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Mauritius (island of Maurice) is a sugar cane island, whose geologic beginnings are like Reunion. Both are part of the Mascarene Archipelago, which is all that remains of a land mass that once connected Asia and Africa. Years ago, Mauritius was home to the Do-Do bird, the large, flightless, friendly bird that has now become the symbol for extinction the world over. Following Portuguese, Dutch and French domination, Mauritius became British under the Treaty of Paris (1814) and by 1850, sugar was her King. Her present population reflects that sugar production heritage. Mauritians are descendents of the African slave workers; Indians, Chinese and Southeast Asians originally brought as indentured servants to work the sugar plantations after the abolition of slavery; and Creoles, descended from French colonists. Today Mauritius is independent, having become a republic in 1992. Hinduism is followed by 60% of the population, while 25% are Roman Catholics and 15% are Muslim. Minus our shoes, we visited the islandís most ancient Indian Temple, which featured myriads of brightly painted replicas of Hindu gods and sacred animals in the Tamil tradition (photos). (As only vegetarians can enter the inner-sanctuary for worship, we peered in from the sunny courtyard.) We also visited the shrine, built in the 1990s, for Fr. Jacques Laval, a Roman Catholic priest, who was beatified in 1979. We enjoyed a leisurely walk with a native guide through Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens in Port Louis to gain a deeper appreciation for the wide variety of exotic tropical flora that flourishes on Mauritius (photos). Historically, Mauritius suffered economic repercussions when the Suez Canal was opened in 1869 and she suddenly was no longer a major stopover on busy east-west trade routes. In the jittery world market of today, sugar is an uneasy staple commodity, and tourism is hoped to counteract her high unemployment rates. Fortunately, Mauritius is richly blessed with features that make her a touristís paradise, such as a warm breezy climate, lots of sparkling sugar sand beaches, a backdrop of Teton-like mountain peaks that reach into the clouds, an abundance of lush flowering tropical foliage, an international airport, elegant hotels and a friendly rainbow of races on the welcoming committee (photo).


Botanical Garden. Hibiscus Hindu Temple
Roof of Hindu Temple Lilly Pads, ala Mauritius Mauritious Harbor