Mauritius also boasts a unique marine environment. Surrounded by one of the largest unbroken coral reefs on the planet, conservationists are now campaigning to protect its white coral sand beaches and fragile ecosystem. Though it can be found on the maps of early Arab mariners, Mauritius remained uninhabited until the end of the 16th century. The Portuguese became the first European visitors in 1510, however, they did not lay claim to the island. In 1598 Dutch colonists settled on the island, naming it after Prince Maurice of Nassau. The Dutch colonial period saw the development of thriving sugar cane plantations as well as the decimation of the ebony forests and the extinction of the dodo bird and other indigenous wildlife. Eventually abandoning their settlement in 1710, Mauritius lay unclaimed until the arrival of the French five years later. Renaming the island Ile de France, the French continued the cultivation of sugar as well as indigo, cloves, nutmeg and other spices, retaining possession of the island until 1810 when it was ceded to Britain at the end of the Napoleonic Wars.
Now an independent republic, Mauritius is a vibrant cultural mix with impressive mountains, boundless sugar cane plantations and some of the most exquisite beaches and aquamarine lagoons in the Indian Ocean.
Pier InformationThe ship is scheduled to dock at Port Louis Harbour. The town centre is an approximate 15-minute taxi ride from the pier. Taxis are available just outside the harbour entrance.
ShoppingGood buys include Indian fabrics, stamps and Mauritian spices. There are a number of shops specializing in Malagasy handicrafts that include leather belts and bags, semi-precious stones, dried-flower decorated stationery, bookmarks and pictures of local flowers. The local currency is the Mauritian rupee.
CuisineMost restaurants offer Creole, European and Chinese menus, with the specialty usually seafood. Mauritian Creole cooking is generally not hot and common dishes include rougaille, a tomato salad or stew, and chicken curry. Snacks such as samosas, rotis, curried rolls, noodle specials and soups are very popular and available from street vendors in Port Louis.
Other SitesDomaine les Pailles
Located just outside of Port Louis, Domaine les Pailles is a nature park that occupies 3,000 acres in the foothills of the Moka Range. You can tour the grounds either on foot or in horse-drawn open topped carriages where you can view the reconstruction of an early sugar mill, rum and oil distilleries, a spice garden and riding stables.
Eureka Colonial House
Located just off the Port Louis-Curepipe motorway, this country house was restored and opened to the public as a museum. It dates from the 1830s and belonged to the first Mauritian Master of the Supreme Court.
Colored Earths of Chamarel
In an area near the south west part of the island are these unusual "coloured earths" that still intrigue geologists. Like rolling dunes of a multicoloured lunar-like landscape, the colours never erode despite torrential downpours and adverse climate conditions.
Private arrangements for independent sightseeing may be requested through the Tour Office on board.