What is the best time to visit Mauritius

01:00 Mon 30th Apr 2001 |

Asks katiek

A. The busiest time to visit is at Christmas and New Year when tourists from colder climates descend upon this island in the Indian Ocean. January-April is the hottest time of year, and the most unbearable, as it is just too hot to enjoy going out of doors. Ironically, it is also when the heaviest rains fall. The best time to visit is during the so-called winter, from July to September, when the rains cease and the humidity is bearable. Alternatively, the waters are at their clearest from December to March, so if you're into diving this would be the best time for you.

Q. What is there to do in Mauritius

A. Apart from enjoying the white sands, blue sea and palm trees there is a lot to do. Big attractions include the undersea walks at the Grand Baie reef or a ride La Nessee (named after Nessie the Loch Ness Monster perhaps ) a mini submarine that enables you to get a close up look at the reefs while remaining dry. Windsurfing and kayakingare very popular and equipment can be hired from most hotels.

If you visit between June and August you'll be able to enjoy good windsurfing. Diving around the west coast and snorkelling, daily boat trips to all the reefs are also good fun and not too expensive. Hiking and trekking through the interior of the island is possible, with the Black River Gorges National Park and the Reserve Forrestfire Macchable providing the bulk of the activity.

Q. Isn't Mauritius a great place for fishing

A. It has a vast array of fish - which is great if you're into snorkelling too - and deep sea fishing trips can be arranged if you're really into it. Just off the coast of Mauritius there are huge and healthy populations of marlin, bonita, yellowfin tuna, and wahoo, plus shark.

Q. Is the island very beach-centred, with little to do in the towns or cities

A. Most people go to Mauritius for a beach holiday, and enjoy some sporting activity while they are there. It's a big honeymoon destination and until recently it has been very expensive to travel there, although relatively cheap once you arrive. Although it is situated off the coast of East Africa, Mauritius is more influenced by its old British and French ties and its Indian workforce, than by the African mainland. It does have some town life, although these areas contain a relatively small proportion of the population.

Port Louis is the capital and during the day is like any other city with a commercial centre - lots of traffic and shops. A good place to get a natural feel of the city is the Port Louis Market in downtown, next to the Natural History Museum. By night all activity is centred around Le Caudan Waterfront, a new complex with shops, restaurants, casinos, cinemas and bars.

Places of historical and architectural interest include the Jummah Mosque, built in the 1850s, located in the middle of Chinatown, and Fort Adelaide - the only one of the four British forts that it is possible to tour.

The Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens in Pamplemousses were first planted in 1735, then beefed up by the French horticulturist Pierre Poivre in 1768 when he tried to grow spices on the island. After his death, the gardens were neglected until 1849 when James Duncan, a British horticulturist, took them over - his legacy remains today and the centre is famed for its palms.

Moka Town is one of the best places to visit on the island as it is surrounded by huge mountains and has some of the best views and old manor houses. It has a colonial feel, is the centre of academia and the Mahatma Gandhi Institute, founded to preserve and promote Mauritian Indian culture. It houses 2000 volumes of Indian archives dating from 1842, as well as old Indian jewellery, books and musical instruments.

Curepipe owes its size to the malaria epidemic of 1867 when inhabitants fled from Port Louis for higher ground. The majority of Franco-Mauritians live in and around this area. It is a popular place to shop.

Q. Does Mauritius celebrate any festivals and when are they

A. Many festivals are celebrated throughout the year, some of the most prolific are:

Maha Shivaratri - celebrated for three days in February and March, it is the largest and most important Hindu festival outside of India. Most of the island's Hindu population makes a pilgrimage in honour of Lord Shiva to the holy volcanic lake Grand Bassin.

Teemeedee - a Hindu and Tamil fire-walking ceremony held in honour of various gods, takes place in December and January.

Thaipoosam Cavadee - celebrated by Hindus in January or February at temples throughout the island. It is marked by processions carrying wooden arches covered in flowers and pots of milk, with devotees paying homage to the second son of Lord Shiva.

Pre Laval Feast Day - celebrated in September, this festival marks the anniversary of the Catholic convert-king's death, and pilgrims come from all over the world to his shrine at Ste-Croix to pray for miracle cures.

Q. I know Mauritius has a big French population, do they make up most of the people

A. The French (and British) influence on Mauritius is mainly from the colonial past, only 2% of the population today are Franco-Mauritian. The majority are Indo-Mauritian, who make up 68%, with 27% Creole. As a demonstration of its multicultural status English, Creole, Hindi, Urdu, Hakka, Bojpoori and French are spoken on the island. The majority of the population is Hindu (50%), Christians (30%) and Muslims (15%) make up the rest.

Q. Would I need a visa to visit

A. One month visas are issued on arrival if you have an onward or return ticket. Contact a Mauritian embassy for updated information before departure.

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By Karen Anderson

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