Destination Golf Asia 2019 * - Page 49

Measuring 65km long by 45km wide, Mauritius is just a speck in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Yet this tiny, beguiling tropical island enchants all who visit, from the 160km of beautiful beaches and sheltered azure lagoons protected by the world’s third-largest coral reef to its verdant landscapes dominated by strikingly craggy mountains, the high-quality hotels, the friendliness of its people and a rich culture born from a fascinating history. and is the main language of Parliament, French is used in education, in newspapers and on TV, and a mix of the two is used for administration and in courts, while Mauritian Creole, based on French, is the lingua franca for most of its 1.3 million inhabitants. I  f visitors think it is paradise on earth, so do the locals. On his visit there in the 1890s, author Mark Twain observed: “From one citizen you gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius.” Discovered by the Arabs, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to land there, establishing a base on the island. It was then settled but later abandoned by the Dutch – who stripped it of its ebony forests and were responsible for exterminating the dodo after introducing rats and other alien species – colonised by the French, who brought in slaves from Africa and Madagascar to work new sugar cane plantations, and conquered by the British, who abolished slavery and brought in waves of immigrants from India and, to a lesser degree, China to replace freed slaves as workers in the fields. Mauritius finally gained its independence in 1968. The result is a cosmopolitan melting pot that blends the traditions and cultures of Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and other religions in a nation that defines people by faith rather than race. Few countries can boast such a harmony of creeds or a more diverse calendar of festivals and cuisine influences. That diversity and heritage also extends to language. While there is no official language, English is extensively spoken Exploring the island is easy, nowhere being more than an hour or so from anywhere else, although its diverse history is evident on the roads, too. Cars drive on the left and all road signs are in English but place names are French. For golfers, Mauritius also offers tremendous diversity and quality, with a variety of course that play in some of the most scenic settings you will find and amidst lush, colourful flora. It has nine 18-hole championship courses plus a short 18-hole course, at the private Gymkhana Golf Club, built by Britain’s Royal Navy as the first golf course on the island well over a century ago, besides some nine-hole courses. Its championship courses are the work of renowned golf architects and the quality of the island’s golf has been recognised in the prestigious IAGTO Awards, the annual mark of excellence for the world’s golf tourism industry organised by global golf tourism body IAGTO. Mauritius was named Golf Destination of the Year for Africa, the Gulf States and Indian Ocean for the third time in the 2019 awards, an accolade voted for by international golf tour operators that it also earned in 2008 and 2016. The AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, held annually since 2015 and with a purse of one million euros, is the only tournament in the world co-sanctioned by the European Tour, Asian Tour and Africa’s Sunshine Tour. The golf courses are spread across Mauritius. This is where you can play: 47