Written by Ess Opiyo.
I had been yearning for this excursion for close to five years. Every time I visited the Coast, I would want to tour Wasini but the logistics never were in my favour. This time, in being intentional, I sought the help of the team from Generate Africa; a tourist information centre offering car rentals, packaged holidays and hotel transfers to visitors coming into Mombasa.
Anyone who asked me what activity topped my bucket list received this response: Spotting and swimming with dolphins at the coastal region of Kenya. By far, it is the highlight of my local travels. I did not get to swim with dolphins, but I will work on it.
THE DHOW TRIP.
I have always loved boat rides. I love the palpitation of the ocean’s waves. One can totally harmonize a tune to it. The waves in wasini are no joke though. The sea is rough and you need to be tolerant to the sea, or better yet have a plan when you get seasick. I hear tropical sweets may help?
The excursion is entirely a dhow cruise. You may get creative with the entertainment. For instance, take with you speakers and dance the cruise away. Great distraction to the harshness of the sea.
The adventure here exists below the beautiful waters of the Indian Ocean. Dolphins, turtles and incredible coral gardens and fish species thrive in the beautiful warm waters. You get the chance of a lifetime to witness the magnificent life underwater, up close and personal without being intrusive to their natural behaviour.
The misconception in snorkelling is that you need to be a great swimmer. I know this because three people turned down this trip because… “what about us who do not know how to swim?” It was my first time snorkelling too. I had this idea that you need to be skilled to hack this: Holding your breath underwater for at least 5 minutes to have a fulfiling experience of the marine life! That is not true. Good snorkelling technique is important for your personal safety and marine environment. Take note of these and inspire your next snorkelling adventure!
Make sure the snorkelling equipment works properly. The mask should properly fit and is clear to see through. In case you are using fins, make sure they are the correct size. Neither too big nor too small. Here’s the proper snorkelling position: Keep your head in the water, face down and feet at the surface at all times in coral areas. Floating is the basic skill required, but floaters are provided for this and professional guides are assigned to non-swimmers.
Always stay with the guide, who are primarily there to teach you how to snorkel, assist and point out interesting marine life. Do not rest or stand on the corals. Always make sure you are standing on sand when you step down.
SPOTTING/ SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS.
This has to be the highlight of the excursion. We sailed around the Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park in search of the dolphins. They are a sight to behold and when spotted they are great entertainers. The dolphins of the wasini are the most popularDolphins are found in the shallow tropical waters around the world and they frequent the Kenyan coast, with tt he dolphins of wasini being the most popular.
Aside from pollution, the major threat to the existence of dolphins is humans and their fishing activities. Uncontrolled fishing leads to a reduction in the fish stocks and may result to starvation of the mammals. At Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park, however, these mammals are less endangered. The Kenya wildlife service has put in measures to control fishing activities so as to balance the food chain.
Q: When is the best time to spot the dolphins?
The dolphins are easily spotted early morning when the tides are low. By 0800hrs you should have began tracking. The infrastructure to Wasini is now improved. It took us one and half hours from the ferry to the park.
Q: Can you swim with the dolphins?
Dolphins are super friendly animals. They love to play and interact with humans. However, the dolphins of Wasini have not been trained and are wild animals. Their natural instinct is to protect themselves from any kind of advances. In light of this, unless the dolphins approach you to swim with them, do not initiate it. Also, this is where you need to be a great swimmer to hack it. Otherwise, chasing them with the dhow and watching them show off their skills is adventure enough.
Q: Is it guaranteed that you will spot the dolphins?
No, it is not guaranteed that you will spot the dolphins when you visit. We almost missed them as well. We took about 2hours going round in search of them. We had given up, to say the least, but they decided to show up around 1300hrs when we were heading for lunch at the village. Several people have visited; including making it to the park by 0600hrs but did not manage to spot them. You would be lucky. We were lucky.
MARINE WILDLIFE CODE.
Life underwater is precious. Practising healthy habits is paramount in ensuring that we conserve our marine life and ensure the sustainability of marine parks. Admittedly, I had not always actively practised some of these codes. I get excited at the site of a starfish, shells and any uncommon marine life, but we travel to learn.
Firstly, do not dispose of litter on the beach or in the sea. It is unfriendly to the environment. Marine turtles can confuse clear plastic waste with jellyfish and die if they eat it. Fish could also get trapped in the plastics and suffocate!
Some Marine life is dangerous; do not touch anything underwater. Do not damage or remove corals. Corals are living organisms which take many years to form and is host to many rare and endangered species. Avoid removing shells, starfish or any sea flora and fauna; this distracts the ecosystem. Empty shells are a home to hermit crabs and some fish.
Restrain from buying shells and other marine souvenirs. This encourages further plundering of the reefs and beaches. If you need to support the livelihoods of the locals, you may purchase other souvenirs like kangas and anklets. We love these souvenirs but protecting our wildlife is important!
Support the traditional coastal livelihoods but do not give money to the kids because this is likely to discourage them from attending school
THE WASINI ISLAND VILLAGE.
After the excursion, the dhows head over to the island for lunch at restaurants in the wasini village. We were served to seafood; prawns, crabs and octopuses, coconut rice and fish, seaweeds, chicken, potatoes and chicken. One word: Yummmm!!!
I also had the chance to visit the Shimoni slave caves. Here, I learnt a lot about the history of Wasini as narrated by the aged guard there. Nothing much to write home about that; but reading more about the history, I can say that we humans have the natural ability to rise above every daunting situation.
Would I take up this excursion again? Definitely!