By Amina Ulrike Sabel
Once Upon a Time – A day on Wasini Island
I woke up at dawn; the sound of breaking sticks must have pulled me out of my dreams. l lifted my head just slightly from the pillow, peeping with sleepy eyes through the low, netted window – and there, in a distance of a mere meter from my pillow I see a little duiker, a shy antelope surpassing the little Dik-Dik in size, but not by much … looking peacefully at me. We keep on staring at each other for some minutes … such sweet black eyes, such a noble face … and then I drop back on my pillow to nap a bit more.
After a hearty breakfast with strong Kenyan coffee, eggs from free-roaming chicken, freshly baked Swahili pastry and a choice of fruit we get ready to snorkel around the corals just in front of the wooden jetty. This morning, it was low tide, perfect for people who don’t want to dive so deep! There are sandy patches, areas with sea grass, and large extends of rocky seabed – all with their own specific inhabitants. Nowhere before had I seen such huge blue starfish which look at first sight like old rubber … personally, I like the smaller red ones with their knobby crowns more.
Then the corals with their fellowship of colorful fish, some minding their business all by themselves, other densely packed in shoals. I will never get tired of watching this wonder of nature. In between, we spotted edible shells including some rock oysters. Dinner, fresh from the ocean floor.
Then it is time to relax a little on the sunbed which is ready on the cliff overlooking the ocean. Few things beat idling under the shade of palm trees and sipping fresh coconut water direct from the madafu, the unripe coconut.
No special incidents today, just two blue monkeys chasing each other through the high branches above my head while – as it seems – they are shouting insults to each other. Then, peaceful quietness again: a kingfisher perching on the cliff to have a good view of the fish down below, an outrigger canoe sailing past … some fishermen handling their nets in a distance … Idyllic, and for once the saying ‘out of this world’ does actually make sense!
Time advances and suddenly it is time for a light lunch platter. The vibungala, a kind of tiny bananas with an apple-like taste, are my favorite ingredients. Then it is high time to get ready for my Swahili beauty session – the henna specialist will use my skin as her canvas and paint works of art on to my arms. I tell you, it actually is hard work for me, too, keeping still for a good hour while my painted limbs stay in a position where they don’t touch anything until the henna paste is all dried out. It was an hour which flew by however by chatting about issues stretching from children to village life in general. And then the moment finally comes! After the dried henna paste got first scraped and then washed off – the Wasini island Spa treatment with fresh aloe vera juice! This is not only a soothing ointment for the skin, but also has the effect that the henna drawings stay longer. Well, after this, I feel like the queen of Shaba herself!
Still there is time for a short boat outing – the small dhow “Blue Whale” is waiting at the jetty. It is high tide now and where there was dry seabed this morning, there are about 2 meters of water now! The winds are favorably coming from the south, called Kusi around here, which allows us to sail west towards the setting sun and later back without starting the outboard engine even once, keeping the ambience with only the wind rushing by the sail and the sound of the ocean as the little dhow glides up and down the waves. We watch some terns catching fish, probably sardines but otherwise we just marvel at the passing mangroves dipped in the orange light of the ending day, spotting egrets in their foliage and a pair of sea eagles circling high above us as the day fades away. The sun set smoothly into a layer of clouds above the distant Tanzanian mountains.
Back on land, and after a good rinse with fresh water, a surprise awaited me. The old fisherman who catches the big and tasty mangrove crabs had come past with some of his day’s catch. Dinner, apart from the oysters collected in the morning will be a seafood feast at its best to close another perfect day on the paradise island of Wasini. Early bed time seems right – tomorrow’s plans are a 5 km hike to the eastern part of the island, a tour leading us first at low tide along the northern shores of the island past coves and huge baobab forests, then a visit to the inhabitants of the more secluded fishing village of Mkwiro before heading back eastwards along the island’s southern side with its mangrove forest and coconut plantations.
The afternoon will be kept free for, well, perhaps some standup paddling? Oh no, we promised to participate in the bi-monthly beach and village cleaning activity organized by the Wasini Youth Nature Club. Well, after that, an evening swim will just do fine!
Another day ends on the island, a place where there are no generators to intrude with their noise, where solar panels are the only source of electricity, a place where not air conditioners hum away, a place where one can still experience nature pure and get a peek back in time, how the inhabitants here lived a decade or even a hundred years ago. True, then there were no mobile phones, no digital cameras to capture the sights, no internet to share the island’s beauty with the world, but it is as close as it gets, apart from the few high tech gadets which help to stay in touch and make life a little easier on the island dwellers.
If you want to read more about Wasini Island, please visit the Wasini Guide at www.wasini.net
(Written by Amina ‘Ulrike Sabel’, co-founder and co-owner of the Wasini Guide and the Blue Monkey Cottages on Wasini Island. Edited by Prof. Dr Wolfgang H. Thome)