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The land rises from coastal plains to a central plateau where it reaches a height of 670 m (2,200 ft); the highest peak is in the southwest, Piton de la Petite Rivière Noire at 828 metres (2,717 ft).

Streams and rivers speckle the island, many formed in the cracks created by lava flows.

Together with Saint Brandon, Réunion, and Rodrigues, the island is part of the Mascarene Islands.

These islands have emerged as a result of gigantic underwater volcanic eruptions that happened thousands of kilometres to the east of the continental block made up of Africa and Madagascar.

Along with the other Mascarene Islands, Mauritius is known for its varied flora and fauna, with many species endemic to the island.

The island is widely known as the only known home of the dodo, which, along with several other avian species, was made extinct by human activities relatively shortly after the island's settlement.

In 1598 a Dutch squadron under Admiral Wybrand Van Warwyck landed at Grand Port and named the island "Mauritius" after Prince Maurice van Nassau of the Dutch Republic, the ruler of his country.

The Dutch established a small colony on the island in 1638, from which they exploited ebony trees and introduced sugar cane, domestic animals and deer.They are no longer volcanically active and the hotspot now rests under Réunion Island.Mauritius is encircled by a broken ring of mountain ranges, varying in height from 300–800 m (1,000–2,600 ft) above sea level.The UK gradually depopulated the archipelago's indigenous population and leased its biggest island, Diego Garcia, to the United States.Access to the archipelago is prohibited to casual tourists, the media, and its former inhabitants.Mauritius is the only country in Africa where Hinduism is the largest religion.The administration uses English as its main language. It is the 169th largest nation in the world by size.Saint Brandon is an archipelago comprising a number of sand-banks, shoals and islets.It is situated some 430 km (270 mi) northeast of Mauritius and is mostly used as a fishing base by the Raphael Fishing Company Limited.Mauritius also claims sovereignty over Tromelin Island from France.The people of Mauritius are multiethnic, multi-religious, multicultural and multilingual.

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