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Mauritius, officially the Republic of Mauritius, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) off the southeast coast of theAfrican continent.
The country includes the island of Mauritius, Rodrigues [560 kilometres (350 mi) east], and the outer islands (Agaléga, St. Brandon and two disputed territories). The islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues (172 km (107 mi) southwest) form part of the Mascarene Islands, along with nearby Réunion, a French overseas department.
The area of the country is 2,040 km2. The capital and largest city is Port Louis.
The island of Mauritius was visited during the medieval period by the Arabs and then by the Portuguese, who named it Dina Arobi and Cirne, respectively.
The island was uninhabited until the Dutch Republicestablished a colony in 1638, with the Dutch naming the island after Prince Maurice van Nassau.
The Dutch colony was abandoned in 1710, and, five years later, the island became a French colony and was named Isle de France. Due to its strategic position, Mauritius was known as the "star and key" of the Indian Ocean.
Mauritius became an important base on the trade routes from Europe to the East before the opening of the Suez Canal and was involved in the long power struggle between the French and the British.
The French won the Battle of Grand Port, their only naval victory over the British during these wars, but they could not prevent the British from landing at Cap Malheureux three months later. They formally surrendered on the fifth day of the invasion, 3 December 1810, on terms allowing settlers to keep their land and property, the use of the French language, and the law of France in criminal and civil matters.
Under British rule, the island's name reverted to Mauritius. The country became an independent state on 12 March 1968, following the adoption of a new constitution. In 1992, Mauritius became a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations.
The sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago is disputed between Mauritius and the United Kingdom (UK). The UK excised the archipelago from Mauritian territory prior to Mauritian independence in 1965. The UK gradually depopulated the archipelago's indigenous population and leased its biggest island, Diego Garcia, to the United States.
The archipelago is prohibited to casual tourists, the media, and its former inhabitants. Mauritius also claim sovereignty over Tromelin Island from France.
The people of Mauritius are multiethnic, multi-religious, multicultural and multilingual.
The island's government is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system, and Mauritius is highly ranked fordemocracy and for economic and political freedom.
Along with the other Mascarene Islands, Mauritius is known for its varied flora and fauna, with many species endemic to the island.
The island is widely known as the only known home of the dodo, which, along with several other avian species, was made extinct by human activities relatively shortly after the island's settlement.
The total land area of the country is 2,040 km2, which is the 180th 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 and situated 560 km to the east of Mauritius, the twin island of Agalega with a total land area of 2,600 hectares and situated some 1,000 km to the north of Mauritius. Saint Brandonis an archipelago comprising a number of sand-banks, shoals and islets. It is situated some 430 km to the north-east of Mauritius and is mostly used as a fishing base.
The nation's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) cover about 2.3 million km2 of the Indian Ocean, including approximately 400,000 km2 jointly managed with the Seychelles.
Mauritius is some 2,000 km (1,242 miles) off the southeast coast of the African continent, between latitudes 19°58.8' and 20°31.7' south and longitudes 57°18.0' and 57°46.5' east.
It is 65 km long and 45 km wide. Its land area is 1,864.8 km2.
The island is surrounded by more than 150 km (93 miles) 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, some of them are used as natural reserves for the protection of 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 from the abysses 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 above sea level.
The land rises from coastal plains to a central plateau where it reaches a height of 670 m; 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, a lot of them are formed in the cracks created by lava flows.
Mauritius is one of the world's top luxury tourism destinations.
It possesses a wide range of natural and human-made attractions, enjoys a tropical climate with clear warm sea waters, attractive beaches, tropical fauna and flora complemented by a multi-ethnic and cultural population.
These tourism assets are its main strength, especially since they are backed up by well-designed and run hotels, and reliable and operational services and infrastructures.
Mauritius received the World Leading Island Destination award for the third time and World's Best Beach at the World Travel Awards in January 2012.
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. To cope with increasing road traffic congestion, a Light Rail Transit system has been proposed between Curepipe and Port Louis.
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.
Environment and climate
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 and a relatively cool dry winter from June to September with a mean temperature of 20.4 °C. The temperature difference between the seasons is only 4.3 °C.
The warmest months are January and February with average day maximum temperature reaching 29.2 °C and the coolest months are July and August when average night minimum temperatures drops down to 16.4 °C.
Annual rainfall ranges from 900 mm on the coast to 1,500 mm 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.
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 also tend to bring more rain there.
There can also be a marked difference in temperature and rainfall from one side of the island to the other. Occasional tropical cyclones generally occurs between January to March and tend to disrupt the weather for only about three days, bringing a lot of rain.
For food lovers: Recipes from Mauritius
Mauritius in the Indian Ocean is know for its sparkling crystal and turquoise waters.
The contrast of colours, cultures and tastes makes the island a location for an unforgettable holiday.
Mauritius offers the opportunity to unparalleled luxury, a level of refinement that is ahead of many other other tropical holiday destinations. Mauritius was named after Dutch Prince Maurice Van Nassau.