Sunday, January 22, 2012

Luck and a Holiday

I've generally been known to be quite extroverted. I talk to people because everyone is so fascinating a store of full of stories, experiences and views. As a result of talking to anyone and everyone I have more cool coincidences and serendipitous events than most people or at least it seems that way. Last week was a prime example; while on the other side of the creek around New Year's I found a small but beautifully decorated guest-house. The owners were shocked to see that I'd swam across and invited me for a drink. We chatted and I mentioned about my project and then went home. A week later they called me saying would I come over to meet their son Jay, who was interested in the work. I could have easily said no, I have lots to do and what does this meeting matter really, but instead I went. They collected me in a kayak and we paddled over the creek to the coral area. We had a nice snorkel and Jay was impressed. After they cooked me a delicious fish meal for lunch and we chatted about the work. Papu, the owner of the guest-house, said towards the end of the meal, “Well we'd like to help in anyway we can, perhaps we can throw a boat your way?” Just like that! Before long I'd said my thanks and goodbyes and set off from the beach in a gorgeous yellow sports kayak, they're lending me until March. Moral of the story, talk to everyone because you never know where it will end up!
I've been staying on the small island of Wasini near the border with Tanzania. It's a small undeveloped coral rag outcrop in the Indian Ocean, where 100% of the population are strict muslims. I'm staying at a volunteer centre of Global Vision International (GVI) a gap year company who focus on conservation and community work. I needed some time away from Mwamba and Watamu as it was getting a little claustrophobic, so I wanted to explore the South Coast. I met the manager and a few staff of GVI at the conference in Mombasa in October and decided to check it out.
Most of the volunteers at GVI are young guys who've only arrived in Africa for the first time a week ago. Having chats with them is fun because it reminds me of home, but also its good because its nice to see how much I've grown in the past year. I'm the only person at A Rocha not born in Kenya and hence having to learn how to deal with things my colleagues are used to and often feeling quite ignorant. Hanging around with these volunteers makes me see how much I've learnt.
The reefs near Wasini are supposed to be the best in Kenya, which was a major pull here. Since I started the marine research in Watamu I felt a slight disappointment the whole time that I don't know what a pristine reef looks like. I had a lot of expectations for the reef here! I went to Kisite Park yesterday which was supposed to be the big moment. When I jumped in the water it was great, but I wasn't overwhelmed. It was really nice, for sure, but the not stunning experience I had built it up to be. It was quite encouraging really because there are some areas in Watamu I would say are comparable to the reef in Kisite. The fish were great too, big marbled grouper and really high butterfly fish diversity, which is a clear indicator of coral health. Its also encouraging because the park is well off-shore on a remote island and as result is well protected.
The community here on the island are quite different to what I'm used to elsewhere in Kenya. I think its a combination of being relatively unused to seeing Wazungu, being strict muslims and living on a small island which they never leave. I definitely noticed some characteristics that reminded me of Scilly! A general suspicion and hostility to outsiders must be something islands do to people! With many people on the island though it didn't take long to break through this veneer, especially when I introduced myself by my African name, Charo. Here's a few photos from an afternoon walk into the village. A little girl stopped me as I entered the village, saw my camera and demanded a photo.
Standing to attention for the photo

Like an alarm had gone off, several other children emerged and also wanted photos too.

I stopped by the local cafe for a cup of sweet ginger tea and chapattis.

Mama Rama cooks her perfectly circular chapattis over a wood three block stove in the corner and keeps her tea warm in thermos flasks.

She is the centre of the village and a social hub, for which her raw joyous laughter and welcoming personality are perfect.

The time here in Wasini has been a mix of reading, snorkelling and relaxing in tropical paradise. Its been a really great time away. I head back to Watamu tomorrow ready to get into fieldwork, but just before then I think I'll go for one last wallow in the turquoise lagoon :-).
Lone fisherman surveys his kingdom

Local kids washing one of the GVI volunteer's hair in the lagoon

View from the GVI camp

Cliffs at the north end of the island get the full force of Oceanic waves


  1. Nice trip. Good to see you growing. "we all live in a yellow sub-kayak"

  2. Ben, it's beautiful! Hope the field work is going well. Lots of love xx