louis. Care should be taken of bags and valuables when visiting popular tourist areas such as Pereybere, Grand Baie, Flic en Flac and Tamarin. There has been an increase in break-ins in self-catering accommodation and visitors are advised to only rent accommodation from registered proprietors. Cyclone season is from November to May.
Tipping in Mauritius is discretionary. However, some extra money paid for services, such as a taxi ride, waitering or cleaning is appreciated. In the hotels travellers can add around 5% of their incidental expenses when paying the bill on departure, if service has been good. Government tax is added to all hotel and restaurant bills and this is included in the basic price. However, all incidental hotel expenses will incur a 12% tax, which is generally included in the price quoted.