About Mauritius island, Mark Twain said: “Mauritius was made first and then heaven, heaven being copied after Mauritius.” Just search “Mark Twain Mauritius quote” in your favorite search engine (I prefer StartPage and DuckDuckGo) and you’ll see it comes up a lot. Makes you interested in going there, right?
But I can’t just leave a good quote alone. I poke at it. They really said that? What did it mean when and where they said it? Did they say it, write it, or just get attributed with somebody else’s words. I know, what a buzz kill.
Twain traveled through the British Empire in 1895 and chronicled the journey in his 1897 Following the Equator. Here’s his entire Mauritius quote (from Chapter LXII, which is Chapter 62 for us non-Romans. I don’t have a page number since I looked this up in a page-numberless e-book on Project Gutenberg).
April 18. This is the only country in the world where the stranger is not asked “How do you like this place?” This is indeed a large distinction. Here the citizen does the talking about the country himself; the stranger is not asked to help. You get all sorts of information. From one citizen you gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius. Another one tells you that this is an exaggeration; that the two chief villages, Port Louis and Curepipe, fall short of heavenly perfection; that nobody lives in Port Louis except upon compulsion, and that Curepipe is the wettest and rainiest place in the world.
Maybe heaven was copied after Mauritius. Maybe not. How’s that for controversy in tropical paradise?
Briefly About Mauritius Island
Mauritius island lies about 800 kilometers (500 miles) east of Madagascar or about 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) from the southeast coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. The country of Mauritius includes the island Mauritius, the island Rodrigues, the twin islands of Agalega, and the archipelago of Cargados Carajos Shoais.
Mauritius island was formed by volcanic activity. The island is 65 kilometers (40 miles) long and 45 kilometers (28 miles) wide with a land area of 1,865 square kilometers (720 square miles). The Mauritian volcanoes are no longer active and form a broken ring of mountains around the island.
The island is graced with about 150 kilometers (93 miles) of white sandy beach. The world’s third largest coral reef surrounds the island protecting it from the open ocean.
The local climate is tropical and warm and dry from May to November and hot, wet, and humid from November to May. Cyclones season is generally November to April.
Mauritius island was visited by the Arabs and then the Portuguese but remained uninhabited until the Dutch established a colony in 1638. The Dutch abandoned the colony in 1710. Five years later, the French claimed Mauritius and ruled there until the British took the island from them by force in 1810. Mauritius gained independence from British rule in 1968.
There are about 1.3 million people in the country today. The people are ethnically diverse: 68% Indo-Mauritian, 27% Creole, 3% Sino-Mauritian, and 3% Franco-Mauritian. Languages spoken include Creole, Bhojpuri, French, and English. English, the official language, is spoken by less than 1% of the population.
Options for getting to Mauritius from Madagascar include flying Air Madagascar, Air Mauritius, or Air Austral. For me, flying Air Madagascar or Air Mauritius would first require a day traveling to Antananarivo. Air Austral flies from Toamasina where I live to Mauritius after a brief layover in Réunion Island. Easy choice. I’m flying Air Austral.
Getting there by boat is also an option. But this one has a lot of “ifs” like if a ferry is running this route this year (usually with a stop in Réunion), if a yacht or cargo ship is going that way, or if you had the time for the several days of travel each way. Intriguing option, maybe for another time.
As usual, I’m not making a detailed plan or itinerary as I prefer a general travel outline. October when I’m going is the start of the high tourist season . So I’m booking lodging ahead of time since I’d rather not get somewhere and find out there’s no place to stay. Yes, that’s happened and is not an enjoyable travel experience.
My travel planning sources for this trip include:
- Lonely Planet’s Mauritius, Réunion & Seychelles, e-book version,
- The Rough Guide to Mauritius, e-book version,
- Tourism Mauritius, the website of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority,
- Air Mauritius’ Destination Mauritius, website with several informative pages on culture, food, and things to see and do, and,
- Discover Mauritius, a gem of a blog.