Mark Twain is quoted as having said that 'Mauritius was made first, then heaven was copied from it', and anyone who has experienced the island would no doubt agree with him.
It is easy to run out of adjectives when attempting to describe the natural beauty of the small tropical Indian Ocean island paradise of Mauritius. The volcanic island, covered with lush forest, streams and waterfalls, and fringed with palms, dazzling white sands and teeming coral reefs, lies east of Madagascar just south of the Equator. Mauritius, covering just 720 square miles (1,864 sq km), 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.
Along with its natural beauty, Mauritius has a valuable tourist resource in the warmth and friendliness of its multicultural population. Since being officially 'discovered' in 1505 by the Portuguese, the island has been occupied by the Dutch, the French and the British. All have added to the melting pot that constitutes the island's human heritage, along with injections of African slaves, Arab traders and Chinese indentured labourers over the centuries.
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, however, 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, with some delicious local cuisine that makes use of tropical fruits and vegetables, and the chance to learn the island's indigenous wild dance, the Sega, which originated among the African slaves of yore.
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