Of volcanic origin and sheltered for its major part by barriers of coral reefs forming natural, safe, crystal clear lagoons, Mauritius has for long been a dream destination. Known to Arabs as early as the 10th Century, but officially "discovered" in 1505 by the Portugese navigator Pedro Mascarenhas, the island was occupied successively by the Dutch (1598-1712), the French (1715-1810), and was ceded to Great Britain in 1814 through the Treaty of Paris. On April 3, 1968 Mauritius acceded to Independence. Republic Day was proclaimed on 12 March 1992. Mauritius is situated at approximately 2000kilometers to the south -eastern coast of Africa and lies east of Madagascar on 20 S, 57.5 E. The land has an area of 1865 square kilometers with 330 kilometers of coastline. Inland features include a vast central plateau, subtropical forests, rivers, steams and waterfalls. Bordering this tableland are several mountain ranges consisting of diverse shaped masses of basalt testifying the volcanic origins of the island. Three peaks emerge: Piton de la Petite Riviere Noire (828mts) and Le Pouce (812).