Lamu’s little lister? Try Wasini island as the closest ‘relative’

Guest posts are becoming increasingly popular here and in particularhas Lillian Gaitho opened the door for posts with a different theme
and offering insights into topics.
Today is it Amina Sabel’s turn to write about her adopted home,
Wasini Island and I hope readers will appreciate her unique take on it.

Did you know Lamu has a little sister?

No, you didn’t? Well, let me introduce her to you… she is called Wasini – and dubbed by many a guest a “paradise on earth”. To the outsider, this might sound a little exaggerated but Lamu’s little sister on Kenya’s South Coast truly is a unique haven of peace and tranquility. The hustle and bustle of Kenya’s coastal beaches seem a 1000 miles away. Unpleasant companions such as beach boys and pickpockets are left behind on the mainland. There are no bars, clubs or jet skis around here.

Wasini Island is actually an outcrop of fossilized corals, has neither fresh ground water nor a connection to the main power grid, and has only patches of sandy beach. These circumstances make the island unattractive for mass tourism and it remained untouched by the big foreign investment spree which changed the face of so many areas on the Kenyan coast forever.

As of today, there are no cars, no roads but a lot of wild nature and traditional Swahili culture! The rare clocks on the island seem to tick at a different rate. Like in Lamu, many of the island’s exclusively Muslim population can still trace back one of their ancestors to the Sultanate of Oman. Their seafarers settled down 4 or more generations ago and many of the Arab traditions they brought with them are still upheld. The population’s physiognomy and part of the island’s architecture still bears witness of this history.

But wouldn’t Wasini be next to Kenya’s most magnificent marine park, the island would have probably gone into oblivion the same way as unfortunately other old Swahili settlements did. The times of the spice, ivory, and slave trade, or the later popular smuggling trades between the neighboring countries are long over, the fish is not plentiful as in old days – nowadays, tourism attracted by the marine park is the island’s main source of its livelihood.

Until recently, however, tourists usually only made a short stop over on the island. Day tour operators collect tourists from their lodgings in Mombasa, Tiwi and Diani Beach. In Shimoni, dhows are boarded and after a morning out with dolphins and snorkeling in Kisite Mpunguti Marine National Park, guests are ferried to one of Wasini’s seafront restaurants. Such a tour is completed by a brief walk through the village and a visit to the community conservation project “Coral Gardens”. In short, such a day tour does not allow for enough time to enjoy the bounties of the island.

But in the meantime, community members have come to realize that not all travelers need a pool with a bar, no, to the contrary, that there are actually a growing number of tourists who are especially looking for an authentic, natural, and ‘green’ location. As of now, locals have built and opened 4 holiday accommodations – all catering for different aspirations, different kind of travelers! Now nature & water lovers start to come and share a few days in the islanders’ simple life that seems to be already lost elsewhere. And, the locals intend to keep it sustainable: few touristic properties, no roads, no cars, no sign-posted trekking paths, no dancing shows…well, and who needs a pool if the Indian Ocean is only a few steps away!

Amina Sabel, co-owner of Wasini Guide & Blue Monkey Beach Cottages,

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