Sunday, May 29

Muh muh muh muh muh My Shimoni

We may have had to work Friday unlike our classmates attending teaching clinic - miss you! - but, then again, we went snorkeling with our supervisor and a multi-cultural parade of other Mombasa volunteers.  A two hour matatu ride south of the city brings you to a place called "Shimoni" and a boat across a short stretch of salt water gets you to a small island by the name of "wasini".  This place has about 4 small towns (maybe 1200 people total on the island) and not one car.  It would be difficult to build roads through the rocky, coral covered island where shells are so ubiquitous the paths seem to be paved by them and they are trampled without a second thought.  The lodge we stayed at was about $7 for the night with cozy beds, nice* showers and bathrooms, and an incredible view of the ocean. 

There was some to-do about booking our snorkel boat, the hotels and meals but generally I tried to stay out of it.  I think there were some miscommunications and perhaps a bit of desperation on the part of the lodge owners who hadn't seen visitors in three weeks due to the May low season.  Overall, when you look past some of the attempts to charge way too much (500 shillings for a meal vs. 80 at a local restaurant which took us quite a while to find on our own) they tried very hard to make us happy, took us on a tour of the island, provided a mosquito coil while we sat and chatted on the balconies, brought us glasses for our drinks and sent someone to the mainland to bring over beer to the 'dry' island.  The son of the owner, a sweet kid about 12 years old, hung out with us at times (showed us around) and shared some local legends about how the large white birds perched in the trees were once Arab men in white cotton shirts who had come to kill a resident of the island, so the legend goes, but was foiled by a local Sharif. 

We didn't make it to the snorkel spot until high tide so we were fairly far above the coral and fish but the view was still incredible:  a giant blue starfish, nemo, angelfish, zebra fish, parrot fish, a multitude of other colourful fish and large corals.  It took some getting used to swimming in the open ocean (deep water has always been a fear of mine) especially when there really could have been sharks (although highly unlikely).  The boat stayed close by and we all floated on the surface, face down for an hour before heading back to Wasini to tour the island.  Only 7x3 km the island hosts an amazing grove of old coral reefs that have turned to towering stones and a mangrove forest home to the Trogdor crab** (see below). Money from entry fees to tour the coral park (only $2) go towards town projects like schools and medicine for the dispensary.

The Mombasa ferry.

There is always room for one more on a matatu.

Dhows in the harbour at Shimoni.

Our lodge (or basically our lodge)

The view of the balcony (sneaky pic there, Hi-C)

Low tide on Wasini island

Where water bottles go to die.  For all the beauty in Africa this sight taints every single one.

Just a weird duck.

The Trogdor crab (just one beefy arm!)

The coral forest near dusk.

*Nice meaning clean, toilet paper available, flushable toilets and showers with enough water pressure to get the shampoo out, even if it was cold water. 

**Trogdor is a cartoon dragon with one beefy arm sticking out of its back.  The idea may well have been stolen from these crabs.  They should sue.

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