Mauritius sunrise © Smpadte
It's easy to run out of adjectives when describing the natural beauty of Mauritius, a small tropical paradise found in the Indian Ocean. Indeed, celebrated author Mark Twain claimed 'Mauritius was made first, then heaven was copied from it'. The volcanic island lies east of Madagascar just south of the Equator, covered with lush forest, streams, and waterfalls, and fringed with palms, dazzling white sands, and teeming coral reefs.
Mauritius is small, covering just 720 square miles (1,864 sq km). It is the archetypal dream destination for an idyllic beach holiday, equipped with modern resorts that have been carefully developed to preserve the island's beauty.
Since the Portuguese arrived in 1505, the island has been occupied by the Dutch, the French, and the British. All have contributed over the centuries to the melting pot that is Mauritian culture and heritage, along with African slaves, Arab traders, and indentured Chinese labourers.
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 reside on the central plateau around Curepipe, the island's other major town.
Although everybody 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 without good food and entertainment, and Mauritius offers both. The delicious local cuisine makes use of tropical fruits and vegetables, and the chance to learn the island's indigenous wild dance, the Sega, which originated among African slaves.
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