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An island with a bizarre mountain landscape juts out of the smallest of the world's three oceans: Mauritius.
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Behind the wide plains with sugar-cane plantations and pineapple fields the island's "trademark" mountains rise up majestically. In the middle is the 800 m peak of Le Pouce, the "Thumb".
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It's not without good reason that the island is known as the "pearl" of the Indian Ocean.  Coral-white sands, turquoise lagoons, an enchanting underwater world and an incredible variety of scenery make Mauritius an unforgettable experience.
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The mountain peak of Pieter Both is another outstanding summit. The "balancing" rock is regarded as the capital's symbol.
The coloured earth of Chamarel in the south very near to a striking waterfall is a fascinating spectacle of nature. In the early-morning sun, the hills glow in shades of red, yellow and brown, sometimes even in blue. Different minerals are the reason for this extraordinary kaleidoscope of colours of the earth.
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Sun, air and water and lots of time turn the coral into white sand.
White as blossom, the surf foams gently round the black volcanic stone. Mauritius is an island of fascinating contrasts. The white sandy beach occupies a good half of the coastline that is covered in subtropical greenery. The heavenly coves for swimming in are almost completely surrounded by protective coral reefs.
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The numerous well-kept colonial villas, which can still be found today all over the island, recount the feudal life of the former plantation owners.
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There are splendid gardens all round the marvellous manor houses.
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Some of these villas are still privately owned but most of them are open to the public as historic museums or restaurants. In the west, the Eureka Creole Museum gives an interesting impression of the luxurious life of the former plantation owners.
The famous Pamplemousse Botanical Gardens are located in the north-west. A spacious estate from the island's colonial past can be found here too, Château Mon Plaisir which belonged to the former governor, Mahé. Under his rule, Pamplemousse was turned into a large vegetable garden, its produce meeting demand from the whole of Port Louis.
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These botanical gardens with 600 variety of plants from all over the world are one of the most species-rich tropical gardens on the earth. The Banyan tree and innumerable types of palms are at home here. Among them, the famous Tailipot Palm which only produces a single flower in 40 to 60 years and then dies.
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The large lily-pond is particularly impressive. In the middle of the enormous Victoria Regia leaves blooms the gorgeous Amazon lily.
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Along with strolling in the Botanical Gardens, horse racing is a popular leisure activity of the Mauritians. Famous races have been held at Champ de Mars since 1812. The remarkable Hippodrome is the oldest racecourse in the southern hemisphere.
The capital city of Port Louis lies to the south of Pamplemousse. This important seaport is a commercial centre with lots of fascinating contrasts. If you join in the hurry-scurry of this multi-racial city, you will be fascinated by the lively mood in-between modern skyscrapers, splendid colonial buildings, religious temples and Mauritian lifestyle.
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Hustle and bustle is prevalent on the modern promenade. Here you can enjoy an invigorating mixture of colonial elegance and the bustle of a large city.
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On the original waterfront, former warehouses today still recall Mauritius' colonial heritage.
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The port is an ideal starting-point for a long stroll through the town and a visit to covered market.
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In the town centre, the warehouses have been converted into posh shopping arcades. Pavement cafés, restaurants, designer shops, cinemas, clubs and even a casino can be found in this shopping and entertainment centre which branches out in all directions.
A colourful mixture of races from many cultures and with different creeds lives in Mauritius. If you count all religions together, then no fewer than 87 persuasions exist in Mauritius.
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The variety of confessions is also expressed in its architecture.
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The brilliant white Moslem mosque is reminiscent of Tales of the Arabian Nights. The colourful Hindu temple with numerous figures depicting Hindu gods is an example of the predominance of Hinduism.
Ganesha, the fat-bellied elephant god, is the son of Shiva and Parvati. Shiva symbolises the principle of protection and destruction and Parvati godly energy. Ganesha is regarded as the embodiment of wisdom. This trinity of gods is regarded as the ideal type of divine family.
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Mauritius' face has been marked by many peoples and nations. Among them the French, Dutch and British who set standards with their noble villas and first-rate luxury hotels.
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Most of the magnificent luxury villas are not within sight of their neighbours and blend harmoniously into the natural surroundings. Situated right on the beach, they have marvellous panoramic views. They are mostly embedded in extremely well-tended and spacious gardens with lush subtropical vegetation.
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The golf greens, too, are superior and exclusive. Leading architects have created championship courses on the island which are among of the most beautiful golf paradises in the world. Nestling in the coastal landscape, the courses offer golfers fantastic views of the countryside, the mountains and the ocean.
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Everyone can improve their handicap in excellent golf academies. Professional golf experts are there to support you in both word and deed. Bernhard Langer has designed a separate island golf course on the Ile aux Cerfs. Undulating over the island, the 7000-yard course is the longest in Mauritius.
There are a variety of large and small islands off the coast of Mauritius, which can conveniently be reached by shuttle. Right off the coast are Ile d'Ambre, Ilot Gabriel and Ile aux Cerfs, which are true paradises for swimmers, water-sports enthusiasts and sun worshippers.
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The island is ideal for divers too. The gardens of coral are a fascinating diving paradise. The off-shore coral reefs form a protective ring round the turquoise lagoon.
You can explore the beauty of the underwater world of Mauritius in a submarine too, in the "Blue Safari 600" for example. During its short dive to a depth of 50 m, you can discover lots of colourful sea creatures, coral reefs and even an ancient shipwreck.
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As always, nipping through the ocean spray in a motor-boat or skiing over the waves are a real pleasure. Most hotels provide them free of charge.
For those who love the surf and the ocean spray and foam, the south coast between Mahébourg and Le Souffleur is the best place to be. Here, the Indian Ocean produces tremendous waves for surfers.
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Those in the know sometimes venture right down to the southern side, to Blue Bay for instance. If you prefer to float in the air, then you can go hang-gliding, paragliding, parasailing or enjoy a bird's-eye view of the island from a helicopter.
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At the end of the day, calm is restored and the ocean becomes part of the gloriously colourful natural spectacle of the setting sun.
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The south-east coast is the ideal place for paragliding. Steady winds, high mountains and warm soil boost the thermal lift here.
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