Initially named Île Bourbon, it is an overseas department and region of France and an island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar and 175 km southwest of Mauritius. The first European to make contact with the island and the surrounding islets was Portuguese explorer Diogo Fernandes Pereira in 1507 but the details of his expedition are not available. The uninhabited island might have been first sighted by the expedition led by Dom Pedro Mascarenhas, who gave his name to the island group around Réunion, the Mascarenes. The island has been inhabited since the 16th century when people from France and Madagascar settled there. Réunion became an overseas department of France on 19 March 1946. Today, the island houses a multicultural society composed of people originally from France, Mozambique, India, China, Madagascar, and the Comores. It is also one of the very popular tourist destinations on the continent because of its beautiful beaches, coral reefs and exotic flowers and animals.