Port Louis Commonwealth Walkway

Mauritius / Africa

Mauritius is a sub-tropical island nation in the Indian Ocean, surrounded by coral reefs and with sandy beaches rising sharply to rocky mountains.  It is part of the Mascarene Islands and about 2,000 kilometres off the southeast coast of Africa. The outlying territories are Rodrigues and nearby Réunion.  The country spans 2,040 square kilometres and has an exclusive economic zone covering 2.3 million square kilometres. Arab sailors were the first to discover the uninhabited island, in around 975, and they called it Dina Arobi.  The earliest confirmed discovery was by Portuguese sailors in 1507. The Dutch took possession of it in 1598, establishing a succession of short-lived settlements over a period of about 120 years before abandoning their efforts in 1710.  France took control in 1715, renaming it Ile de France. In 1810 the island was seized by Great Britain and four years later France ceded Mauritius and its dependencies to Britain.  As a British colony, Mauritius included Rodrigues, Agaléga, St. Brandon, Tromelin, the Chagos Archipelago, and until 1906 Seychelles.  Mauritius remained a primarily plantation-based colony of the United Kingdom until its independence in 1968.  100,000 people witnessed the ceremony, which was presided over by the Governor, Sir John Shaw Rennie, GCMG (1917-2002), alongside the Prime Minister, Dr Hon Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam (1900-85), a later Governor-General.   Owing to its geographic location and centuries of colonialism, the people of Mauritius are highly diverse in ethnicity, culture, language, and faith. It is the only country in Africa where Hinduism is the most practised religion.  The island's government is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system, and Mauritius is noted for its democracy and for economic and political freedom.  Mauritius is the only African country to be in the ‘very high’ category on the Human Development Index.  According to the World Bank, the country is classified as a high-income economy.  The government provides free universal healthcare, free education up through the tertiary level and free public transportation for students, senior citizens, and the disabled.  In 2019, Mauritius was ranked the most peaceful African country by the Global Peace Index. Along with the other Mascarene Islands, Mauritius is known for its varied flora and fauna. Many species are endemic to the island.  Fun fact:  The island was the only known home of the dodo, which along with several other avian species was made extinct around 1680 by human activities relatively soon after the island's settlement.  Port Louis: Port Louis is the capital and largest city in Mauritius and most of the population is concentrated there. It is mainly located in the Port Louis District.  However, it also runs into the Black River District.  It acts as the centre for the country’s economic, cultural, and political activities.  It is administered by the Municipal City Council of Port Louis.  It was named after King Louis XV of France (1710-74). Port Louis was used as a harbour by the Dutch settlers in 1606, who referred to the area as Harbour of Tortoises.  In 1736, under the French government, it became the administrative centre of Mauritius and a major reprovisioning point of call for French ships during their passage between Asia and Europe, around the Cape of Good Hope.  The French governor at that time, Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais (1699-1753), contributed to the development of the city.  Since Port Louis was relatively well-protected from strong winds during cyclones by the Moka Mountain Range, it was selected to house both the main harbour and fort for the island.  The value of this continued during the British occupation at the time of the Napoleonic Wars (1800–15) and helped Britain control the Indian Ocean.  However, with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, this greatly diminished.  Modernisation of the port in the late 1970s helped Port Louis maintain its role as the central point for all imports and exports from Mauritius. 

3.1 miles / 5 kilometres

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