By Anthony Kinyua Charles
It was a rousing journey that the three of my colleagues and 48 students of Al-Farsy secondary school-Mombasa embarked on.
We woke up early and by 7.30am we were securely seated in the Tudor secondary school bus ready for the tour. We started the 75 km expedition that took us about three hours. The thrilling journey took us through Likoni, Ukunda, Ramisi, Msambweni, all the way to Shimoni, where we alighted.
At Shimoni the driver parked the bus next to one of the historical sites worth seeing- the caves that were used by the long old Arabs to keep and store the slaves in the time past. The caves are dark inside, cold and mixed with hot and stuffy air that would make your stomach churn with vomit. Although old and well preserved, the caves have undergone tremendous weathering.
Inside the caves there are well kept paths with a few light bulbs hanging on the roof tops to illuminate the caves for the would be visitors. The paths have been swept clean and they are tidy to behold, but with the passage of the slave trade, hundreds of bats have made the cave their abode and hiding place.
At around noon, we now start our ride across the Indian Ocean to Wasini Island by two boats. We are accompanied by Musa our island guide. Musa is a short bearded Arab man who from his looks is witty jovial and who chooses his words carefully. For the whole period of about 4 hours we were together, I can summarily say that he was a good company to keep.
Wasini is an island that is about 2km from Shimoni and a 15 minutes long boat ride. Wasini has an area of about 5 square Kilometres.
The two boats we had moved at a slow speed and therefore all of us had a good view of the ocean, enjoyed the breeze and the ride.
When we set foot on Wasini the island, we went direct to one of the two primary schools there are in the island- Wasini primary school. Here we noted that the number of pupils was small and the school had just a few classrooms. Through our guide, we got to know and understand the island better than we had entered.
“Wasini is a small island whose population is about 1500 people.” Our guide started narrating. He continued,”Wasini island has three villages; Wasini, Mpwiro and Nyuma ya maji. These villages sit far apart and are on opposite ends of the island. The island faces two major challenges; lack of clean water for drinking and lack of electricity.” Musa narrated. “Lack of electricity makes most of the islanders sleep early which has led to the spontaneous increase in the population. If you go to the villages, you will see so many small children. This is as a result of lack of electricity,” our guide explained without even a grin on his face. This was received with a prolonged loud laughter from the students who found this funny to their ears.
The main subsistence and economic activity of the island is fishing which is practiced by both men and women. Farming is an activity that is unheard here. In the process of fishing there have been several fatalities. The island has no secondary school and those who qualify for secondary education are admitted in Shimoni secondary school or other schools outside the constituency. The secondary school students are transported daily to Shimoni and back free –of- charge and their population does not exceed 30 students.
A women organization with the assistance of the donors has established a nature walk in the beautiful coral gardens. We took a trek on the long wooden man -made bridge .The coral gardens are made of the remnants of the corals from the receding of the ocean. The trek took us to the mangrove trees a few metres from the start of the bridge. Behind the corals are evergreen mangrove trees which have roots intertwined like lovers during a rousing carousal. The mangroves are green and healthy and the breeze surrounding them acts as a balm and soothes our burning skins from the scorching sun. The proceeds from the coral gardens help needy students and other Wasini benefactors.
Wasini Island is sparsely populated and seriously underdeveloped. There are no cars or roads in the island. Wasini islanders speak Kivumba. Vumba tribe is a mixture of Wavumba, Wadigo and Arabs through intermarriages. Kivumba borrows some of their words from Kiswahili language though in their conversations they mostly use r and rarely use l.
After seeing the coral garden, it was our time for us to leave the island and go back to Mombasa but not until we happened to gatecrash in a wedding that was taking place right in the heart of the island. Though we saw the bride and the bridegroom we didn’t have an opportunity to savour the biriani and pilau of the day despite the hunger pangs that were biting us to the core.