Beyond Wasini Island

Wasini Island is a small, old, silent isle located in the Indian Ocean, 75 km south of Mombasa, in Kwale County. It lies 3 km from the mainland and is only accessible via dhows from Shimoni harbour. At Shimoni, there are caves that were used for holding slaves during the slave trade.

A boat sailing to Wasini
A boat sailing to Wasini

In Wasini, there are no vehicles, no bicycles, no paved roads, no electricity, no running water, no sewerage, no night clubs, no police station or administration offices. Mobile connectivity is available but not very good. Alcohol is not sold on this island. The only social amenities available are schools, dispensaries and a mosque.

The inhabitants of this 7km long piece of land depend mainly on fishing and tourism activities. They live in two villages speaking Kivumba and Kidigo respectively, besides Kiswahili. They are predominantly Muslim.

Wasini is very popular with tourists who want to do snorkeling, diving or to see marine wildlife and the coral reef around Kisite and Mpunguti National Marine Park. This park is situated further beyond Wasini, in the calm Indian Ocean waters. A fee is charged by Kenya Wildlife Service for anyone going to the park.

It took us roughly one hour from Ukunda to Shimoni in a tour van. After clearance from KWS wardens, we joined a group of other tourists, most of them Europeans, in a wooden boat operated by a local community. The petrol boat sailed 10km past Wasini into the open sea from where we could hardly see the mainland. There were several tiny inhabited islands sticking out of the ocean.

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A section of Wasini island

We saw dolphins swimming and occasionally jumping from the water. Some tourists jumped into the ocean to have a closer view of the dolphins and other sea fauna. The boat operator provided snorkeling equipment and life jackets for anyone who wanted to go into the water. I could only swim near the boat as most people went further to see more. I couldn’t dare that but at least I got into the water as a few others remained in the boat.

After about an hour, everybody was back on board, wet and cold. Some said they had seen a barracuda, others a turtle. Most people were tired and some started dozing off as we sailed back towards Wasini. Someone started reading but fell asleep with the book open in his hands.

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Dolphins near Wasini

We docked at Wasini for lunch and a walk in one of the villages on the island. We ate fish, crabs, cassava stew, coconut rice, vegetables and chapati at a restaurant overlooking the sea. The food was delicious. Tabasamu ate a whole fish, with bones, for the first time, and washed it down with Cola. I ate crabs for the first time. You have to crack them open to find the edibles. They were very tasty.

Snorkeling in the ocean
Snorkeling in the ocean

After a short walk on the quiet, coral island, we were in the boat floating back towards Shimoni. The guides entertained us with Swahili folk songs as we approached the mainland. They also sang a Spanish and a German song to the amusement of some tourists.

It was a memorable and enjoyable experience, a must see on the south coast of Kenya.

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