'Eden on the Equator,' A Rich Blend of Indian, European and African

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'Eden on the Equator,' A Rich Blend of Indian, European and African

About 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) off the east coast of Africa on the Indian Ocean is an island named Mauritius. Its white beaches, palm trees and turquoise sea may not be enough to distinguish it from resort islands in Southeast Asia or the Pacific Ocean. Mauritius, however, was selected last September as one of the top three island resorts in the world (together with Bali and the Maldives) by readers of Conde Nast Traveller, a British monthly magazine.

Mauritius was "discovered" in the late 16th century when the Dutch settled the island. In the early 18th century, the French took control of the island for about a century. The British then began colonizing the island, forcibly bringing in Indians and Africans to work in the sugar cane fields. Those Indians and Africans are the ancestors of most of today's natives of Mauritius, which became independent in 1968. The island became the Republic of Mauritius in 1992.

So why is Mauritius dubbed "Eden on the Equator"? To start with, its splendid natural environment, geographical seclusion, friendly local people and nearby coral reef, the third longest in the world. Mauritius also boasts a fascinating and exotic heritage. Through the series of colonizations by the Netherlands, France and Britain, Mauritius developed a unique mixture of African and European culture and tradition.

Unlike islands on the Pacific Ocean or in Southeast Asia, this wonderful island on the Indian Ocean is still relatively unknown to Koreans. Most visitors to the island are Europeans. Only about 70 Koreans visit the island every year.

As Mauritius is in the southern hemisphere, its climate is antipodal, with the wet season hitting between January and March. The island remains warm throughout the year with an average daily temperature of 25 degrees centigrade (75 Fahrenheit). It can feel cool on the beach, though, and sometimes even cold, due to the fresh trade winds. The temperature of the ocean is usually over 20 degrees centigrade, which feels much warmer than the temperature on the beach.

Mauritius is an ideal place for people to take time out from a busy city life. You can enjoy various water sports such as scuba diving, wind surfing and sailing, or you can just relax in the shade of a palm tree. When you get bored with relaxing on the beach, you can visit some of the island's interesting towns, such as its capital city, Port Louis, with its eye-catching European-style architecture and Muslim-style mosaics. Chinatown in Port Louis is also a main attraction of the island.

Mauritius has a population of 1.1 million, consisting of 68 percent Indo-Mauritians, 27 percent Creole, 3 percent Chinese (Sino-Mauritian) and 2 percent European (Franco-Mauritian). Most Mauritians are Hindu, Christian or Muslim, and the island's dominant tongue is English. For more information, visit Club Med's Web site at www.clubmed.com or call Club Med Korea at 02-3452-0123 or Air Mauritius at 02-753-8271.

by Ko Dae-hoon

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