Sunday 21st February :
Yesterday was AMAZING. We had a truly wonderful day. Mary arranged for us to go out on a local dhow to an island called Mandatoto. We went snorkeling on the reef there.
The crew were a simply adorable bunch of young men around Matt and Danny’s ages. They are Reja, Lali, Mohammed, Salu, Adama and Malik. They have a wonderful approach to their job, full of laughter and singing. All, except Mohamed, are experienced sailors.
Sailing a dhow is totally different to a regular sailing boat and I loved watching them at work.
Our group consisted of Mary, Bea, Gill and François (who are guests at Mary’s place) Mwanase and myself. Mwanase is Mary’s daughter and is half Swahili Kenyan, totally gorgeous and fun. François is a fishing guide with a marine biology degree and insanely passionate about fishing. He had a line out almost the whole trip. He caught two fish to add to the ones the crew had caught for lunch, one a barracuda which is the nicest eating fish I’ve had yet.
We left around 0800 so were at the reef mid morning. When the time came to get in the water I suddenly realised I really wasn’t sure I wanted to. Everyone dispensed hugs and encouragement, and those lovely lads promised to be watching me every moment and come for me the instant I wanted out. Mohammed said he’d snorkel too and stay close, as did Mary. I gave myself a mental harden up talk, put on my gear and got in.
Initially I had to concentrate to keep my breathing slow and even but as I relaxed I started to enjoy it again. It was a good experience and I stayed in as long as everyone else.
The crew collected us at the other end of the reef and asked if the sea was my friend again. Sweet guys.
We then anchored at Mandatoto and they cooked us lunch. It was super good. Barbecued fish, rice, vegetable stew and fresh fruit. We lazed about for the afternoon and François fished, catch and release, to the horror of the lads. He was trying to teach them to conserve the resources, to let the young fish go. Good luck with that. Lovely as the people are here, they really live for today, so the concept of long term planning like that is not in their psyche.
We picked up the anchor around 1530 to motor round the island and let François trawl! The sea gave us a treat. We saw two huge green sea turtles mating. They were massive, really impressive.
Then we turned for home and the sail went up, with a following sea. It was simply beautiful. On the way François caught a big barracuda which got off as they tried to get it on board. Shame, would’ve been delicious, but we weren’t too sad!! It’d been a fantastic day already.
The boys sang and drummed on any handy object nearly all the way home. We watched the sun sink into the horizon and came alongside the wharf under an almost full moon.
I adored the day with these guys, it was like having my boys and their mates around again. Hugs all round (some lasting longer than strictly necessary – these are Swahili men we’re talking about!!) and I gave them pretty generous tips. They didn’t expect anything but this was one time I truly wanted to give a bonus. Their time was ours and they’d gone to every effort to look after us.
We went out for dinner. I had steak but I think the cow it came from was 100 years old! Tasty though, and a lovely South African sauvignon blanc to go with it.
The boys were waiting outside the restaurant for us and came back to Mary’s with us so we chilled on the roof top till after 0100, smoking bufti and I gave out massages!! I bailed, so not sure when the guys turned in!! I suspect they slept there!
Sunday 21st February :