Wasini Island and Shimoni Town – Kenya East Africa
Shimoni is a small town right at the Southern end of Kenya just before you enter Tanzania, it has a large island just offshore which is called Wasini.
I love taking the boat from my mooring in Mtwapa Creek and heading to Shimoni for the weekend, the journey is fifty-six nautical miles heading south along the coast. The Indian Ocean along the coast of East Africa is a lovely friendly ocean. We get up early and head out of Mtwappa Creek at around 05:30 at this time of day the water is invariably flat calm. Living in the tropics means we get pretty much twelve-hour days and two or some say three seasons. From September to through to March we get what is called here the Kaskazi, this means the wind blows in from the North East, this is the hot time for us. Then from March through to May, we get the Matili, this is a period of change when the wind sometimes blows from the North East and sometimes from the South East. When it finally makes its mind up in early May the wind moves around to the South East this we call the Kusi, our cold time.
We are very lucky as the weather never blows offshore. However, we do have very strong currents along our coastline and no Coast Guard or Navy. This brings a new meaning to safety at sea! If we are motoring, we always have two engines, with plenty of fuel from two separate sources. A VHF radio is nice, but now in the age of mobile phones, a good friend with a boat is an essential requirement. If your engines go down, you will either be taken to Somalia in the North or down to the island of Pemba or Zanzibar in the South even with the onshore winds you still cannot make it to land.
This particular time was Christmas of 2004 I bundled my four kids and my wife on the boat along with all the diving equipment, snorkelling stuff and all the other things a family needs for a week away in Shimoni. We cruised out at 05.30 from Mtwappa Creek once we were clear of the entrance and in the deepwater I turned south and sat back for a lovely trip. The kids were asleep in the bow of the boat as we cruised along. Once you are passed Mombasa Island, the coast is mostly unspoilt, endless undulating sand dunes, small hotels dotted among the palm trees and long golden beaches inside the safety of the lagoon. The trip takes about four hours in the morning as the sea is flat calm, almost like glass, and a beautiful green-blue color. This part of the ocean always has dolphins which come and visit, they love to jump at the bow landing only a few feet away from the boat if you are lucky they will do some tricks, jumps and spins. Christmas time is also the time to see the Whale Sharks, they are such large beasts but really hard to spot, usually, all you get above the water is a short floppy fin which is grey with blue spots. Once we get past the port of Mombasa the kids are up and searching for the floppy fin, all directions as we pass Shella Beach my daughter spots the fin just off to our starboard side, this leads to loads of excitement and grabbing of snorkels, masks and flippers from the bag. We slowly pull up to within about twenty yards of this massive fish.
The Whale Shark is one of the largest fish in the ocean, there is an ongoing debate as to which is the biggest the Whale Shark or the Basking Shark. These creatures are up to fifteen yards long, with a pale grey skin and large black spots. The Whale Shark is harmless it eats krill, small plankton in the water. The fish looks awesome as it cruises just underwater next to the boat with its huge mouth wide open filtering the krill.
My wife takes the helm of our boat as we all get ready for a snorkelling extravaganza. The basic rule is, do not touch and move slowly. My kids have swum with Whale Sharks before and many other fish, the two oldest ones are accomplished divers, and all four of them have been in the water and swimming since they were born. My son is basically a fish. We all slip into the water about fifteen yards from this enormous fish and slowly fin over towards it. The Whale Shark does not seem to mind us interrupting it for a while, it continues on its way heading south down towards Mozambique. Snorkelling with one of these fish is a real lifetime experience for anyone who enjoys the ocean. The animal is so large when you swim up to it you feel so small. The Whale Shark slowly swims through the water, there is no rush so we can get lovely and close. The mouth is huge which is an understatement, as it swims through the water it keeps its mouth wide open taking in thousands of gallons of water, then filter out the tiny organisms it needs for its food. When we are done, and the fish wanders off on its way south we climb out of the water back onto the boat. I look at my kids and feel an amazing feeling as a parent, it took a lot for us all to make the move from central London in the UK, living in the inner city. Now I can see the smiles on their faces, I believe this empowers them, the chatter at seeing such a magnificent creature in the ocean and then swimming with it, this makes all the difficulties I have been through worthwhile.