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The island's maritime zone boasts more than 1,000 species of marine life- fishes, shells and mollusks, in numbers beyond count. The spectacular way to explore spectacular underwater world is onboard a submarine. The sub also allows you to see some ship wrecks dating back to Dutch period.
You can swim at various places at beaches, lagoons and inlets. Swimming beaches are best to north, though there are other good sites to southwest and to west near Flic en Flac. The west coast offers good sites for surfing at Tamarin, and diving at Flic en Flac. At Grand Bay beach, you get good shopping, nightclubs, bars, and restaurants and chance to interact with locals. In addition, swimming, surfing, sailing and angling is good. From here, you can also make a boat excursion of islands to north.
In islands' interior, there are good opportunities for hiking and trekking. Black River Gorges National Park has excellent walks, and at same time you can see some endemic plants and birds. The Réserve Forrestière Macchabée and Rivière Noire National Park are also good for hiking. In addition, captive breeding to raise numbers of Mauritius endangered endemic birds is underway here. For trekkers, you will do well at plateau at Curepipe and at island of Rodrigues.
The Royal Botanical Gardens of Pamplemousses are very popular with visitors. The gardens date back to 1735, during French period. Here you will see a large collection of exotic and indigenous plants in excellent surroundings. Among most peculiar specimens are giant Victoria regia water lilies, whose origins are in Amazon, and talipot palm- known to bloom once every 60 years before dying. At Casela Bird Park, you can see some of its 140 bird species, including rare Mauritian pink pigeon. Some of these excursions are included in Mauritius tour packages offered by various vendors.
Mauritius offers some excellent golf courses, and visitors are increasingly aware of it. There are at least three hotels with 18-hole courses and another five with 9-hole courses. The Ile aux Cerfs course, which sits on its own tiny island is most spectacular. For honeymooners, island is very welcoming. Almost all hotels offer a special honeymoon package. As a non-resident, you can easily tie knot here. But a few formalities must be completed with officialdom; make sure you comply before arrival.
Mauritius is at cultural cross roads of Europe, Africa and Asia. The Dutch, French, Africans, Indians, Chinese and British came under one guise or another and have today influenced character and cultural life of island. Though island is closest to Africa geographically, culturally it is much closer to Asia.
The biggest racial groups are Indo-Mauritians who constitute about two thirds of nations 1.2 million peoples, followed by Creoles - Afro- Mauritians who are just over a quarter of population. Franco- Mauritians and peoples of Chinese origin combined make up about 5% of population. While English is official language, French, Creole, Bhojpuri and Urdu are widely spoken. Religion is other factor defining people of island, with Hinduism (51%), Christianity (30%) and Islam (17%) leading.
The cuisine of island reflects diversity of its people. French, Creole, Chinese and Indian foods - with local variations are all found here. Wherever you stay, you will most likely be able to watch or even dance Sega. This energetic and erotic Creole dance has origins in sugar fields, in days when African labour was captive. You may also be fortunate to encounter any of various festivals celebrated in this multicultural country. Only most widely traveled however, will be prepared for Cavadi. On this Tamil festival, penitents pierce their bodies, tongues, and cheeks while some march on shoes of nails.
Tourism is one of main pillars of economy of Mauritius. The bulk of visitors come from South Africa, Germany, France, Australia and UK. Hotels in Mauritius are plenty, and they range from 5-star luxury to those with just basic amenities. Budget stay comes in form of bungalows, guesthouses and self-catering apartments. The period June to September and around Christmas is busy season and if you plan to travel then, you are advised to book your accommodation in advance. Mauritius is still relatively affordable, though there has been talk of turning it into an up market beach destination.
Mauritius is a year-round destination. The best times to visit however, are periods April-June and September- November. These are months when it rains least and temperatures are moderate. January to April is hottest, and daytime temperatures can reach 35°C. Temperatures tend to be lower inland, away from coast. The main rains come between December and April, though there are light rains year round. November to February is when cyclones are most likely to occur. But do not be deterred; chances of meeting cyclones are not very high, and it is estimated that they hit island about once every 15 years.
If you are keen on water sports, beware that diving is best December to March, and surfing between June and August. For big game fishing, come between October and April. You should be comfortable with light clothing suitable for tropical climate. But you need warmer clothing for evenings and southern winter months between July and September. Whatever time of year you travel, do carry some rainwear. In summer months between November and April, you are advised to bring along sunglasses, sun hats and sunscreen.
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Andrew Muigai is editor of AfricaPoint Insider online newsletter. It is part of AfricaPoint.com- the Africa travel website that has helped thousands of travelers discover Africa. You can view more info on Tanzania safari and tours at the website.