A 10 m long peat core from the Kanaka Crater (20° 25′ S, 57° 31′ E), located at 560 m elevation in Mauritius, was analyzed for microfossils. Eight radiocarbon ages show the pollen record reflects environmental and climatic change of the last ca. 38 cal ka BP. The record shows that the island was continuously covered by forest with Erica heath (Philippia) in the uplands. Cyperaceous reedswamp with Pandanus trees was abundant in the coastal lowlands as well as locally in the waterlogged crater. The record shows changes in climatic humidity (wet from 38.0 to 22.7 cal ka BP, drier from 22.7 to 10.6 cal ka BP, and wetter again from 10.6 cal ka BP to recent) as the main response to climate change. A high turnover in montane forest species is evidenced at 22.7 cal ka BP and at the start of the Holocene. The limited altitudinal ranges in the mountains of Mauritius (maximum altitude 828 m), and changing humidity being more important than changing temperature, suggests that in response to climate change a reassortment in taxonomic composition of montane forests might be equally important as displacement of forest types to new altitudinal intervals. We found weak impact of the latitudinal migration of the Intertropical Convergence Zone and data suggest that the Indian Ocean Dipole is a more important driver for climatic change in the southwest Indian Ocean. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.