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British ColonisationFashion, beauty and personal care are not new concepts. Mauritius developed the economic pillars Tourism and Textiles, and with both it was like a wakeup call to a sleeping tropical island.

Today, resorts use elements in their marketing with spas, wellness centres and beauty salons. This development spills over into the local market where both women and men are spending more on their looks.

Mauritius offers a combination famous international brands such as Ralph Lauren, Versace, Gucci and others plus duty free, factory shops and large malls. Of course a counterfeit market has emerged, which has been curbed with new legislation. Mauritius also has its own brands Saskia and One Eye to mention a couple.

"I hope people here stay this friendly," he said.

Mauritius is located approximately 2,000 kilometres off the southeast coast of Africa, east of Madagascar. The waters around Le Morne a huge clump of rock where runaway slaves used to hide are a mixture of reefs, crashing waves and lagoons. Some kiters also known as kiteboarders come to test themselves on the notorious One Eye, says Felix, who runs the Club Mistral water sports centre. His guests are not allowed to try it, as it is too dangerous.

Huge, green walls of water roll in from the ocean, gathering pace as they curl into a perfect tube before breaking in a ferocious thunder of foam. "This is one of the fastest waves worldwide," Nollman says. "If you are kiting on One Eye, you always have a bit of speed and you need it . . . If not, it catches up and smashes you on the reef where there are lots of sea urchins and coral."

According to Toby, whose website kiteforum.com says an average of five kite surfers die each year around the world, technical improvements and increased kite control mean the sport has become safer. Braeuer advocates 10 golden rules, including staying away from hazards, keeping a close eye on the weather and taking advice from locals about potential dangers such as currents and rocks. "If you stay within these rules, it is a very relaxing sport. But if you break these rules, you can die," he says. "Go and take a lesson. That's very important," he adds.

After three lessons in a lagoon on the island's windy east, this writer is still looking forward to being able to stand up on the board, apparently the hardest part of learning. French and Hawaiian enthusiasts began experimenting with early versions of kitesurfing more than 20 years ago. As late as 1997, only a few dozen were dabbling. Today, an estimated 200,000 people kitesurf. The technology has evolved from flat kites with two strings to space-age ones with inflatable rims that help fallen kites relaunch. "Strong gusts come, you just push away the bar," Braeuer said.