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TWELVE GOOD REASONS FOR VISITING MAURITIUS
By Helen C. Broadus

A visit to Mauritius will linger in your memory as an unusual mixture of scenes and experiences taken up here and there along the roads leading past verdant mountains and spectacular beaches. It will be a heterogeneous blend of island mystery and brightly transparent lagoons, the exuberant Creole character encountered in the marketplace, the astonishing variety of deep-sea fauna, mysterious primeval forest with exotic fragrances, the delicious combinations found in Mauritian cooking, the excitement of water sports, and the charm of an incomparable hotel industry. Listed below are twelve good reasons for visiting the fantastic island paradise of Mauritius:

#1. Minimal Time Difference. Local time is GMT plus four hours. Mauritius is well served by a number of international airlines. Air Mauritius has weekly flights to and from many European cities as well as from several major African cities including Antananarivo, Madagascar; Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, South Africa; Maputo, Mozambique; Harare, Zimbabwe; and Nairobi, Kenya. In addition, there are weekly flights to and from Bombay, Delhi, Chennai, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne, Perth and Singapore. British Airways, Air France, Singapore Airlines, and South African Airways all operate weekly flights. A prime tourism destination, Mauritius is only six hours from New York to London or Paris and another twelve hours from Europe and about four and one half hours from Johannesburg, South Africa.

Mauritius
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12 reasons to visit
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Helen Broadus
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Botswana
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#2. No Vaccinations Required. An international vaccination certificate against Yellow Fever is required. While there is a small risk of contracting Malaria, it is exclusively the benign form (phalcipirum vivax) that exists throughout the year in some remote areas.

#3. Many Fast and Convenient Flights with Air Mauritius, the National Carrier with Outstanding Service. In 2002, Air Mauritius' network covers a total of 150,000 km and includes twenty-eight destinations on four continents. Such a success is no mere coincidence: in less than twenty years Air Mauritius' highly qualified personnel, reliability and punctuality, as well as almost legendary in-flight service have made it an international company whose standards are often higher than those of larger airlines. Air Mauritius offers impeccable in-flight services in all classes and has the professional competence to handle even the largest groups, but is flexible enough to accommodate the most exacting demands. Always mindful that you have a choice, it's an airline whose people are keen to provide the vary best in personal service. Most flights are night flights and non-stop. In addition, Air Mauritius offers extra convenient schedules with early arrivals in Mauritius and late departures from Mauritius which gives the traveler more holiday time on the island. Air Mauritius' motto "World Class Airline" says it all.

#4. Fascinating Cultural Diversity Where You Can See Faces From All Over the World. Indeed, the rich cultural diversity of the people has become the island's pride: its Indian, Chinese, Creole, African, European and Malagasy populations live together in perfect harmony, respecting one another's traditions and remaining true to their own. Mauritius holds a sweet surprise for those who have come only to see its incomparable lagoons and glorious beaches: the incredible ethnic and cultural diversity of its population, whose ancestors have come from all over Europe, Africa, Asia and the Madagascar. They all brought with them their own customs, language, and religion, which they have kept alive.

In fact, the main religions of the world have left their mark on Mauritius and a remarkable number of religious festivals are celebrated on the island. Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism are the most practiced religions. All year long, cultural and religious festivals are celebrated in peace and harmony in Mauritius. At Teemeedee in December and January, Hindus honor their gods with fire-walking ceremonies. During Thaipoosam Cavadee in January or February, Tamils trek to the temple with a flower-covered arch suspending a pot of milk at each end to offer to the deities. Firecrackers ward off evil spirits during the Chinese New Year's Day dragon parades in January of February. At Maha Shivaratree in February, white-clad Hindu devotees make a pilgrimage to Grand Bassin, carrying wooden arches (called a Kanwar) covered with flowers to fetch holy water from the lake. The whole festival is reminiscent of the great rituals on the banks of the Holy Ganges in India. At Holi, a Hindu festival held in February or March, revelers squirt colored water and powder on each other. It is a time for rejoicing and exchanging greetings. Id-El-Fitr is celebrated to mark the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting and prayers are offered at mosques during the day. In September people of all faiths flock to the shrine of Father Jacques Desire Laval to experience the miraculous healing powers attributed to this Catholic saint. Divali, the most jovial of all Hindu festivals occurs in October and November when clay oil lamps are lit at homes all over the island.

Moreover, the people of Mauritius all share a common identity centered around the Creole language, an active literary scene, and the national dance, the Sega. The Sega is the Mauritian dance par excellence. Its roots go back to Africa, to the first slaves imported to the island in the seventeenth century. Today, it constitutes a vital ingredient of the Mauritian culture. Nobody can possibly resist its pulsating rhythm and carefully produced setting where the women, dressed in rainbow-colored skirts, entice their partners by seductively offering themselves while staying ambiguous at the same time. The shuffling, hip swaying dance and Creole lyrics are an integral part of the music. An amazing sight you might encounter in a seaside village or high up in the southwest. Your hotel might even organize such an event to your enjoyment on the beach at nightfall.

#5. The Most Beautiful Beaches in the World Set Against a Breathtaking Landscape. The glorious beaches have been attracting travelers since the sixteenth century. Mauritius is embraced by a spectacular coral reef which transforms the mighty Indian Ocean into coastal lagoons as calm as a baby's bath, laced with golden, powder-soft coral beaches, fringed with exotic coconut palms and casuarinas. These lagoon waters are a blend of exotic shades of blue, green, turquoise and indigo and astonishingly translucent. The protecting reef sustains the delicious warmth of the waters, preserves their calm, and keeps the little fish in and the big fish out. It makes Mauritius one of the few places on earth where you can indulge whichever water sport you fancy, or simply swim and sunbathe all year round. The spectacular beaches of Mauritius are among the most treasured and unsurpassed anywhere else in the world for their quality or beauty.

It should be noted however that Mauritius is an island of contrasts and there is much more to the country than lovely beaches and enchanting lagoons. The interior of the country is strewn with natural and architectural treasures. Mauritius also has rare plant and animal species and majestic mountains and forested areas creating an ecological wonderland full of pleasurable experiences.

#6. The Mauritians are a Friendly, Hospitable People. Mauritius believes that the magical ingredient that makes the island nation's destination stand out from all of the rest is the refinement and courtesy of its people which many a foreign visitor will recall with great fondness. The lush tropical setting, the gracious hospitality of its people, the variety of charming customs, the gentle community of various religions, the ease of official arrangements, all combine to make Mauritius an ideal setting for an unforgettably pleasurable tourism experience.

#7. Hotels Offering Incomparable Value for Money. The quality of the hotel accommodations, from the simplest to the most luxurious, are maintained at a very high standard of excellence in order to preserve Mauritius' reputation as an exclusive destination. Many of the hotels (from world-class to small and medium-sized) located at fashionable seaside resorts have excellent facilities to satisfy the utmost expectations of honeymooners, sports enthusiasts as well as those on family vacation or business travel. Modern amenities include spacious guest rooms, private bathroom equipped with a shower and separate toilet, air-conditioning, in-room safe box, telephone and internet services, on-site restaurants, mini-clubs, casinos, room service, beauty salons, massage and sauna services, and duty-free boutiques. In addition, there are golf courses, car hire services and a multitude of water recreational activities as well as nearby island excursions to consider. Most major hotels also have fully-equipped conference centers, secretarial services and business centers.

#8. Outstanding Cuisine. Enjoy the best of Mauritian cuisine in the enchanting atmosphere and spectacular views offered by the island's various gourmet restaurants. Mauritian cuisine reflects the culture of the island which, based on its cosmopolitan and heterogeneous composition, automatically implies a gastronomical around-the-world tour. Practically everywhere on Mauritius, a warm welcome and delicious foods are guaranteed. Nevertheless, Mauritius has its own typical cuisine with its unique synthesis of several culinary traditions. The tropical climate made the first European settlers adapt their cooking habits to suit the local ingredients. This was further developed after the arrivals of Africans and especially of Indians, who specialize in the use of exotic spices. In later years, Chinese immigrants added a new dimension to the Mauritian cuisine.

With the Indian Ocean overflowing with tropical fish, exotic sea foods are commonplace. You can dine on freshly-harvested oysters, shrimps, crayfish, crabs or the giant local prawns, usually served with "sauces rouge" and accompanied by the "Coeur de Palmiste", the heart of a seven-year-old palm, also known as the "millionaire's salad". Carnivorous types can feast on venison, hare and wild boar. All dishes are generally accompanied by rice, homemade chutneys and achards (pickled fruits or vegetables preserved in vinegar and sometimes by marinated lime spiced with mustard seeds and chilies). The traditional fare, which is both exquisite and refreshing, is a salad of palm centers, tastefully accompanied by delicacies such as smoked marlin.

Something to remember is that it is the Indian Ocean and fantastic tropical climate that lends Mauritian cooking its particular character. The markets and hotel tables display mountains of fruit: pawpaws, watermelons, pineapples, bananas, guavas, passion fruits, bigarades, lemons, lychees, mangoes, papayas, litchis, jack-fruits, avocados, pears, custard apples, corrosols and longanes. And to quench your thirst, you can call on the full range of wines and spirits as well as exotic tropical cocktails. Also try the world famous Mauritian white rum with coconut water and ice. Another favorite is an ice-cold glass of the international award winning Mauritius beer.

#9. An All-Year-Round Holiday Destination. Mauritius is an all-year round destination. The warm season extends from November to April with temperatures as high as 95oF. The weather gets a little cooler from May to September with an average of 75oF during the day. The water temperature never goes below 22oC. The rainy season is from January through March and there is a slight risk of cyclones from November through February. Sea, mountains and forests together create an irresistible holiday combination.

#10. A Wide Range of Sports: Water Sports, Golf, Tennis, Horseback-Riding, etcetera. Mauritius is the ideal place for water sports to include water skiing, para-sailing, wind surfing, snorkeling, deep-sea or lagoon diving, game fishing, surfing or sailing. Most hotels offer lessons, at reasonable prices, in water skiing, wind surfing and snorkeling. The fascinating underwater landscapes and variety of tropical fish and sea plants around the island can rival those of any other spot on earth. Mauritius is also a world champion destination for deep-sea fishing, thanks to the quality of equipment provided as well as to the size and variety of the catch.

#11. Interesting and Varied Shopping Opportunities. The island's reputation as a shoppers paradise is evidenced by the diversity and quality of shopping opportunities. The marketplaces offer a unique experience full of colored saris, smiling faces, and high spirits contributing to the show of large baskets of vegetables, handicrafts, and carefully laid out exotic fruits. Also not to be missed are the stalls selling herbs and spices designed to cure every illness under the sun. Many boutiques and supermarkets are in the major tourist resort areas. The larger hotels also have their own duty-free boutiques and sometimes their own accessories and clothing lines. Worthwhile buys are duty-free jewelry and handicrafts. In addition, there are many opportunities to shop for models of ancient seafaring ships as well as Chinese, Indian, and European shops selling ivory and wooden objects, jade, porcelain, embroidery, and saris. Consider buying your winter clothes in Mauritius, where the textile industry sets the latest fashions. Also there are excellent restaurants to enjoy the diversity of Mauritian cuisine when you have completed your daily shopping excursion.

#12. Mauritius' Unique Concept of Tourism. People come to Mauritius to see this extraordinary mixture of natural landscapes as diverse as the cultural landscape. With that being the case, the Mauritian people cannot be excluded from the tourism industry. Mauritius is a tropical getaway with miles of sun-drenched beaches, coral reefs, colorful markets, and fabulously elegant resorts. Exotic, exquisite, romantic and very affordable are all qualities that describe Mauritius as the ideal tropical island. Most importantly, Mauritius has all of the exoticism of the most exotic resorts, but none of their scars (i.e. &endash; no high-rise, no concrete jungles, no charter flights, no mass tourism, no social or environmental pollution). Only virgin beaches embraced by coral reefs, translucent sea lagoons, weird and wonderful landscapes, chic hotels, sophisticated cuisine, charming, cosmopolitan people and civilized politics. No wonder Mark Twain was moved to exclaim that "God modeled heaven on Mauritius". And to make the visit even more memorable, the friendly people of Mauritius are ready to welcome you with their customs, cuisine, festivals and music. The ultimate goal of the Ministry of Tourism of Mauritius is to encourage the locals to serve not only as workers in the hotels but also as hosts in their own homes and villages.

In conclusion, according to Dr. A. Karl Mootoosamy, Director of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA), "Hospitality is our way of life. Mauritius will enchant you, will uplift your soul, and make you feel amongst the chosen few. Every visitor enjoys personal attention. Every encounter is an occasion to discover a friendly face. Behind every smile lies the promise of a unique holiday. Notwithstanding the contrast of a multitude of colors and tastes, the island, set in its turquoise sea, is a haven of peace and tranquility. Mauritius, that crucible where the past and the present have learned to meld so smoothly into each other, carries an inherent beauty that will make you want to come back to its shores time and time again. May your stay with us remain forever engraved in your memory."

Special Note: The legendary Dodo Bird was a unique indigenous species to Mauritius. Too friendly to attack its predators and too clumsy to flee it fell prey to the greed of the first Portuguese and Dutch visitors who came to the island. This odd-looking fifty pound proboscis-challenged pigeon with its potbelly and mismatched plumage, whose fate became synonymous with extinction, was unfortunately exterminated within a few decades. The only dodos left are those reconstructed in museums, yet the bird is still alive in our imaginations, providing material for countless legends.

About the author: Helen C. Broadus is the President of Venue International Professionals, Inc. (VIP) &endash; a full service travel, tourism and trade-related consulting firm based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area that specializes on the Continent of Africa. She is the Executive Secretary of the International Board of Directors of the Africa Travel Association (ATA) and a former president of the ATA's Mid-Atlantic Region. In 1997, she earned the coveted Founder's Award from the ATA for her outstanding contributions towards the continued promotion of travel and tourism opportunities to the Continent of Africa. In 1999, she earned the prestigious Intercontinental Hotel Group's Award for significant contributions to the promotion of travel and tourism opportunities to West Africa. It should be noted that VIP was one of the first small business enterprise to receive this special recognition. She is also a regular contributing writer to the Africa Travel Association's Website, Africa Travel Magazine and Black Meetings and Tourism Magazine. For more information about her company, please write her an e-mail at vipinc@erols.com and visit VIP's website at www.venuetravel.com.

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