Mauritius is an island country in the southwest Indian Ocean
about 870 kilometers east of Madagascar.
In addition to the main island of Mauritius with the capital Port Louis, Rodrigues, the Cargados-Carajos Islands and the Agalega Islands are also part of the national territory. The Chagos archipelago belonged to the national territory of Mauritius, but was spun off from the United Kingdom shortly before its foreseeable independence in 1965. After gaining independence in 1968, the country first became a monarchy with Elizabeth II as head of state within the Commonwealth and then a republic in 1992. The country has been a member of the African Union and the Commonwealth of Nations since independence. The political system is based on the British Westminster system.
Together with Réunion, the islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues belong to the Mascarene Islands.
The island of Mauritius is located in the Indian Ocean about 1800 km east of the African continent.
The island of Réunion, which belongs to France, is about 200 km to the west. The Seychelles are about 1,750 kilometers to the north. India is located about 4000 kilometers to the northeast.
Main island Mauritius: The state of Mauritius consists of two large and several smaller islands: The capital Port Louis is located on Mauritius itself, the largest island of the state.
Small islands off Mauritius: Large parts of the main island are surrounded by a reef, from which a few other small islands such as Amber Island rise. Also in close proximity to Mauritius are Gunner's Coin (Coin de Mire) (8 km off the north coast) and Round Island 22 km to the north-east.
Rodrigues: The second larger island is Rodrigues with around 40,000 inhabitants. It is around 600 km to the east at roughly the same latitude as the main island.
Cargados-Carajos Islands: The Cargados-Carajos Islands (also St. Brandon) are about 500 km northeast of Mauritius. This archipelago is approximately 100 km long and stretches from north to south.
Agalega Islands: The Agalega Islands are located more than 1000 km north of Mauritius and are about 650 km as the crow flies much closer to the Seychelles.
See also: List of islands of Mauritius
Mauritius is in the southern hemisphere. So the seasons are opposite to those in the northern hemisphere. Due to its location in the summer-humid tropics, the average temperature on the coast is around 23.3 °C and at high altitudes around 19.4 °C. The relative humidity fluctuates around 80%. Winter (June to October) is the driest and summer (December to April) the wettest season. The contrasts between the east and west coasts are striking: while the east coast is directly influenced by the SE trade winds, the west coast is well protected in the rain shadow (lee) of the mountains. Therefore, the east coast has about 2.5 times more precipitation (1960 mm per year) than the west coast (780 mm per year) over the course of the year. In addition, the west coast is slightly warmer than the east side on an annual average due to the lee effect (foehn).
An average of around 15 tropical storms are observed annually over the southwestern Indian Ocean (SW Indic), where Mauritius is located. The cyclone season in Mauritius lasts from November 15th to May 15th. Not every storm reaches the cyclone stage (wind speeds > 118 km/h), not every storm sweeps across the island. More often they brush against foothills with heavy clouds, increasing wind and high waves on the coast.
Mauritius is located on the African Plate and is of volcanic origin. Three volcanic phases are distinguished. An oldest phase began ten million years ago and ended five million years ago. A middle volcanic phase began 3.5 million years ago and ended 1.7 million years ago. A recent or current series began 700,000 years ago and extends to at least 20,000 years ago. The volcanism produced mainly basaltic lavas. Rodrigues Island is also made up of basaltic volcanic rocks that have been radiometrically estimated to be 1.54 million years old. On the southwest side of Rodriguez, the coral rubble rises to a height of 62 meters.
The highest mountain in Mauritius is the Piton de la Petite Rivière Noire at 828 m. It is located in the Black River district in the Black River mountain range. It is followed by the two peaks of Pieter Both (820 m) and Le Pouce (811 m) of the Moka-Port-Louis chain.
As is often the case on isolated islands, the fauna of Mauritius is not very species-rich, but has a high proportion of endemic species.
Before the arrival of man, there were no land mammals other than bats. These bats include the Mauritius grave bat, the Mascarene fruit bat (Pteropus niger) and the now extinct Lesser Mascarene fruit bat. Other species of bats and flying foxes are also native to the island. Because the Mascarene fruit bats damage the mango and lychee crops, the government decided in October 2015 to kill 20 percent of these fruit bats. Animal rights activists and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warned that this could lead the species to the brink of extinction.
Many animal species have been introduced by humans, including rats, mice, mongooses, the maned deer and the cynomolgus monkey.
There are also more than 100 bird species on Mauritius, in particular the endemic species are in some cases severely threatened or already extinct due to habitat changes and introduced mammals. The best-known bird is the dodo (Raphus cucullatus), which is also represented in the island's coat of arms and was extinct around 1690. Other endemic species include the Mascarene spectacled bird, Mauritius falcon, Mauritius parakeet and pink dove. The Mauritius gray parakeet, the Mauritius goose, the Mauritius night heron, the Mauritius parrot, the Mauritius rail and the Mauritius duck are already extinct. Among other things, the shepherd's maina, the red-eared bulbul and the sparrow pigeon were introduced.
As on many islands of the western Indian Ocean, there were also giant tortoises (Cylindraspis genus) on Mauritius; but they were exterminated around 1800. The other reptiles include mainly geckos (including Günther's day gecko and ornament day gecko) and skinks such as the Telfair skink. The rare round island boa is endemic to the small northern island from which it is named.
At the end of August 2020, 18 broad-beaked dolphins died on the beaches of Mauritius, which caused a lot of media coverage due to the oil spill caused by the Wakashio accident that had occurred shortly before. A connection with the catastrophe has not yet been proven.
Of the 670 species of flowering plants, about half are endemic. Large parts of the island were originally covered by tropical rainforest. The endemic mallow Trochetia boutoniana is considered the national flower.
National parks, nature reserves, Ramsar areas
On the main island of Mauritius (as of 2020) there are two larger national parks, and 8 neighboring islands have been declared an island national park (Islet National Park):
Black River Gorges National Park, since June 15, 1994
Bras D'Eau National Park, since October 25, 2011
Île D'Ambre (128 hectares)
Ile aux Flamants (0.8 hectares)
Ile aux Fouquets (2.49 hectares)
Ile aux Fous (0.3 hectares)
Ile aux Oiseaux (0.7 hectares)
Ilot Vacoas (1.36 hectares)
Pigeon Rock (0.63 hectares)
Rocher aux Oiseaux (0.1 hectares)
Another 7 islands are designated as nature reserves:
Serpent Island (31.66 hectares)
Round Island (168.84 hectares)
Flat Island (253.26 hectares)
Gabriel Island (42.21 hectares)
Gunner's Coin (76 hectares)
Ilot Mariannes (4.05 hectares)
Ile aux Aigrettes (26 hectares)
On the national territory of Mauritius, three areas are currently (2022) defined according to the Convention on Wetlands, in particular as habitat for waterfowl and waders, of international importance (Ramsar Convention):
Rivulet Terre Rouge Estuary Bird Sanctuary (RTREBS), since September 30, 2001
Blue Bay Marine Park (BBMP), since January 31, 2008
Pointe d'Esny, since September 16, 2011
In 2021, 41 percent of Mauritius residents lived in cities. The largest cities are (as of July 1, 2016):
Port Louis: 148,870 inhabitants
Vacoas-Phoenix: 106,253 inhabitants
Beau Bassin-Rose Hill: Population 104,544
Curepipe: 79,001 inhabitants
Quatre Bornes: 77,492 inhabitants