Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean located approximately 2,000 kilometers off the southeast coast of Africa. Composed of the islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues and outer islands including Agaléga and St. Brandon. 2,040 km² large with a population estimated at 1.35 million in 2017, Mauritius is home of a multiethnic, multi-religious, multicultural and multilingual population. Descendants of Indian, African, Chinese and French compose its population.
In 1598, the island was named "Mauritius" by Admiral Wybrand Van Warwyck after Prince Maurice van Nassau, ruler of the Dutch Republic at that time. After establishing a small colony on the island in 1638, The Dutch introduced sugar cane, domestic animals and deer but never developed enough to produce dividends, forcing them to abandon the island in 1710. The first Dutch settlement lasted twenty years in total. France took control of Mauritius in 1715 and renamed it Isle de France. The arrival in 1735 of the French governor Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais resulted in the development of a prosperous economy based on sugar production. He established Port Louis as a regional naval base and a shipbuilding centre. Until 1767, the French East India Company administrated the island. While Napoleonic Wars were raging on the European continent, Mauritius became a base from which French corsairs were organizing successful raids on British commercial ships. In 1810, after British troops landed at Cap Malheureux, Isle of France was put under the British administration and recovered its name of Mauritius. The nation island became independent in 1968 and a Republic within the Commonweatlh of Nations in 1992.
The island of Mauritius emerged from volcanic activity some 8 million years ago. Together with Saint Brandon, Reunion Island, and Rodrigues, the island is part of the Mascarene Islands. Mauritius is no longer volcanically active and the hotspot now rests under Reunion Island. Mauritius is surrounded by a broken ring of mountain ranges, varying from 300 to 800 meters high. The land rises from coastal plains to a central plateau where it reaches 670 meter high. Its highest peak, Piton de la Petite Rivière Noire, is located in the southwest and reached 828 meters high. Formed in the cracks generated by past volcanic activity, a network of rivers and streams cross the island. Located close to the Tropic of Capricorn, climate in Mauritius is tropical and composed of 2 seasons: a warm humid summer from November to April, with an average temperature of 25°C and a relatively cool dry winter from June to September with an average temperature of 20°C. The island is encircled by more than 150 kilometers of white sandy beaches. Its lagoons are sheltered from the open sea by the world's third largest coral reef.
Similarly to other islands composing the Mascarene Archipelago, Mauritius is famous for its diverse flora and fauna, including many species endemic to the island. It is home to some of the world's rarest plants and animals. In a recent past, a species of massive flightless bird called dodo was proliferating on its soil. It lost ability to fly due to the absence of predators on the island. Weighing up to 22 kilograms, this pigeon descendant settled in Mauritius over four million years ago. Because Mauritius became an important stopover for ships engaged in the spice trade, the animal turned into a significant source of fresh meat for sailors and ended up disappearing completely in the course of the 17th century.
Due to its isolation, Mauritius has no terrestrial mammals but only bats and marine mammals. Over 100 species of birds have been recorded in the island, among which eight are endemic. The Mauritius grey white-eye is the most common of these, being widespread across the island. Close to extinction, other famous birds like the parakeet and pink pigeon are now increasing thanks to intensive campaigns of conservation. In the vegetal order, over 700 native species of flowering plants can be found in Mauritius and about half of them are endemic. The "boucle d'oreille" ("earing" in English) is the national flower of Mauritius but can only be found nowadays in a single mountainous area in the island. Despite human settlement, activities and introduction of foreign plants that heavily impacted endemic species, various native trees can still be found such as Mauritius ebony, takamaka, "manglier vert", "manglier rouge", Ox tree, "Bois de Natte" and a range of other indigenous species. The native forest now remains, concentrated in the Rivière Noire Gorges National Park in the southwest, the Bambous Mountain Range in the southeast, and the Moka-Port Louis Ranges in the northwest.
The cuisine of Mauritius is a blend of Chinese, European and Indian influences. Spices compose a big part of Mauritian cuisine. The popularity of French dishes like the bouillon, tuna salad, the daube, "civet de lièvre" or "coq au vin" served with good wine reveal the influence of French culture in Mauritius cuisine today. Traces of both northern and southern Indian cuisine can be found in Mauritius. Some common preparations commonly observed are "brianis", "dholl puri", currys, chutneys or "achards", "rougailles" and pickles. Chinese are largely credited with wide spreading consumption of rice and noodles (called "mines", derivated from the Chinese "chow mein") in the island, both either steamed or fried and often prepared with black bean sauce or oyster sauce. Chinese appetizers are also largely constitutive of Mauritius culinary folklore with starters such as "hakien" (a spring roll version made with flour batter), crispy chicken or crispy squid. Along the years, each community has adapted and composed with influences from other cuisines and finally gave birth to the Mauritian one. Mauritius is also famous worldwide for its tradition of Rums which started in 1850 with a first distillery in operation on the island.