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Mauritius History

  • Dodo vintage engraving
  • Map of Mauritius, during the 1890s

It is believed that the Arabs were the first to discover Mauritius back in the 9th century AD. They named the island Dina Arobi. From that point to when the Portuguese arrived at the beginning of the 16th century, the island was only known by pirates and buccaneers who spent their time out in the Indian Ocean. In fact, records state that the Portuguese said the island was uninhabited when they arrived. The first actual attempt at settlement came in the form of the Dutch.

The Dutch arrived in 1638 and named the island Prince Maurice de Nassau. Despite two attempts at colonisation from 1638-1657 and again in 1664-1710, the Dutch were unsuccessful and eventually left the island to pirates. The French East India Company laid claim to Mauritius in 1715, renaming it Île de France and began to expand the sugar trade. Slaves were brought from East Africa and from Madagascar to work on the plantations. In 1721, Governor Bertrand François Mahé de La Bourdonnais founded Port Louis which would become the capital. The island quickly became a prosperous colony because of its location in the Indian Ocean which allowed it to be a port of call when travelling from Europe to the Far East around the Cape of Good Hope.

Things began to change at the beginning of the 17th century when Mauritius was captured by the British in 1810. Four years later, British possession was solidified with the Treaty of Paris which ensured that certain French aspects of life were to be maintained. To this day, French is spoken more than English. The British changed the name of the island back to Mauritius. In 1835 the British abolished slavery and as a result, the newly freed slaves refused to work on sugar plantations. To accommodate the need for workers, indentured labourers from India were brought over. It is estimated that between 1835 and the First World War, approximately half a million labourers were brought to Mauritius.

Tensions began to rise between the Indian population who were mostly sugar cane workers, and the Franco-Mauritian population in the 1920s. This led to fighting and many deaths, most of which were Indians. The Mauritius Labour Party was born out of this tension in 1936 to safeguard the interest of labourers. By 1947, elections were held for the newly created Legislative Assembly. These elections were the first steps towards self-rule and were won by the Labour Party marking the first time a Francophone was not in power.

The independence movement really started to gain traction in 1961 and was finally gained in 1968. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam became the first Prime Minister. Ramgoolam was awarded the United Nations Prize for the defence of Human Rights in 1973 for his handling of ethnic tensions between Muslims and Creoles on the island. By 1991 the Constitution was amended to make Mauritius a republic within the British Commonwealth which came into effect on 12 March 1992.

Since independence, Mauritius has become a true African success story by maintaining a stable democracy and its commitment to human rights. The past 30 years have witnessed significant growth in the economy from being fueled by agriculture to expanding, becoming much more diversified. This expansion is in part due to the development of luxury tourism. Today, this island nation is a popular destination for tourists looking for more than the average tropical island. Originally seen as a stopover en route to Africa, thanks to its natural beauty, cultural diversity and interesting attractions, Mauritius is truly coming into its own as a luxury travel destination.



Mauritius Travel Information

At Goway we believe that a well-informed traveller is a safer traveller. With this in mind, we have compiled an easy-to-navigate travel information section dedicated to Mauritius.

Learn about the history and culture of Mauritius, the must-try food and drink, and what to pack in your suitcase. Read about Mauritius's nature and wildlife, weather and geography, along with 'Country Quickfacts' compiled by our travel experts. Our globetrotting tips, as well as our visa and health information, will help ensure you're properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable trip. The only way you could possibly learn more is by embarking on your journey and discovering Mauritius for yourself. Start exploring… book one of our Mauritius vacations today!


Extend Your Trip

After your Mauritius vacationwhy not consider one of Goway's Europe tours



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AfricaExperts and Idyllic Islands are the exclusive divisions of Goway that specializes in planning and organizing Mauritius vacations and experiences. Choose from a romantic island stay, a stay of distinction, a beach holiday, an air and land getaway and much more. We want to be your first choice when next you go globetrotting to Mauritius.

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