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Indian Ocean Islands

Introduction:

The Indian Ocean in the third largest body of water on Earth, and in these warm waters you will find some of the most idyllic islands in the world.

The Seychelles is an otherworldly archipelago of 115 islands, and Mauritius which offers a world-in-one island experience! With enchanting beaches, you will feel your spirit uplifted.

More Info:

General Information

Geography - Environment

History, Culture and Politics

Useful Information

Country Hotspots

General Information

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Seychelles and Mauritius – for Mozambique islands please see Mozambique Country information

Seychelles, with an estimated population of 86,525, has the smallest population of any African state. Austronesian seafarers or Arab traders were the first to visit the uninhabited Seychelles. The earliest recorded sighting by Europeans took place in 1502 by the Portuguese Admiral Vasco da Gama.

The Seychelles were used as a transit point for trade between Africa and Asia and also occasionally by pirates until the French began to take control starting in 1756. The islands were named after Jean Moreau de Séchelles, Louis XV’s Minister of Finance.

Mauritius is a ‘world in one island’ destination. In addition to the main island of Mauritius, the republic includes the islands of Cargados, Carajos, Rodrigues and Agalega islands as well.

The island is loaded with historic sights, cultural diversity, geographic variation and almost limitless activities to distract you from the daily grind of beach and pool. But perhaps its single biggest asset is the relaxed charm of its warm and welcoming people.

The British took control of the islands during the Napoleonic Wars, and Mauritius became independent from the UK in 1968.

The main languages spoken in Mauritius are Mauritian Creole, French and English. English is the only official language but most of the television programmes are in French.

The island of Mauritius is renowned for having been the only known home of the dodo. This bird was an easy prey to settlers due to its weight and inability to fly, and became extinct less than eighty years after the initial European colonization.

Because it is an island destination, the smells, noises and bustle of the mercantile capital Port Louis, Africa’s wealthiest city, are never far away, while the busy garment markets in the Central Plateau towns of Quatre Bornes and Curepipe and Black River Gorges National Park\'s dramatic virgin forests give the lie to Mauritius being just another beach destination. The beaches range from the stunning sand-rimmed lagoons and popular wide public beaches to the picturesque islands off the country’s coastline, there’s truly something for everyone here. Add to this the joys of Chinese, Indian, French and African cuisine, the rousing beat of séga music and the infectious party spirit of the locals, and you soon understand why Mauritius really is so many people’s idea of paradise on earth.

Geography - Environment

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Seychelles

Mauritius

Seychelles

Seychelles is an isolated archipelago of outstanding natural beauty comprising 115 islands. 35 islands of the "Inner Islands Group" are granitic, rocky and hilly with narrow coastal strips. The other islands are coralline and flat with elevated reefs.

The islands lie in the western part of the Indian Ocean, north of Madagascar and 1,593km (995 miles) east of Mombasa, Kenya. It is between 4 and 5 degrees south of the equator at a longitude between 55 and 56 degrees east.

The granite islands support luxuriant tropical forest on the mountain slopes. The coral islands are also densely covered with vegetation more characteristic of sandy coral soils

Tree species include the coconut palm, casuarina, banyans, screw pines and tortoise trees. The giant "coco de mer" palm, is indigenous to the Seychelles and lives for up to 1,000 years. The jellyfish tree, having only eight surviving examples left is another rarity only found in the Seychelles. Of about 200 plant species, 80 are indigenous, including the "bois rouge", the giant "bois de fer" and the "capucin."

Fruit bats, flying foxes, geckos and skinks are common and there are more than 3,000 species of insect. The giant tortoise (which appears on the Seychelles coat of arms) survived near-extinction; there are now over a hundred thousand on Aldabra Island. There are many species of rare bird, such as the bare-legged scops owl, Seychelles kestrel, black parrot, magpie, robin and paradise flycatcher.

With almost 50% of its limited landmass set aside as national parks and reserves, Seychelles prides itself on its record for far sighted conservation policies that have resulted in an enviable degree of protection for the environment and the varied ecosystems it supports. Four islands of the archipelago are bird sanctuaries, including Bird Island, which is inhabited by millions of fairy terns.

Seychelles is also home to two U.N.E.S.C.O World Heritage Sites: Aldabra, the world’s largest raised coral atoll and Praslin\'s Vallée de Mai, once believed to be the original site of the Garden of Eden.

The Ministry of Environment & Natural Resources has been mandated with the important task of protecting all species in all their states, whether they are threatened, vulnerable or on the brink of extinction. Current projects are underway to conserve and protect some of the rarest species found on the island. These include the Seychelles Black Parrot, Scops Owl, Sheath-Tailed Bat and the Hawksbill turtle.

Mauritius

The island of Mauritius lies about 800km East of Madagascar. It is only 61km long and 46km wide. The island was formed approximately 10 million years ago by an under-water volcanic eruption.

Mauritius has about 350km of coast. Most of which are protected by coral reefs.

Mauritius is surrounded by a number of smaller islands, many of which are used as nature reserves for endangered species.

The climate on the island is tropical, with dry winter months – May to November and hot, humid summers from November to May.

Mauritius’ most famous inhabitant was arguably the Dodo, which became extinct less than 80 years after it was first spotted on the island around 1600.

A flightless bird, it became easy prey for the sailors who settled the island.

As of 2001 about 1.8% of the nation’s land mass had been set aside as protected area, and currently Mauritius is ranked third in the World on the list of countries with the most endangered species.

History, Culture and Politics

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Seychelles

Mauritius

Seychelles:

It is very likely that the Seychelles - as we know them today - were first spotted by Arab traders as much as 1000 years ago. Their location would make them an ideal provisioning stop for early seafaring peoples like the Arabs, Phoenicians and Indonesians. Almost 500 years ago Vasco de Gama, the Portuguese explorer/navigator, is credited with the official discovery. Part of the island, group, the Amirantes (islands of the Admiral) is named in his honour. A Portuguese map of 1544 shows the islands as the Seven Sisters; Petite Soeur and Grande Soeur retain these names today.

The British landed there in 1609 on an expedition for the East India Company. For the next 133 years they became a provisioning base for the merchant navy as well as for plundering Indian Ocean pirates and buccaneers. To this day there are still stories of fabulous treasures hidden on Mahe.

The French expedition led by Lazare Picault to Mahe in 1742 gave Baie Lazare its name and in 1756 the islands were formally claimed on behalf of Louis XV of France. The Stone of Possession, now in the national museum, was laid and the islands were officially named in honour of Jean Moreau de Sechelles, French Minister of Finance. French colonization and agricultural settlement of the fertile soil and favourable climate continued uninterrupted until the end of the century.

During the Napoleonic War period Seychelles were regarded as a strategic acquisition as the British fought to contain French expansion. The French were forced to give up the islands, yet without a permanently stationed British force, control changed seven times in 13 years. The 1814 Treaty of Paris confirmed British rule.

Throughout the 19th century the population increased as Seychelles first produced high quality cotton, then harvested whales from local waters and finally began the large coconut plantations which became the economy\'s mainstay. Plantation labour was drawn from former slaves freed in 1835 when the institution was abolished. By the end of the century export of guano improved the island economy and in 1903 Seychelles became a separate Crown Colony. Seychelles achieved independence from Britain in 1976 and became a republic within the commonwealth.

The cosmopolitan Seychellois are a colourful blend of peoples of different races, cultures and religions. At different times in its history, people of African, European and Asian origin have come to Seychelles, bringing with them their distinct traditions and customs and contributing to the way of life and to the vibrant Seychellois culture.

With many Seychellois being descendants of Africans, who were brought here by slave-traders in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, strong elements of mainland African tradition can be distinguished in the culture. Other Seychellois, who voluntarily settled in these islands, also brought with them a varied cultural background. The abject poverty suffered by the slaves and the constant struggles by the settlers led to a mutual effort to improve their lives. The linkage provided fertile ground for the creation and development of a unique Seychellois heritage and culture.

One can see these influences at work throughout the domains of local art, cuisine, music, dance and architecture. The architectural design of some of the grand old houses with their steep roofs are representative of a style adapted for comfortable living in the tropics that displays influences from Seychelles\' French and British colonial heritage.

Modern architecture attempts to assimilate traditional styles with practical features designed to capture the island breezes. Local artists continue to exhibit diverse styles that echo the multi-ethnic backdrop of the islands and bear testament to the various influences which have come to bear. Creole music and dance have their roots in African, Malagasy and European cultures with rhythms traditionally accompanied by simple drums and string instruments which, today, include such recent imports as the violin and guitar. The traditional moutya is an erotic dance derived from the days of slavery and still features today, together with the sega with its colourful lyrics; the kanmtole, reminiscent of a country reel, and the Kontredanse, an import from the French court.

The Republic of Seychelles has a multi-party political system with an executive President as head of state and government. The President heads a Cabinet of 10 ministers which includes the Vice-President. In April 2004 Mr James Alix Michel replaced Mr France Albert René as President after Mr Rene had been in office since 1977. The Vice President is currently Mr Joseph Belmont.

The new Seychelles flag was introduced on June 18, 1996 (National Day). The five oblique bands of colour represent a dynamic young country moving into a new future. The blue depicts the sky and the sea that surrounds the Seychelles. Yellow is for the sun which gives light and life, red symbolizes the people and their determination to work for the future in unity and love, whilst the white band represents social justice and harmony. The green depicts the land and natural environment.

Mauritius:

Like the Seychelles, Mauritius was probably discovered by Arab traders in the ninth century. When the Arabs arrived on the island it was inhabited, but there is no documented proof that any other civilisations visited the island.

The Arabs weren’t interested in the island, and Portuguese adventurers discovered the island in 1507. When the Portuguese discovered Mauritius they were not interested in taking possession or settle on the island, their trade routes with India was more important to them as this period, so they preferred to settle along the Mozambique coast.

The colonisation of Mauritius was first made by the Dutch who settled in the island as from 1598. They arrived in the island by a bay in the south-east which nowadays is known as Grand Port

It was only then that Mauritius got its name which was given after Prince Maurice Nassau, stadtholder of Holland. The Dutch left the island Mauritius starting 1652 and till 1710 they were all gone but before they had introduced sugar cane, the java deer, crops and monkeys.

When the Dutch settled in Mauritius one of their main sources of food was the famous dodo, now extinct, which could be found in the island in a large quantity. The dodo was bird very easy to capture, they were also not afraid of human beings; it was a passive and flightless bird which was easy prey.

In 1622, Danish adventurers arrived, hoping to exploit the ebony with which the island abounded. The French and British, too, began to see possibilities both for trade and strategy in the area and sent out expeditions in 1638. Their ships arrived too late. In May 1638, Cornelius Simonsz Gooyer had set up the first permanent Dutch settlement in Mauritius. He was sent by the Netherlands East India Company and became the first governor, over a population of 25 colonists who planned to exploit the island\'s resources of fine ebony and ambergris, rearing cattle and growing tobacco.

Over the next few years, a hundred slaves were imported from Madagascar and convicts sent over from Batavia (Java). The free colonists came from Baltic and North Sea Ports. They were hardened men who were settlers out of desperation and coercion rather than through brave ideals. By 1652, many Dutch left for the Cape of Good Hope which offered better prospects. Other attempts at colonisation failed miserably because of cyclones, flood, drought and plague. Food shortages, an overall inefficient administration and attacks by pirate ships compounded the desire to leave and in 1710 the last settlers abandoned Mauritius leaving a batch of runaway slaves bent on vengeance for their ill treatment.

In September 1715, Guillaume Dufresne d\'Arsel took possession of Mauritius in the name of King Louis XV of France. He named it the Ile de France, placed the French flag near what is now Port Louis, drew a document witnessed by his officers declaring the island French and sailed away after three days.

The first colonists landed at Warwyck Bay (Mahebourg) in 1722. The area was exposed to winds and dangerous reefs, so they moved to the safety of the North West harbour. Warwyck bay was renamed Port Bourbon and the North West Harbour became known as Port Louis. For the first 14 years, the French colony followed the dismal experience of the Dutch.

The transformation of Port Louis from a primitive harbour to a thriving sea port was largely due to the efforts of Bertrand Mahe de Labourdonnais, an aristocratic sea captain. The wretched conditions of the settlers dismayed Labourdonnais. Labourdonnais transformed the island from a colony of malcontents into "the star and key of the Indian Ocean". The thatched hovels were demolished and in their place he raised forts, barracks, warehouses, hospitals and houses. Government house was built of coral blocks, roads were opened throughout the island and a ship building industry started.

Although he had to import slaves, Labourdonnais made their lot easier and turned many of them into artisans. He also started an agriculture programme that concentrated on feeding the islanders and on marketable products. On his own estates, he grew sugar cane and encouraged new settlers to start plantations of cotton, indigo, coffee and manioc. The first sugar factory was opened at villebague in 1744.

His statue stands in Port Louis facing out across the harbour. The town of Mahebourg (started in 1805) is also named after him.

During the seven year war (1756-1763) France and England continued to battle over control of the Indian Ocean and the French East India Company enlisted privateers. When the French lost the wars in India, they blamed the company and accused its officials of corruption. This resulted in the official handling over of Mauritius to the French King and in 1767, the Royal Government was established on the island.

Pierre Poivre (Peter Pepper) was picked as administrator. He introduced varieties of plants from South America, including pepper. Under his influence, the colony developed as an agricultural and trading centre. He improved the harbour facilities and the accommodation for both colonists and slaves.

When the French East India Company was wound up, private enterprise became the fashion. Everyone was trying to make profits. In 1785 the Ile de France was declared the seat of government of all French possessions east of the Cape. A French nobleman, Vicomte de Souillac was made governor (1779-1787) bringing an era of extravagance to the colony. Port Louis became renowned for its bright social life with dancing parties for the young and the old, duelling, gambling, drinking and hunting. At the same time, public affairs were neglected; fraud, corruption and dishonesty were common-place and land speculation and scandals were rife.

On the last Sunday in January 1790, a packet-boat arrived in the Port Louis harbour from France, flying a new flag, the Tricolour. It brought news of the revolution in France.

The last French governor of Ile de France was appointed by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1803 to bring the colony back to order after 13 years of autonomy. With such a task, it was inevitable that the governor, General Charles Decaen, would be unpopular.

Charles Decaen curried favour with the elite by allowing slavery and privateering, which were both hugely profitable, to continue.

Decaen founded primary schools and the Lycee Colonial which became Royal College. He extended Government House, created Mahebourg near Grand Port and encouraged intellectual societies and agriculture development. He also codified the Napoleonic laws which are still in force.

Under his governorship, Port Louis became Port Napoleon and Mahebourg became Port Imperial.

Decaen found himself increasingly isolated from France. The British were expanding their influence in the Indian Ocean. On the 3 December 1810, the British, under General Abercrombie, marched into Port Napoleon where the French surrendered. Ile de France, Port Napoleon and Port Imperial reverted to their former names, Mauritius, Port Louis and Mahebourg. Soldiers were to be treated as civilians, not as prisoners of war and were allowed to leave the island. Settlers who did not want to stay under a British administrator were permitted to return to France with all their possessions.

In 1810, Robert Farquhar became the first English governor. He announced that civil and judicial administration would be unchanged. Those who refused to take an oath of allegiance to the British Crown were asked to leave Mauritius within a reasonable time. Under his governorship sugar production increased, Port Louis was transformed into a free port, roads were built and trade flourished. The British also preserved the island\'s laws, customs, language, religion and property. The treaty of Paris did restore Bourbon/Reunion island in 1814 but the Ile de France, by now with its former name of Mauritius, was confirmed as a British possession.

Judge Jeremie was appointed Attorney-General in Mauritius and arrived from England in 1832 to announce abolition without indemnity to a hostile reception of sugar planters and slave owners.

Slavery was finally abolished in 1835 but not before the owners received compensation from the British.

Shortly afterwards thousands of Indians from Madras, Calcutta and Bombay were encouraged to immigrate to Mauritius with promises of a labour contract that included a salary and accommodation and a passage home. They arrived in dreadful conditions at Port Louis where they were housed in temporary depots and distributed to the sugar estates. They were paid very little, subjected to harsh treatment and forced to work long hours. These indentured labourers or \'coolies\', were slaves by another name and were to form the majority of the population.

Things improved only slightly when an Immigration Department was established in the mid-nineteenth century. Their living standards became more tolerable and when immigration ceased in 1907 and another Royal Commission made recommendations for social political reform, many Indians had settled permanently in Mauritius and indeed formed the majority of the population.

Also in 1907, Mohandas Gandhi (later Mahatma Gandhi) visited Mauritius and as a result sent an Indian lawyer to Port Louis in 1907 to organise the indentured labourers who had no say in politics and no civil rights.

In 1936, the Labour Party was formed and persuaded the Indians to take political action and campaign for better working conditions.

The Second World War brought infrastructural development. The British based their fleet at Port Louis and Grand Port, as well as building an airport at Plaisance and a sea plane base at Baie du Tombeau. A large telecommunication station was built at Vacoas.

In the election held after the war, the Mauritius Labour Party won the majority of seats in the Legislative Council set up under the 1948 constitution. This success was repeated in 1953. After the 1959 election (the first held following the introduction of universal adult franchise), Hindu doctor (later Sir) Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, leader of the Mauritius labour Party became Chief Minister, then Premier in 1965, holding the post until 1982.

Mauritius became an independent country within the Commonwealth of Nations in 1968, Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State represented by a Governor General.

In 1971, social and industrial unrest led by the Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM) resulted in a state of emergency. The party\'s leaders, including Paul Berenger, a Franco-Mauritian born in 1945, were jailed for a year.

In the election of 1982, the MMM with Paul Berenger as General Secretary and a 53 year old Hindu British-trained lawyer, Anerood Jugnauth as President, captured all 62 directly elected seats . Anerood Jugnauth became Prime Minister with Berenger as his Finance Minister.

In 1992, Mauritius became an independent republic with the Commonwealth.

Since independence, Mauritius has changed drastically from a sugar producing island to a newly industrialised nation. Much of its success is attributable to a policy of diversification from its traditional one crop industry, sugar to tourism, textile and agriculture. Mauritius has now the distinction of being one of the most stable countries in the developing world.

Useful Information

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Seychelles

  • [?]Language

    Creole, English and French are spoken widely. Any of these will suffice at the major hotels, attractions, shops, banks, etc. Some members of the travel industry speak German and Italian. Translation services are available.

  • [?]Health & Malaria

    Although the Seychelles are close to the equator there is no malaria, yellow fever, cholera or many other tropical diseases. Those who have travelled to or through any affected area (including Kenya ) within a week of coming to Seychelles are required to certification of yellow fever vaccination. There is a possibility of rabies in certain parts of the country (although there have been no reported cases since 1994); visitors should consult with their physician about vaccination. Although other vaccinations and preparations are generally unnecessary, visitors are advised to consult with their local Health Department.

    Victoria Hospital on Mahe is the main health facility and is well equipped with 373 beds. All doctors speak English and/or French. There are several other clinics on Mahe and on Praslin and La Digue. Visitors can get medical and dental treatment, for which there may be a charge according to the service provided. There are also small hospitals on Praslin and La Digue but all patients in need of immediate medical attention are taken to Victoria. Private Doctors are available and may be arranged through hotels. Some hotels also have a small nursing staff on duty at certain times. There are several pharmacies in Victoria, Mahe including Central Pharmacy at Victoria Hospital. On other islands, local government clinics are used.

    Because of the remote nature of Seychelles, and the even more remote location of most of the islands, we strongly recommend all visitors obtain Trip Insurance which includes Emergency Evacuation coverage. Evacuation (even to the hospital at Victoria) in the event of illness or injury is expensive and will not be provided unless a means of payment is obtained in advance.

  • [?]Water

    The public water supply is chlorinated and normally safe. However, as it is different it may cause mild gastrointestinal upset. Because the tap water is chlorinated, visitors may prefer to drink bottled water but there is no imperative to avoid soft drinks, alcoholic drinks and ice.

  • [?]Climate

    Seychelles\' enviable climate is always warm and without extremes. In this tropical haven the temperature seldom drops below 24°C or rises above 32°C. All but the remotest southern islands lie comfortably outside the cyclone belt making Seychelles\' a year round destination for sun worshippers and beach lovers. During the north-west trade winds that visit between the months of October and March, the sea is generally calm and the weather warm and humid, with average winds of 8-12 knots. In January and February the islands receive their life-giving rains, rejuvenating the rivers and streams and teasing the vibrant foliage into rainbows of colour. The months between May and September bring drier, cooler weather, and livelier seas - particularly on south-eastern coasts - and winds of 10-20 knots.

    Depending on the planned activities during your visit to Seychelles we recommend the following as the best times to visit:

    Scuba divers will find April, May, October and November have the highest visibility and calmest seas although conditions are excellent year round.

    Anglers will find that the southeast trade winds: from May to September are better for Big Game though the seas can sometimes be rough; from November to February the northwest trade winds bring calmer seas for bottom fishing. October and April are perhaps the most enjoyable with calm seas.

    For birdwatchers, April heralds the new breeding season and Bird Island will be found to be overrun with seabirds from May through September; migration periods are from September to December.

    Hiking and walking is best from May to September because of the dry conditions, lower temperatures and lower humidity.

  • [?]Clothing

    Light clothes are advisable because of the tropical climate. For women, light cotton dresses, slacks and shorts and pareos for the day and a long skirt or cool dress for evenings. Men are most comfortable in light weight slacks and shorts and open neck shirts. For business, safari suits are acceptable and ties are not worn except to church. Sandals or light canvas shoes are adequate. Swimwear is not worn except on the beaches.

  • [?]Currency

    The unit of currency is the Seychelles Rupee (SR) which is divided into 100 cents. Paper notes are in denominations of 10, 25, 50 and 100 SR. Coins are 1 and 5 SR as well as 1, 5, 10 and 25 cents. Banks and most hotels will exchange currency. Several banks are located outside the arrivals area at the International Airport and are open to meet all incoming and departing flights. There are no restrictions on the import or export of foreign currency. A maximum of 1000 Seychelles rupees may be exported. Foreign currency and rupees can be freely exchanged at hotels and banks. Rupees cannot be used by visitors for business transactions such as car rental, restaurants, and excursions; all such must be paid for in hard currency such as dollars, pounds, and euro. We recommend exchanging a moderate amount of money at the airport upon arrival.

    Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted except in some of the smaller lodging establishments. American Express, Diners Club and several other minor cards are accepted in fewer places. Traveller’s cheques are also widely accepted, particularly at hotels, shops and restaurants. Cheques issued in US dollars and British pounds are preferred and less likely to incur additional exchange fees.

  • [?]Visa Requirements

    Everyone traveling to the Seychelles must have a passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the end of travel. Visas are not required but a Visitor\'s Permit, good for 4 weeks, is issued upon arrival at the airport. Travellers must have a return (or onward) air ticket, pre-booked accommodations and sufficient money for their stay. The Permit may be renewed for 3 months at no cost and for 3 additional 3 month periods at a fee of 200 Seychelles rupees.

Mauritius

  • [?]Language

    The constitution of Mauritius makes no mention of a national language, but most inhabitants speak Mauritian Creole, English and French. In Parliament English is the official language and generally English is accepted as the national language. A number of locals also speak Far eastern languages, like Hindi, Urdu or Chinese.

  • [?]Health & Malaria

    Good private healthcare in Mauritius is available, although this can be costly if you are not insured. More complex cases could require evacuation to Reunion or South Africa. Chikungunya (a mosquito borne viral disease) periodically occurs in Mauritius, particularly in the warmer months (October-May).

    Although there are no malarial mosquitos in Mauritius, on arrival at the airport an officer from the Ministry of Health may ask you for a blood sample (or contact you later for such a sample at some point during your stay) if you have travelled from a country where malaria is common.

    Stonefish stings are uncommon but can in some cases be fatal. You should obtain urgent medical attention if stung. Many hotels stock anti-venom serum.

  • [?]Water

    The local water is relatively clean and the locals drink it. You need therefore have no fear if you use it for cleaning your teeth etc. However, it is better you boil the water before drinking it or buy bottled water which is freely available in the local shops.

  • [?]Climate

    The hottest time of the year on Mauritius is December / March when you can expect temperatures of 30 degrees C but with less humidity. There is always a breeze from the ocean however so that most people will find it pleasant. Cyclones (tropical storms) can also occur during this period.

    For those people who do not enjoy warm weather or want a more active holiday, we recommend going in July/August when the temperature is 24-26 C. On the coast the temperature can go down to 16-18 C during the night so that we recommend taking a pullover.

    As you can see the variation of temperature on Mauritius is small such that enjoyable holidays can be spent there at any time of the year. Although the weather is normally sunny it does rain. The rain showers are normally short and are a pleasant change from the sun.

  • [?]Clothing

    Light clothes are advisable because of the tropical climate. For women, light cotton dresses, slacks and shorts for the day and a long skirt or cool dress for evenings. Men are most comfortable in light weight slacks and shorts and open neck shirts.

    One thing that you respect are, religious places, there some places as Indian temples where you should remove your leather belts and shoes before entering.

    If you are staying along the coastal area it is really almost the year but if you are in the central part of the island the temperature may be a little cooler that’s why you may need some light woolen clothes

  • [?]Currency

    The monetary unit is the Mauritian Rupee (Rs.) which is divided into 100 cents (cs). Credit cards are normally accepted by banks and most hotels, restaurants and tourist shops.

  • [?]Visa Requirements

    A visitor must be in possession of a valid passport and a return or onward ticket. A visitor’s visa is normally granted for a period of two weeks to one month upon arrival. Visitors are strongly recommended to contact the Passport and Immigration Office in Mauritius or the nearest Mauritian Embassy or Consulate. The visa can be extended upon request at the Passport and Immigration Office.

Country Hotspots

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Seychelles

Mauritius

Seychelles

  • [?]Victoria, Mahe

    The capital of the Seychelles is the bustling and vibrant town of Victoria, named after Queen Victoria in 1942. Victoria is the world\'s smallest capital and has a miniature replica of London\'s Big Ben which was built in 1903. It is well worth including some time on Mahe during your stay in the Seychelles to enable you to explore this fascinating town. The friendly craft markets, fresh fish and spice stalls are a good place to begin. If you enjoy oriental cooking then make sure you stock up on saffron from the market! In addition to the many excellent local paintings and prints on sale you can find the endemic Coco-de-Mer transformed into any and every type of souvenir you can think of.

  • [?]La Digue

    La Digue has the smallest population of the main granitic islands with around 2,000 inhabitants. This statistic is reflected in the slow pace of life and immediate sense of winding down that visitors enjoy upon landing. Very few cars are allowed on the island and transport is mainly by ox cart or bicycle. Bicycles can be hired easily on arrival and allows visitors to discover the many beaches of the island at leisure. Among the attractions is the l\'Union estate, a restored planter’s house that used to be at the centre of a vanilla plantation. The estate offers a rather rambling but interesting insight into settler life on the island.

    Within the l\'Union estate is Anse Source d\'Argent, one of the most photographed beaches in the world. With towering granite boulders and the Eagle\'s Nest Mountain rising into the clouds behind you, the scenery is only surpassed by a dip in the warm, still waters. The waves break on the reef a short distance from the beach creating an area of calm, shallow lagoon. This is a perfect area for snorkelling and visitors can spend hours dreaming their way through an underwater world of blue coral, a rainbow variety of fish, anemones and urchins. Afterwards relax on the beach and take a walk across the perfect, powder white sands.

    You may also have time to visit the flycatcher reserve where you may be lucky enough to see the Seychelles black paradise Flycatcher, one of the rarest birds in the world with less than 100 pairs left.

  • [?]Bird Island

    Located 30 minutes flight from Mahe at the most northern edge of the archipelago, Bird Island is the first landfall of the Seychelles for many species and visitors may often enjoy the sight of rare migrants and windblown vagrants during the northern hemisphere winter. Here the Indian Ocean floor drops 2000 metres and the east and south of the island are protected by a beautiful barrier reef. Year round the island is home to hundreds of thousands of sooty terns, noddies & fairy terns and during the sooty tern breeding season of April to September the area is covered with a million birds when visitors can enjoy some of the best close up bird sightings in the Seychelles! The island is also a nesting site of hawksbill turtles between October and February and green turtles for the rest of the year. Esmeralda, believed to be the World’s oldest free ranging Giant Tortoise at over 200 years, is also resident on the island. The one lodge on the island, Bird Lodge, offers a welcoming base and visitors can enjoy the good swimming & snorkelling opportunities as well as perhaps some deep sea fishing.

  • [?]Vallee de Mai, Praslin Island

    Approximately 50% of the Seychelles landmass has been committed to National Parks and nature protection areas including two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of these is the beautiful Vallee de Mai, home of the endemic Coco-de-Mer palm. After an attempt in the 1930s & 1940s to introduce non-native flora into this valley, the area was taken over by the government and is slowly returning to its natural state.

    A small kiosk at the entrance provides maps and information, the site is open from 08h30 until 16h30 daily. Entering the Vallee is like stepping into the land that time forgot, an eerie silence permeates through the dense foliage and the haunting call of the endangered black parrot sends shivers down your spine. It is easy to see why many people believe this to be the original Garden of Eden. The routes are well marked and there are trails that take just half an hour for those with little time to spare, we would definitely recommend spending half a day here though as the atmosphere is amazing.

    The towering Coco-de-Mer palm trees are perfectly adapted to cope with the tropical climate with broad, string leaves perfectly shaped to funnel rainwater through the highly competitive forest under storey to their roots. Other species in the Vallee include bizarre Jack fruit sprouting out of tall tree trunks, ferns, lataniers, coco marron, screwpines and orchids, all growing around the granite mass. Huge, primeval fruit bats, blue pigeons, bulbuls, lizards, geckos, chameleons, snails and many insects can also be found here.

  • [?]Cousin Island

    This beautiful island has been a nature reserve since its acquisition by the Royal Society for Nature Conservation in 1968; it was declared a Special Reserve by the Seychelles government in 1975 and is managed by BirdLife Seychelles. The island is open to visitors only on certain days and the area is strictly managed. Visitors may hope to see some of the 250,000 birds that come to nest every year, the island is a haven for several rare species including the Seychelles warbler, Seychelles magpie-robin and Seychelles fody. Seabirds include the brown noddie, lesser noddie, wedge-tailed shearwater, audubon\'s shearwater, bridled tern and fairy tern. A visit to Cousin from Praslin can be combined with the nearby island of Curieuses for a BBQ lunch followed by snorkelling at St. Pierre.

  • [?]Aride Island

    Aride is home to more breeding species of sea bird than any other island in the region and was bought by the Royal Society for Nature Conservation in 1973. The most northerly of the granitic Seychelles islands, Aride offers the only breeding site in the granitic islands for red-tailed tropicbirds, roseate terns and the world\'s only sooty tern colony in tall woodland. The island\'s warden will escort visitors to the breath-taking cliftops from where you may glimpse hawksbill turtles and dolphins in the waters below. Aride is also full of botanical treasures and is the only place in the world that you will see the beautiful Wright\'s Gardenia and a species of \'peponium\' that may also be endemic.

    In addition to the above bird species, Aride is also home to the world\'s largest colony of lesser noddies as well as white-tailed tropic birds, Seychelles magpie-robin, Seychelles fody and Seychelles warbler.

    The waters surrounding Aride Island Nature Reserve are protected to 200 metres. While the corals are not particularly spectacular, an incredible 449 species of fish have been recorded. These include pelagic species rarely encountered elsewhere, due to the location of Aride which is closer to the edge of the Seychelles Bank than other granitic islands. Visits can be arranged from Praslin but landings can sometimes be difficult during the south-east monsoon months.

  • [?]North Island

    North Island is one of the forty inner granitic islands of the Seychelles that are often considered to be the most beautiful on Earth. North Island, and its close neighbour Silhouette Island are both granitic islands but are thought to be considerably younger than Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. Their syenite formation probably dates back to about 90 million years ago when Seychelles and India separated. As such, North Island Lodge is a rare sanctuary for guests seeking a gorgeous, unspoiled tropical haven on a large and private island. With four white sandy beaches located at each end of the compass, North Island is able to offer a year-round tropical beach and island experience.

    There are just eleven handcrafted guest villas on the entire island, each constructed to combine to create a sensorial experience in surroundings of understated elegance. The new Spa, perched high above the beach with stunning views of the ocean, specialises in personalised holistic treatments to rejuvenate the body, mind and soul. Activities include mountain biking, gym, guided walks, snorkelling, fishing, boating, sea kayaking, and scuba diving. Great care has been taken to rid the island of non-indigenous species and to return the environment to as natural state as possible, hence North Island is the perfect hideaway for guests wanting space to appreciate the simple natural beauty of the Seychelles whilst reclining in luxurious and restful surroundings.

  • [?]Curieuse Island

    This island is around two miles long and lies approximately one mile to the north-east of Praslin. The island used to be a leper colony and the ruins of the old houses can still be seen, as can the old Doctor\'s House, a restored colonial villa that was home to the island doctor in the 1870\'s. A few families still live here but it is now strictly protected as part of the Marine Park. Nature trails wind their way through the extensive mangrove swamps and further inland. Curieuse is home to around 250 Giant Tortoises that were brought over from Aldebra in the 1980\'s and the Coco-de-Mer palm can also be found here. A visit to Curieuse from Praslin can be combined with the nearby island of Cousin followed by snorkelling at St. Pierre.

  • [?]Aldabra Atoll

    Aldabra is a large raised atoll located 1150 km southwest of Mahe and 420 km north of Madagascar. The atoll makes up about one third of Seychelles\' land mass. Aldabra has been described as "one of the wonders of the world" by Sir David Attenborough as its isolation in a remote area of the Indian Ocean, combined with an inhospitable terrestrial environment, has helped to preserve it in a relatively natural state. Increasing levels of stress from human activities are contributing to the decline of the World’s coral reefs, but Aldabra has so far escaped the worst of these stresses and provides an ideal natural laboratory for studying tropical marine ecosystems and related environments (such as seagrass and mangroves). It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1982.

    The atoll consist of four main islands; South Island (Grand Terre, 116.1 km²), Malabar or Middle Island (26.8 km²), Polymnieli or Polymnie (4.75 km²) and Picard or West Island (9.4 km²) additionally; there are some forty smaller islands or rocky islets inside the lagoon.

    Aldabra is formed from late Quaternary raised reef limestone, averaging 2km in width and up to 8m above sea level, and rimming a shallow central lagoon. The atoll is home to the world\'s largest population of giant tortoises, numbering some 152,000 individuals (that\'s five times as many as the Galapagos!). The islands are also well known for their green turtles, hawksbill turtles, and birds, including the last remaining flightless bird of the Indian Ocean, the white-throated rail. In addition there is the Aldabra drongo and unique varieties of sunbird, foddy, white-eyed bulbul, nightjar, coucal, pigeon and turtle dove. Huge colonies of spectacular lesser and great frigate-birds breed alongside red-footed boobies in the mangroves which border the northern rim of the huge lagoon.

    The shallow waters are patrolled by dimorphic egrets, found only on Madagascar and the Aldabra group of islands. Along the shoreline, the Aldabra sacred Ibis together with a whole host of black-napped and crested terns including caspians may be seen. Other birds include the greater flamingo and the malagasy kestrel, which are probably recent colonists. The steep walls around the raised limestone islands of Aldabra atoll have rarely been dived. Fish life is prolific while over 2000 green turtles breed on the beaches each year. Dolphins and occasionally whales can be seen offshore. Until recently, it has only been possible to visit Aldabra by cruise ship or chartered yacht from Mahé. However, an airstrip has been constructed on Assumption Island, which lies to the south of Aldabra. Accommodation will soon be available for limited numbers on both Assumption and Aldabra. Guides, trained by the Seychelles Islands Foundation, which administers the atoll, will soon be able to reveal the treasures of this unique world to those who seek one of the last unexplored corners of the world.

Mauritius

  • [?]Grand Baie Beach

    Grand Baie in Mauritus is situated in its North Eastern coastline and was once a poor village with fishermen and families being the dominant residents in the area. A few years ago Grand Baie had a massive tourism boom and it has now emerged as the hub of yachting, water skiing, wind surfing and other aquatic sports. A shopping and leisure paradise, Grand Bay also happens to be the area where Mauritians head for when they want a fun-filled night out (restaurants, bars and discos). Recently renovated, La Cuvette beach is well worth a visit.

  • [?]Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanic Garden

    The Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden (sometimes shortened to the SSR Botanical Garden), commonly known as the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden, is a popular tourist attraction near Port Louis, Mauritius, and the oldest botanical garden in the Southern Hemisphere. The garden was first constructed by Pierre Poivre (1719 – 1786) in 1770, and covers an area of around 37 hectares.

    These gardens, for a long time ‘ranked third among all the gardens that could be admired over the surface of the globe’

    While the garden is most famous for its giant water lilies, the garden features spices, ebonies, sugar canes as well as 85 varieties of palms from around the World. Many trees have been planted by world leaders and royalty.

  • [?]Pereybère

    This is the Northern neighbour of Grand Baie enjoys a very relaxed pace and an old-world simplicity that you don’t find often. This is set to change as development increases in the area. There is a great beach here, which makes it a great base to plan a trip from.

  • [?]Balaclava Ruins

    A few metres away from Baie aux Tortues, which 17th century sailors named after the many tortoises in the area, can be found the ruins of the old Balaclava estate. Visitors can see the sea walls, whose initial foundations were laid down by Mahé de Labourdonnais. The location of the ruins now forms part of Maritim Hotel, and public access may not be possible.

  • [?]The Triolet Shivala

    The Mauritian village of Triolet is touted to be one of the longest and largest town in Mauritius. This town has gained popularity owing to the biggest Hindu temple, the Maheswarnath temple. This temple was raised in the honor of Shiva, Krishna, Vishnu, Muruga, Brahma and Ganesha. Apart from this, it is also known for the Solitude Lake and the chimney tower of an ancient sugar factory. While in Mauritius, do visit this sacred and religious destination.

  • [?]Cap Malheureux

    Cap Malheureux or “Cape of Misfortune” so named for all the ships that floundered on the rocks here, is at the Northern tip of the Island of Mauritius. It is also home to the dramatic cliffs of the Coin de Mire and affords the observer fantastic views. This spot is of great historical importance for Mauritius: it was here that the British invasion force finally defeated the French in 1810 and took over the island. A little further on lies the minuscule fishing village also known as Cap Malheureux, with its much-photographed church, the red-roofed Notre Dame Auxiliatrice. It’s worth a quick peek inside for its intricate woodwork and a holy-water basin fashioned out of a giant clamshell. A sign strictly prohibits newly-weds ‘faking’ a church wedding for the photographers!

  • [?]Flacq Market

    Flacq is one of the most important villages in Mauritius and is found in the Eastern part of the island. This meeting point for inhabitants of the East boasts the country’s largest open air market. This extremely colourful market attracts a large number of people; an extremely colourful place where you will almost certainly find what you are looking for.

  • [?]Ile aux Cerfs

    In English this translates to Deer Island, and is a tiny island off the east coast of the main island of Mauritius. This beautiful island is perhaps as close to paradise as any destination on earth. Enjoy a day of pure relaxation as you soak up the sun on the dazzling white sand and swim in the warm turquoise waters that fringe the beaches.

    As you approach the small harbour by boat, you are greeted by views of swaying palm trees which give way to pure white beaches framed by the vivid turquoise waters. Enjoy a day of hedonism as you relax on one of the picture-postcard beaches or swim and snorkel in the azure sea.

  • [?]Dutch Ruins

    At Vieux Grand Port, the oldest settlement in Mauritius, you can see the ruins of the first Dutch fortifications. Excavation work is underway in a bid to uncover an important part of Mauritian history.

  • [?]Ile aux Aigrettes

    Ile aux Aigrettes is one of the 49 islets that surround and belong to the island of Mauritius. Located in the historical bay of Mahébourg, at about 800 meters off the south east coast of the mainland, these 26 hectares of coralline limestone partially overlain with sand and soil deposits is what remains of an eroded dune exposed after a drop in the sea level some 30, 000 years ago.

    Declared a Nature Reserve in 1965 and under the management of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation since 1987, this offshore islet now serves as an outdoor laboratory for the regeneration and preservation of the endemic species of the fauna and flora of Mauritius and its territories.

    Free from human presence for a long period, Ile aux Aigrettes independently developed itself into a natural museum where a remarkable collection of endemic species of the Mauritian fauna and flora evolved and found a home.

    In 1987, when the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation obtained the lease for Ile aux Aigrettes, a warden was posted on the island to interrupt the massive poaching of the island’s forest by the locals and soon after, conservation work began on the island.

  • [?]Gris-Gris

    Close to the southern-most town of Souillac, is the sea cliff of Gris-Gris. This is one of the few places that the island of Mauritius is not surrounded by coral reefs and thick waves crash directly onto the cliffs The most spectacular part of Gris-gris is the "Roche Qui Pleure" where the constant squashing of waves against the flanks of the cliff gives the impression that the cliff is crying.

  • [?]La Vanille Reserve des Mascareigenes

    Previously known as Crocodile Park

    La Vanille is a picturesque and idyllic nature reserve, extending over 3.5 hectares of luxuriant greenery. Follow the nature walk, surrounded by beautiful palms, banana plants and giant bamboo, and you will imagine that you are in a tropical rainforest. In this breath-taking setting you will discover numerous animal species from the Mascarene islands (Mauritius, Rodrigues and Réunion) and other islands of the southern Indian Ocean.

    As you explore the reserve you will encounter other animals, in addition to the crocodiles and tortoises. These include monkeys, wild boar, deer, frogs, turtles, iguanas and colourful geckos and chameleons. Don’t miss the walk-in bat enclosure, where you can come face to face with the beautiful Rodrigues fruit bat.

  • [?]Martello Towers

    On the coast of Mauritius there remain three of the finest examples of Martello Towers in the world. These towers escaped the notice of fortifications experts until 1993 when one tower was restored at La Preneuse in Rivière Noire. The five towers built in Mauritius were among the last to be constructed of the 218-odd examples which defended the coasts of the British Empire, from Canada to Ceylon and South Africa to Ireland and those constructed by the Americans against the British.

  • [?]Chamarel

    The village of Chamarel in southwest Mauritius is home to two natural wonders - the magnificent Chamarel Falls and the colored earths of Chamarel. The earths are particularly unusual; created by volcanic rocks that cooled at different temperatures, the earths form beautiful patterns of colour in the exposed hillsides. And if you mix the coloured earth together, they\'ll eventually settle into separate layers. Sometimes the colours play tricks on you and appear to be shadows.

    Over the millennia, the rocks were pulverized into sands which have the amazing property of settling into distinct layers: if you take a handful of each of the seven different colours of dirt and mix them together, they\'d eventually separate into a colourful spectrum, each dot of sand re-joining its colour caste.

    Since the earth was first exposed, rains had carved beautiful patterns into the hillside, creating an effect of earthen meringue.

  • [?]Casela Nature & Leisure Park

    Casela is a park of an area of 14 hectares with several century-old trees on a gentle slope facing the West coast of Mauritius.

    Originally created as a bird park, (90 aviaries hosting 1500 birds of 150 species,) it now hosts other animals such as Mauritian Macaques, tigers, lemurs, ostriches, giant tortoises etc. Since its renovation, the concept has moved away from a zoo and emphasizes on open spaces and interaction between humans, animals and nature; namely at the petting farm.

  • [?]Yemen Reserve

    Yemen is a domain found between the mountain of Tamarin and the Trois Mamelles. It is home to two of the longest rivers of the island: rivers "Rempart" and "Tamarin".

    The sugar activity of the domain Yemen stopped in 1880. The actual dimension of the domain is of 4500 hectares including the Casela Park. The visitor may appreciate, during his visit, the stunning Java deer roam freely in the grassy savannah alongside wild boars, hares, monkeys, and mongoose. The famous Mauritian fruit bat can also be seen during the outings.

    Indigenous and exotic plants beautify the domain such as Eucalyptus, Bois Noir, Baobabs, Tamarinds and Pink pepper trees.

  • [?]L’aventure du sucre (The Sugar Adventure)

    The sugar adventure recalls the history of sugar in Mauritius. Sugar has been a major money earner for the island for two centuries and is thus considered as a vital part of the Mauritian cultural heritage. With the diversification of the economy, sugar has lost its place as basic pillar of the economy (sugar is mostly produced for self-sufficiency now) but to capture its importance on the island throughout all these serving years, the Beau Plan Sugar Estate, which was a former sugar factory, has been turned into a sugar museum.

  • [?]Ganga Talao - Grand Bassin

    Ganga Talao or Grand Bassin is a crater lake situated in a secluded mountain area in the district of Savanne, deep in the heart of Mauritius. It is about 1800 feet above sea level. It is considered the most sacred Hindu place in Mauritius.

    There is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and other Gods including Hanuman, Lakshmi, and others along the Grand Bassin. During Shivaratri, many pilgrims in Mauritius walk bare feet from their homes to the lake.

  • [?]Bois Cheri

    Discover traditional Mauritius by following the Tea Route that starts from the colonial house, Les Aubineaux in Curepipe. You will enjoy visiting the Bois Cheri tea factory and museum, as well as the anthodium greenhouses and the vanilla plantations. See the Mauritian art of living in a splendid colonial house at St Aubin built in 1819.

  • [?]Black River Gorges National Park

    Black River Gorges National Park is a national park in the hilly south-western part of Mauritius. It was proclaimed on June 15, 1994 and is managed by the National Parks and Conservation Service. It covers an area of 67.54 km² including humid upland forest, drier lowland forest and marshy heathland. Facilities for visitors include two information centres, picnic areas and 60 kilometres of trails. There are four field stations in the park which are used for research.

    The park protects most of the island\'s remaining rainforest. Several areas have been fenced off and invasive species have been eradicated from them to preserve native wildlife. Many endemic plants and animals still occur in the park including the Mauritian flying fox and all of the island\'s endemic birds: Mauritius kestrel, pink pigeon, Mauritius parakeet, Mauritius cuckoo-shrike, Mauritius bulbul, Mauritius olive white-eye, Mauritius grey white-eye and Mauritius fody.

  • [?]Eureka

    Found in the very heart of Mauritius, in Moka, Eureka is an elegant Créole residence originally owned by British and French aristocrats in the 19th century, the Eureka Mansion and its grounds provide an intriguing glimpse into colonial life. The house is filled with antiques and photos of the period.

    The house is constructed largely of wood and surrounded by a long, shady veranda. The extensive grounds consist of a curious mix of natural Mauritian plant life, including mango trees and palms, a waterfall and an English-style garden.

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