Title: The Republic of Mauritius

Population: 1,386,129

Population Change: 0.17

National Average Age: 37

Urban Percentage: 41

Christian Population: 418,000

Christian Percentage: 32.2

Introduction: Mauritius an Indian Ocean island nation is known for its beaches lagoons and reefs. The mountainous interior includes Black River Gorges National Park with rainforests waterfalls hiking trails and wildlife like the flying fox. Capital Port Louis has sites such as the Champs de Mars horse track Eureka plantation house and 18th-century Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens.

Overview: Although known to Arab and Malay sailors as early as the 10th century Mauritius was first explored by the Portuguese in the 16th century and subsequently settled by the Dutch - who named it in honor of Prince Maurits van NASSAU - in the 17th century. The French assumed control in 1715 developing the island into an important naval base overseeing Indian Ocean trade and establishing a plantation economy of sugar cane. The British captured the island in 1810 during the Napoleonic Wars. Mauritius remained a strategically important British naval base and later an air station playing an important role during World War II for anti-submarine and convoy operations as well as the collection of signals intelligence. Independence from the UK was attained in 1968. A stable democracy with regular free elections and a positive human rights record the country has attracted considerable foreign investment and has one of Africa's highest per capita incomes.