Sitting 600 miles off the coast of Madagascar, Mauritius is the stuff of your wildest tropical fantasies. Between its powdery white beaches, swaying palm trees and highly Instagrammable landmarks, it isn’t difficult to understand why it’s such a popular island escape. But there’s more to this volcanic island than luxury hotels and honeymooners. Don’t believe us? Here are seven interesting facts about Mauritius.
Interesting Facts About Mauritius
1. It’s been Dutch, French and British
The Dutch first claimed (and named) Mauritius in 1638. They stayed until 1710 when France captured the territory. They re-named the island Isle de France. This didn’t last too long though, since the British invaded the island in 1810. They restored its original title – Mauritius. It remained British until independence in 1968.
As a result, Mauritius doesn’t have an official language, though English and French are both national languages.
2. It’s more than one island
The country includes the main island of Mauritius, Rodrigues and the outer islands of Cargados Carajos Shoals and the Agalega Islands.
Mauritius also claims sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago to the northeast but Britain disputes this.
3. It’s the former home of a famous extinct species
Mauritius is known as the land of the dodo, the extinct species that appears in Alice in Wonderland. The first recorded mention of the bird dates back to 1589 when Dutch sailors described a ‘flightless bird’. The last mention dates back to 1662. There are few relics of the bird around too, besides a few partial skeletons. The only known complete stuffed bird was bequeathed to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, but once it started to rot the museum put it on a bonfire. Its foot, however, made it to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Today, we still know relatively little about the bird. Despite its extinction only a few centuries ago, we know more about dinosaurs.
4. Mauritius has the highest population density in Africa
If you’re looking for seclusion, don’t bet on Mauritius. With a population of 1.3 million people living in just 790 sq. miles, it has one of the world’s highest population densities at 1,634 people per sq. mile. Only Monaco, Singapore, Bahrain, Bangladesh and Malta are more crowded.
Two-thirds of the island’s population is of Indo-Pakistani origin, descended from indentured labourers. A quarter of the population is Creole and a small number are of Chinese or Franco-Mauritian descent. Hinduism is the majority religion in Mauritius.
5. The country is surrounded by coral reefs
Mauritius is almost entirely surrounded by lagoons protected by coral reefs, making it the world’s third-largest coral reef. This helps protect the country’s 93 miles (150 km) of white sandy beaches from shark and jellyfish attacks. Unsurprisingly, it’s one of the world’s most popular destinations for snorkelling and diving. The island is also encircled by a ring of mountain ranges formed from volcanoes, waterfalls, forests and rivers.
6. It’s one of the world’s most peaceful countries
According to the Global Peace Index Report Mauritius is the world’s most peaceful country in terms of ongoing conflict. It’s tied with Iceland, Slovenia, Hungary and New Zealand. This goes some way to explaining why Mauritius is also one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t have a standing army.
The report also reveals that Mauritius is the most peaceful country in Sub-Saharan Africa, ranked 28th in the world. It’s fallen a few places since the last report due to a rise in homicide rates, from 1.8 to 2.9 per 100,000 people. This also takes into account the civil unrest following the government’s handling of a massive oil spill in August 2020.
7. Mauritius is home to an underwater waterfall
Just off the coast of Le Morne, you’ll find one of the world’s most spectacular illusions. Described as an ‘underwater waterfall’, it looks like the entire island is being pulled down a drain. In fact, the dramatic image is just the flow of underwater currents. You can see the sand and silt illusion from the shore, but for the best views, you’ll need to hop onto a seaplane to explore the view from above.