There were three of us on the high table, and I was the only one dressed in casual attire. The two other gentlemen there were both in official shirts, tucked in properly. I was too excited to notice this discordant dress code. You see, it was my first time in Mauritius and ever since I knew about this trip in the final months of the previous year, I was too excited to sit still – and dress officially.
My journey to Mauritius had begun the previous day at Seychelles International Airport.
When I handed in my passport to the ticket attendant at the airport, there was only one goal on my mind – to make sure that I would share a seat with Fabrina, my new friend from Seychelles. Luck had placed us on the same flight, so now it was up to me to ensure that we would share adjacent seats. That way, I would have a chance to ask her a million questions and tunnel deeper into her heart. Thankfully, that’s exactly what happened. For nearly three hours, I asked Fabrina about her family, favorite food, hobbies, relationship status – thank God she was single – and many more. When I had arrived in Seychelles earlier that morning, she had graciously picked me from the airport and hosted me at their home for several hours. Despite the fact that I had known her for less than twelve hours, it already felt like I had known her for a long time.
When we landed at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport in Mauritius, my eyes were darting everywhere like an excited rabbit. Finally, I had set foot in Mauritius for the first time ever in my life.
Because you never forget your first time, I still remember my first landing in Mauritius as if it was yesterday. Because of this Island country’s fame as a beach destination, I had been half expecting that serene white beaches and palm trees would be visible at the airport. But all I saw were immigration officials with the kind of glum faces that all immigration officials seem to wear irrespective of the country. I did notice that many of them were Indians, which left me wondering why there were so many Indians yet we were in Mauritius. That was before I knew that one out of three Mauritians are of Indian origin.
Sarjoo, the Western Indian Oceans Sub-Region Officer of our project was waiting for us when we stepped out of the airport’s immigration area. He was short and slender, with a calm visage and an earnest presence. We drove with him to the Young Farmers Training Center in Belle Mare. Also staying there were the youth environment leaders who were attending the UNEP Africa Environment Outlook for Youth Western Indian Ocean Islands sub-regional meeting. Among them were Sébastien Martial from Reunion Islands, Vola from Madagascar and several other leaders from Comoros Islands and Mauritius the host country. It felt strange that I was the only non-Islander in attendance.
For three days, I joined my fellow youth in exploring the Western Indian Ocean Islands environmental challenges and opportunities. I marveled about the way they talked about the ocean with such passion, as if those salty waters of the Indian Ocean were life-long friends. Five days later, on April 23rd, I left Mauritius for Jo’burg. Sadly, Fabrina wasn’t seated next to me this time. She was on a different flight. But we were on the same team of young people who were deeply invested in Africa’s environment.
Through my organisation, Environmental Africa Trust, I am still deeply involved in environmental action across Africa. Visit the website below to find out more about how you can be involved: