Part of the Macarene Islands, 900km east of Madagascar, Mauritius was formed during a series of undersea volcanic eruptions occurring 8 to 10 million years ago. The climate is tropical, with a warm, dry season between May and November and a hotter, wetter season between November and May.
Mauritius is famous for its stunning white-sand beaches, fringed between coconut palms and coral reef enclosed lagoons. However, it is not only the beaches that create the wonder of this forward thinking and conscientious nation. The landscape is hugely varied, from lush sugar cane plantations and coconut groves to high northern plateaus dotted with extinct volcanoes. The local people pride themselves on their respect for the environment and reserves such as the virgin forests of the Black River Gorges National Park, location of the sublime Tamarind Falls, contain many animal and plant species found only on Mauritius - but, alas, no longer the Dodo.
Much like the Seychelles, Mauritius's geographical importance has led to a rich cultural heritage. First the Dutch settled, then the French and then the English after the Napoleonic wars - the country maintains many aspects of its colonial past. Creole, French and English are widely spoken and there are thriving Indian, Asian and Arab communities - attributes of the spice trade legacy. Port Louis, the capital and one of Africa's wealthiest ports, has a colourful craft and fabrics market and agreeable waterfront development ensuring the culturally minded are well occupied. Close to Port Louis are Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens, once regarded as amongst the finest in the world, still offer an opportunity to marvel at the giant water lilies, exotic trees and 85 species of palm tree.
Beaches, water-sports and deep water fishing attract most to the island and this combined with a vibrant Creole culture and famous island hospitality ensures that Mauritius is justifiably one of the World's most sought after island destinations - the quintessential tropical beach getaway.