The island of Mauritius lies about 800 kilometers east of Madagascar between longitudes 57 18' and 57 49' east, and latitudes 19 59' and 20 32' south. Pearl-shaped, it is sixty-one kilometers long and forty-six kilometers wide at the extremes and has a total land area of some 1,865 square kilometers--about the size of Rhode Island. Mauritian territory also incorporates the island of Rodrigues, some 600 kilometers to the east, which is 119 square kilometers in area. Two tiny dependencies to the north of Mauritius, the Agalega Islands and the Cargados Carajos Shoals (also known as the St. Brandon Rocks), are unpopulated.
Mauritius and Rodrigues are part of the Mascarene Islands, a chain of volcanic islands that include Reunion, the nation's nearest neighbor at 145 kilometers to the southwest and governed as an overseas territory (département) of France. The islands are perched on submarine ridges, including the Mascarene Plateau that runs for some 3,000 kilometers in an arc bowed outward from the African mainland, and the Rodrigues Fracture Zone that ripples eastward and connects this underwater plateau with the massive Mid-Indian Ridge.
Mauritius is relatively young geologically, having been created by volcanic activity some 12 million years ago. There has been no active volcano on the island for more than 100,000 years. The island consists of a broken ring of mountain ranges, some 600 to 800 meters above sea level, encircling a central tableland that slopes from a level of 300 meters in the north to 600 meters in the southwest. The mountains are surrounded by low-lying, sometimes hilly, coastal plains, except in the southwest where the drop-off is precipitous. The mountains are steepest toward the center of the island and are probably the tips of the eroded original shield volcano. The sea has built up a ring of coral reefs around most of the 160 kilometers of coastline, which form many shallow lagoons, white coral sand beaches, and dunes. Two of the best harbors are Port Louis and Mahebourg. Politically, the island is divided into eight administrative divisions called districts and one municipality where the capital, Port Louis, is located.
Rivers and streams dot the island; many of them are formed in the crevices between land created by new and old lava flows. Drainage radiates from the central tableland to the sea, and many rivers are steeply graded with rapids and falls. Torrential flows are common during storms and cyclones. Marshes and ponds lie in the tableland and on the coastal plain, but the country has only two natural lakes, both crater lakes. The largest of several manmade reservoirs is the Mare aux Vacoas.
Sign up to our newsletter to receive directly on your email our news & latest offers:
Success!Congratulation, you successfully subscribe