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About Mauritius, with Lifestyle Boating Mauritius

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Mauritius Overview

Mauritius (French: Maurice), officially the Republic of Mauritius (French: République de Maurice), is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) off the southeast coast of the African continent. The country includes the islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues (560 kilometres (350 mi) east of the principal island), the islands of Agalega and the archipelago Saint Brandon. Mauritius claims sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago situated 1,287 kilometres (800 mi) to the north east; the United Kingdom excised the archipelago from Mauritian territory prior to Mauritius’ independence and gradually depopulated it. The islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues and Réunion, 170 km (110 mi) south west, form part of the Mascarene Islands. The area of the country is 2040 km2. Its capital is Port Louis.

The first Portuguese explorers found no indigenous people living on the island in 1507. The Dutch settled on the island in 1638 and abandoned it in 1710. Five years later, the island became a French colony and was renamed Isle de France. The British took control of Mauritius in 1810 during the Napoleonic Wars. The country remained under British rule until it became an independent Commonwealth realm on 12 March 1968 and a republic within the Commonwealth on 12 March 1992.

The country is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural; most Mauritians are multilingual, and English, French, Creole and Asian languages are used. The government system is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system. Mauritius is highly ranked for democracy and for economic and political freedom.

The island of Mauritius was the only home of the Dodo bird. The bird became extinct fewer than eighty years after its discovery.

The History of Mauritius

The island of Mauritius was unknown and uninhabited before its first recorded visit during the Middle Ages by Arab sailors, who named it Dina Arobi. In 1507 Portuguese sailors visited the uninhabited island and established a visiting base. Diogo Fernandes Pereira, a Portuguese navigator, was the first European to land in Mauritius. He named the island ‘Ilha do Cirne’. The Portuguese did not stay long as they were not interested in these islands.

In 1598 a Dutch squadron under Admiral Wybrand Van Warwyck landed at Grand Port and named the island “Mauritius” after Prince Maurice van Nassau of the Dutch Republic, the ruler of his country. The Dutch established a small colony on the island in 1638, from which they exploited ebony trees and introduced sugar cane, domestic animals and deer. It was from here that Dutch navigator Abel Tasman set out to discover the western part of Australia. The first Dutch settlement lasted only twenty years. Several attempts were made —subsequently, but the settlements never developed enough to produce dividends and the Dutch abandoned Mauritius in 1710.

France, which already controlled neighbouring Île Bourbon (now Réunion), took control of Mauritius in 1715 and renamed it Isle de France. The 1735 arrival of French governor Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais coincided with development of a prosperous economy based on sugar production. Mahé de La Bourdonnais established Port Louis as a naval base and a shipbuilding centre. Under his governorship, numerous buildings were erected, a number of which are still standing today — these include part of Government House, the Château de Mon Plaisir and the Line Barracks, the headquarters of the police force. The island was under the administration of the French East India Company which maintained its presence until 1767.

From 1767 to 1810, except for a brief period during the French Revolution when the inhabitants set up a government virtually independent of France, the island was controlled by officials appointed by the French Government. Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre visited the island and wrote Paul et Virginie, a successful novel situated on the island. In particular Charles Mathieu Isidore Decaen, a successful General in the French Revolutionary Wars and, in some ways, a rival of Napoléon I, ruled as Governor of Isle de France and Réunion from 1803 to 1810. British naval cartographer and explorer Matthew Flinders was arrested and detained by the General Decaen on the island, in contravention of an order from Napoléon. During the Napoleonic Wars, Mauritius became a base from which French corsairs organised successful raids on British commercial ships. The raids continued until 1810, when a Royal Navy expedition led by Commodore Josias Rowley, R.N., an Anglo-Irish aristocrat, was sent to capture the island. Despite winning the Battle of Grand Port, the only French naval victory over the British during these wars, the French surrendered to a British invasion at Cap Malheureux three months later. They formally surrendered on 3 December 1810, on terms allowing settlers to keep their land and property and to use the French language and law of France in criminal and civil matters. Under British rule, the island’s name reverted to Mauritius.

The British administration, which began with Sir Robert Farquhar as Governor, was followed by rapid social and economic changes. Slavery was abolished in 1835. The planters received two million pounds sterling in compensation for the loss of their slaves who had been imported from Africa and Madagascar during the French occupation. The abolition of slavery had important impacts on Mauritius’ society, economy and population. The planters brought a large number of indentured labourers from India to work in the sugar cane fields. Between 1834 and 1921, around half a million indentured labourers were present on the island. They worked on sugar estates, factories, in transport and on construction sites. Additionally, the British brought 8,740 Indian soldiers to the island.

At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, many Mauritians volunteered to serve under the British flag in Africa and the Near East, fighting against the German and Italian armies. Some went to England to become pilots and ground staff in the RAF. Mauritius was never really threatened, but several British ships were sunk outside Port-Louis by German submarines in 1943.

The first general elections were held on 9 August 1948 and were won by the Labour Party. This party, led by Guy Rozemont, bettered its position in 1953, and, on the strength of the election results, demanded universal suffrage. Constitutional conferences were held in London in 1955 and 1957, and the ministerial system was introduced. Voting took place for the first time on the basis of universal adult suffrage on 9 March 1959. The general election was again won by the Labour Party, led this time by Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. A Constitutional Review Conference was held in London in 1961 and a programme of further constitutional advance was established. Two eminent British academics, Richard Titmuss and James Meade, published a report which dwelt upon the social problems caused by overpopulation and the monoculture of sugar cane. This led to an intense campaign to halt the population explosion, and the 1960s registered a sharp decline in population growth.

In 1965, the Chagos Archipelago was split from the territory of Mauritius to form British Indian Ocean Territory. A General election took place on 7 August 1967, and the Labour Party and its two allies obtained the majority of seats. Mauritius adopted a new constitution, independence was proclaimed on 12 March 1968. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam became the first prime minister of an independent Mauritius. In 1969, the opposition party Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM) led by Paul Berenger was founded. Later in 1971, the MMM, backed by unions, called a series of strikes in the port which caused a state of emergency in the country, and the leader was imprisoned.

Mauritius was proclaimed a republic twenty four years after independence on 12 March 1992.

Geography

The total land area of the country is 2040 km2, which is the 180st largest nation in the world by size. The Republic of Mauritius also incorporates the island of Rodrigues, situated some 560 kilometers to the east and is 104 km2 in area, the Agalega islands situated some 1,000 km to the north of Mauritius and Saint Brandon situated some 430 km to the north-east of Mauritius, both with total land area of 71.2 km2. Mauritius claim sovereignty over Tromelin islands, small islands that lie 430 km to the north-east of Mauritius. The nation’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) cover about 2.3 million km2 of the Indian Ocean, including approx. 400,000 km2 jointly managed with the Seychelles.

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 by Africa and Madagascar. They are no longer volcanically active and the hotspot now rests under Réunion island. There has been no active volcano on Mauritius island for more than 100,000 years. Mauritius is encircled by a broken ring of mountain ranges, varying in height from 300 meters to 800 meters above sea level. The land rises from coastal plains to a central plateau where it reaches a height of 670 meters, 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.

The island of Mauritius is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1242 miles) off the south east 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. Mauritius is surrounded by more than 150 kilometres (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 (see Islets of Mauritius), some of them are used as natural reserves for the protection of endangered species.

Mauritius sought to regain sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago situated 1287 km to the north east (see Chagos Archipelago sovereignty dispute). The Government of the Republic of Mauritius does not recognise the British Indian Ocean Territory, which the United Kingdom created by excising the Chagos Archipelago from the territory of Mauritius prior to its independence. Mauritius claims that the Chagos Archipelago, including Diego Garcia, forms an integral part of the territory of Mauritius under both Mauritian law and international law. Starting in the 1960s, more than 2,000 Chagossians were gradually removed, the United States established a military base on the biggest island, Diego Garcia. The Chagossians have since engaged in activism to return to the archipelago, claiming that the forced expulsion and dispossession were illegal.

 

Environment

The environment in Mauritius is typically tropical in the coastal regions with forests in the mountainous areas. Seasonal cyclones are destructive to the 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° and a relatively cool dry winter from June to September with a mean temperature of 20.4°. The temperature difference between the seasons is only 4.3°. The warmest months are January and February with average day maximum temperature reaching 29.2° and the coolest months are July and August when average night minimum temperatures drops down to 16.4°. 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° to 27°. 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 tends to bring more rain. 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.

 

Language

Being both an English-speaking and French-speaking nation, Mauritius is a member of both the Commonwealth of Nations and the Francophonie. The Mauritian constitution makes no mention of an official language. It is only in the Parliament that the official language is English; any member of the National Assembly can also address the chair in French. However, English is generally accepted as the official language of Mauritius and as the language of government administration, the courts and business. The constitution of Mauritius and all laws are written in English. The Mauritian population is multilingual; most Mauritians are equally fluent in English and French.

In Mauritius, people switch to languages according to the situation; French and English are favoured in educational and professional settings while Asian languages are used in religious activities and Creole as mother tongue. French is mostly used in the media and literature. The Mauritian creole, derived mainly from French (a French-based creole) with influences from the other dialects, is spoken by the majority of the population and is the country’s native language. Bhojpuri which was widely spoken has been decreasing over the years, according to the 2011 census made by Statistics Mauritius; there was a decrease in the use Bhojpuri at home, it was spoken by 5% of the population compare to 12% in 2000. Some ancestral languages which are also spoken in Mauritius include Arabic, Bhojpuri, Cantonese, Hakka Chinese, Hindi, Marathi, Mandarin, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. School students must learn English and French; they also have the option to study Asian languages and Creole. The medium of instruction varies from school to school but is usually French or English. Rodriguan creole, Agalega creole and Chagossian creole are spoken by people from Rodrigues, Agalega and Chagos islands.

 

With many thanks to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia





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