1. Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 km (1,200 mi) off the southeast coast of the African continent.
2. It includes the main island of Mauritius and the Rodrigues, Agaléga, and Cargados Carajos Shoals (St. Brandon) islands, which are collectively called the Mascarene Islands. Mauritius also claims sovereignty over the disputed Chagos Islands.
3. The capital and largest city, Port Louis, is located on Mauritius island, where 40% of the population lives.
4. Major languages: Mauritian Creole, Bhojpuri, French, English
5. Major ethnic groups: Indo-Pakistani, Creole (descended from African slaves), Chinese, French
6. Major religions: Hinduism (49%), Christianity (33%), Islam (17%), Other (1%)
7. It gained independence from the United Kingdom in March 1968.
8. The national flag, adopted at independence, is known as the Four Bands. It consists of red, blue, yellow and green bands representing:
Red: the bloodshed at the time of slavery and colonization.
Blue: the Indian Ocean surrounding the island.
Yellow: the new light of independence and the bright future.
Green: the lush vegetation of the island.
9. It was the former home of the extinct dodo bird.
10. There are two UNESCO World Heritage sites, Aapravasi Ghat and Le Morne Cultural Landscape.
11. It has many world-famous public beaches including the whimsically-named Flic en Flac, Pereybere, Tamarin, Blue Bay, La Morne, Belle Mare, and Grand Bay.
12. The Seven Colored Earths is a popular tourist attraction. This geological formation of seven colors of sand spontaneously settles in different layers, giving the dunes a surrealistic, striped appearance.
13. Things to see and do include: the colonial capital of Port Louis, Champs de Mars (one of the oldest horseracing tracks in the world), Pamplemousses botanical gardens, the Blue Penny Museum (home to one of the world’s rarest stamps), the Black River Gorges National Park, and the Casela Wildlife Park.