Mauritius, officially the Republic of Mauritius (French: République de Maurice), is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) off the southeast coast of the African continent. The country includes the islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues, 560 kilometres (350 mi) east of Mauritius, and the outer islands (Agaléga, St. Brandon and two disputed territories). The islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues form part of the Mascarene Islands, along with nearby Réunion, a French overseas department. The area of the country is 2,040 km2 (790 sq mi). The capital and largest city is Port Louis.
The people of Mauritius are multiethnic, multi-religious, multicultural and multilingual. The island’s government is closely modeled on the Westminster parliamentary system, and Mauritius is highly ranked for democracy and for economic and political freedom.
The island is surrounded by more than 150 km (100 mi) of white sandy beaches, and the lagoons are protected from the open sea by the world’s third-largest coral reef, which surrounds the island.
The island of Mauritius is relatively young geologically, having been created by volcanic activity some 8 million years ago. Together with Saint Brandon, Réunion, and Rodrigues, the island is part of the Mascarene Islands. These islands have emerged as a result of gigantic underwater volcanic eruptions that happened thousands of kilometers to the east of the continental block made up of Africa and Madagascar. They are no longer volcanically active and the hotspot now rests under Réunion Island.
After the Lancaster Conference of 1965 where Britain made it clear it wanted to relieve itself of the Mauritius, the Chagos Archipelago was excised from the territory of Mauritius to form the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). A general election took place on 7 August 1967, and the Labour Party and its two allies obtained the majority of seats. Mauritius adopted a new constitution and independence was proclaimed on 12 March 1968.
On 12 March 1992, twenty-four years after independence, Mauritius was proclaimed a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations.
The last Governor General, Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo became the first President. This was under a transitional arrangement, in which he was replaced by Cassam Uteem later that year. Political power remained with the Prime Minister.
According to the 2011 census conducted by Statistics Mauritius, Hinduism is the majority religion at 51.9%, followed by Christianity (31.4%), Islam (15.3%) and Buddhism (0.4%). Those of other religions accounted for 0.2% of the population, and 0.7% reported themselves as non-religious and 0.1% did not answer. Mauritius is the only country in Africa to have a Hindu majority.
Since independence from Britain in 1968, Mauritius has developed from a low-income, agriculture-based economy to a middle-income diversified economy, based on tourism, textiles, sugar, and financial services.
Mauritius is a major tourist destination, ranking 3rd in the region and 56th globally. It enjoys a tropical climate with clear warm sea waters, beaches, tropical fauna and flora complemented by a multi-ethnic and cultural population. Mauritius received the World’s Leading Island Destination award for the third time and World’s Best Beach at the World Travel Awards in January 2012.
Tourism in Mauritius is an important component of the Mauritian economy as well as a significant source of its foreign exchange revenues. The tourism industry is also a major economic pillar on the island of Rodrigues, however tourism has not been developed in Agaléga Islands. Mauritius is mostly appreciated by tourist for its natural beauty and man-made attractions, multi-ethnic and cultural diversity of the population, tropical climate, beautiful beaches and water sports.
Tourists can now climb the Le Morne Brabant Mountain, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site