Floating peacefully in the Indian Ocean, 1240 miles off the south-eastern coast of Africa is Mauritius, a beautiful, volcanic and mountainous island. The island-state stands on what was once a land bridge between Asia and Africa called the Mascarene Archipelago. From the coast, the land rises to form a broad fertile plain on which sugar cane flourishes as well as other fascinating flora and fauna. Mauritius truly is a tropical paradise designed for pure relaxation. Lounging in the sun, taking advantage of the water sports available and swimming in aquamarine lagoons top any Mauritian agenda.

Similar to Madagascar and the Seychelles, the flora and fauna of Mauritius is out of this world. With over 900 plant species, many of them indigenous to Mauritius, botanists would have a field day here. The fauna is equally as spectacular, however, in recent years, due to a lack of conservation efforts and sustainable development, many animal and bird species have disappeared.

Perhaps the jewel of Mauritius is the water surrounding it, housing a kaleidoscope of outstanding marine life. Surrounded by coral reef, Mauritius has become an admired diving spot. The west coast around Flic en Flac is perhaps the best area for snorkelling and diving, especially since it's home to the famous underwater Cathedral Cave. Diving isn't the only activity made popular by the fertile waters; deep-sea fishing is topping the charts as a favourite water activity around the island as well as surfing and under water sea walks. Of course, if you don't want to get your feet wet, explore the drier side of Mauritius - check out some of the wonderful walks or cycling routes around the island.

Although most of Mauritius is made up primarily of beach resorts and small villages, Port Louis , the country's capital, resembles a displaced city on a tiny island. Port Louis can easily be described as the centre of action. It is a far cry from the secluded beaches scattered on the fringes of the island. The city, discovered by a French Governor, holds evidence of the French colonial days, best illustrated in it's architecture, especially around Place d'Armes, off the main square.

Port Louis is no doubt the commercial centre of the country but also carries a certain charm with it's waterfront cafes, beautiful mosques and cathedrals plus the intriguing Chinese Pagoda teeming with Chinese astrologers. Finally, a must-see if visiting Port Louis is a stroll through the bustling market. Open daily (except for Sunday); the Port Louis Market is alive with everything under the sun from potent aphrodisiacs to smelly ol'chicken feet. If wishing to make a purchase, be prepared to drive a hard bargain. Market vendors are all but ready to rip off the unassuming tourist.

So whether you decide to crash out on one of the islands many dazzling beaches, explore the underwater world or discover the islands cultural mix, you will soon learn that there is something for everyone in Mauritius.

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