Mauritius, an island covering 1,865 square kilometres is situated some 2,000 kilometres off the south east coast of Africa. More than 150 kilometres of white sandy beaches and transparent lagoon are protected from the open sea by the world’s third largest coral reef which almost surrounds the island.
Being of volcanic origin, Mauritius has a central plateau which is about 400 metres above the sea level. Mountains scattered throughout the island, fast flowing rivers, tropical forests and plants are other features that add to the natural beauty of the island. Mauritius enjoys a maritime sub-tropical climate. The summer season lasts from October to May with temperatures averaging 27°C, while in the winter months temperature average 22°C. The topography of Mauritius makes the central plateau more humid and cooler that the other regions.
The Dutch were the first settlers on the island in 1598 and named it after their ruler, Prince Maurice Van Nassau. It was under the French Governor, Mahé de Labourdonnais , that Mauritius experienced its first development: a harbour was built at Port Louis, which became the capital of Mauritius. Port Louis being the safest harbour for vessels on their way to India, prompted the British to occupy the island in 1810. Indentured labourers were brought in, mainly from India to work in the sugar cane fields. Mauritius achieved independence on the 12 March 1968 and adopted a constitution based on the British Parliament system. On the 12 march 1992 Mauritius became a Republic and it continues to form part of the British Commonwealth.